Job Analysis: A Practitioner’s Guide

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Job analysis is a common technique aimed at providing detailed information on a worker’s job. A job analysis can help draft a better job description, lead to a safer work environment, help in workforce planning, and is key in performance management. Because it touches so many key HR functions, this article will provide a practitioner’s guide with a full 5-step template on how to conduct a job analysis. We’ll also include multiple job analysis examples throughout the article. Happy reading! 

Contents
What is job analysis? A definition
The purpose of a job analysis
Job Analysis Methods
Critical Incident Technique (CIT)
Task inventory (TI)
Functional job analysis (FJA)
How to conduct a job analysis: A Template
Conclusion
FAQ

What is job analysis? A definition

Anyone with some work experience has at some point done a job analysis. This can be a manager who decides to combine two vacant roles into one job, a recruiter who tries to create a job description or an employee who lists their main tasks to create a personal development plan.

Although these job analyses will have different levels of detail, the process is similar. When we define it, a job analysis is a systematic process in which a job is broken into smaller units which are then analyzed to describe what is done in the job, or what capabilities are needed to do the job.

A job analysis is conducted by employees themselves, managers, OD professionals, or HR professionals for various purposes. When doing so, there are three primary types of job analysis data, namely work activities, worker attributes, and work context.

Job analysis data

In this article, we will focus mostly on work activities. The work activities form the basis for determining the worker attributes, together with the organizational culture. We will focus less on the work context – but do keep this in mind in your job analysis, especially when this context is subject to change.

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The purpose of a job analysis

The goals of a job analysis can vary but most of them are in the HR domain. In general, the following purposes can be distinguished (Morgeson, Brannick & Levine, 2020).

Job analysis purpose Description
Job descriptionThe job analysis provides input for the job description. The job description is an internal document that specifies the requirements for a new position, including the required skills, role in the team, personality, and capabilities of a suitable candidate.
Job classificationJob classification is the process of placing one or more jobs into a cluster or family of similar jobs. The goal is to set pay rates and selecting employees.
Job evaluationJob evaluation is the process of determining the relative rank of different jobs in an organization. The purpose is to create pay transparency and equity.
Job designJob design is the process of creating a job that adds value to the company and is motivating to the employee. 
Personnel requirementsHere the job analysis provides information for the minimum qualifications (or requirements) of roles in the organization, often used for recruiting purposes. 
Performance appraisalThe job analysis provides input for the performance appraisal of the individual performing the job.
Worker trainingJob analysis forms the basis of the training needs analysis. Once knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics are identified, the training need can be identified and employees can be trained.
Worker mobilityPeople and jobs should fit together. Job analysis is useful to identify the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics required for a role, which can then be matched with an internal hire.
EfficiencyJob analysis can be used to improve efficiency at work by analyzing activities and optimizing the way they are conducted by people in the role.
Health & safetyJob analysis can identify hazardous behaviors and working conditions that increase the chance of accidents and injury, leading to a safer working environment.
Workforce planningTo plan for the workforce of the future, knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics need to be identified and matched with future demands for work. This enables the creation of a strategic workforce plan for a role or department. 
Legal requirementsFederal and national law can apply to working conditions, health, hiring, training, pay, promotion, and firing employees. Job analysis can be a tool to ensure all activities in a role comply with the regulation.

Job analysis is great at identifying the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics required to do a job. To identify these, the job is broken down into smaller units of work. These include duties, tasks, activities, and elements (again based on Morgeson, Brannick & Levine, 2020).

Unit Description Example
Job A collection of similar positions. ‘Receptionist’
Position A set of duties, tasks, activities, and elements to be performed by a single worker. Melinda, the receptionist who mostly works night-shifts
Duty Collections of tasks directed at general job goals. A typical job has 5 to 12 duties. Hospitality activities for visitors
Tasks Collections of activities with a clear beginning, middle, and end. A job has 30 to 100 tasks. Welcoming guests and guiding them to the waiting room
Activity Clusters of elements directed at fulfilling work requirements. Pushing the intercom button to open the door
Element Smallest identifiable unit of work. Answering the phone

Based on the description of these smaller units of work, the building blocks of a job are identified. There are multiple different methods to approach this. That’s what we will cover in the next section.

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Job Analysis Methods

There are multiple different, commonly-used job analysis methods. These include the:

  • Threshold Traits Analysis
  • Ability Requirements Scales
  • Position Analysis Questionnaire
  • Critical Incident Technique
  • Task inventory
  • Functional Job Analysis and;
  • Job Elements Method.

Explaining all job analysis methods would go beyond the scope of this article. We will focus on the three best-known and most effective job analysis methods, which are the Critical Incident Technique, Task Inventory, and Functional Job Analysis.

Job Analysis Method Effectiveness
Effectiveness ratings per job analysis method on a 5-point scale (source)

Critical Incident Technique (CIT)

The critical incident technique relies on observed critical incidents. Critical incidents are behaviors that represent either outstanding or unacceptable performance. A typical critical incident report has the following elements:

  1. A description of the context and circumstances leading up to the incident.
  2. The behaviors of the employee(s) during the incident.
  3. The consequences of the behaviors and their broader impact.

The critical incident technique is most effective for health and safety incidents (e.g., whenever an accident, injury, or death occurs), performance appraisals, and worker training. In the last two cases, the critical incident lists examples of exemplary and unacceptable behavior, which can be used to provide feedback to an employee or as the basis for training what employees should and shouldn’t do.

Task inventory (TI) (task analysis)

The task inventory, or task analysis, is an inventory of all the tasks that a job consists of. These tasks are often grouped under their duties. Earlier we mentioned that a job has between five to twelve duties and up to 100 tasks. For each of the tasks, their frequency of performing the task, task importance, and associated difficulty may be indicated.

HOSPITALITY DUTY FOR A RECEPTIONIST
Tasks Freq. Import. Difficulty
Answering the intercom when the doorbell rings 300/day Medium Low
Welcoming guests and guiding them to the waiting room 120/day Medium Low
Providing guests with a drink 80/day Low Low
Answering questions from visitors 30/day High Medium
Managing expectations about waiting times 30/day Medium High
Receiving and handling complaints 6/day High Very high

The table above shows an example of one of the duties of the receptionist at a doctor’s office. Other duties may include managing appointments, administration, and answering basic medical questions.

The task inventory is often created based on input from expert panels, the people working in the job themselves, and their managers. The task inventory is most effective for creating job descriptions, job classifications, worker training and to check compliance with legal requirements

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Functional job analysis (FJA)

The functional job analysis is a method of job analysis developed by the United States Department of Labor (DOL). The functional job analysis provides specific information to what work needs to be performed and the worker qualifications required to successfully do the work.

The FJA focuses on tasks, not on what gets done. This is because people are more likely to agree about the activity involved. An airline lounge receptionist may be required to ‘make guests feel welcome’ but there are many ways to achieve this objective. The table below describes an airline lounge receptionist according to the DOL’s Dictionary of Occupational Titles.

Receptionist, Airline Lounge
Admits members and guests to airline lounge, serves beverages and snacks, and provides other personal services as requested: Opens door to lounge in response to sound of buzzer, verifies membership cards, and admits and seats members and guests. Serves refreshments such as cocktails, coffee and snacks. Answers questions regarding scheduled flights and terminal facilities. Verifies passengers’ reservations. Directs or accompanies passengers to departure gates, rest rooms and other terminal facilities. Relays requests for paging service, using telephone. Opens cans, bottles, and packages; brews coffee; and arranges pastry, nuts, and appetizers on serving trays. Removes used ash trays, glasses, and dishes from tables and picks up trash.

We will cover the functional job analysis in more detail in a later article.

How to conduct a job analysis: A 5-step Template (example)

Now that we’ve covered the most important theory, we will share an example analysis which can be used as a job analysis template. This template contains five steps and we will cover each step. 

Do realize that this is a thorough process template. If you conduct a simple and quick job analysis by speaking to one or two people on the job, the process will be much more expedite (at the cost of reliability). However, this may already provide sufficient information to draft, for example, a job description.

1. The job analysis purpose

The starting point of any job analysis is its purpose. Why do we want to do an analysis? The purpose of the analysis influences most of the job analysis design choices, including its budget, project lead, and stakeholders.

The purposes of a job analysis were listed earlier and can include the creation of a robust job description, a needs analysis for worker training, or workforce planning.

As an example, a job analysis conducted for strategic workforce planning purposes, will involve more senior stakeholders, more budget, and take more time compared to a job analysis conducted to create a simple job description. 

In the former case, the sponsor is most likely a Senior Vice-President or other department head who wants to assess if the current talent will be able to do the job in five years. In the latter case, the sponsor is more likely a hiring manager who, after having a bad hire, really wants to pinpoint the profile of the person they are hiring for.

The purpose will thus influence the further scope, budget, and also the team, team leader, and the degree to which external parties, like consultancies, are involved.

2. The job analysis method

Based on the purpose, the most appropriate job analysis method is selected. The three most commonly used methods are the Critical Incident Technique, Task Inventory, and Functional Job Analysis. Depending on the method, the data collection will differ.

We recommend using the table we showed earlier in the article to determine the most effective job analysis technique and use that to influence future actions.

3. Gathering data

Data gathering and data analysis are the two most time-consuming steps in this job analysis template. Depending on the job analysis purpose, the job analyst may prefer different data gathering methods. Data analysis includes observational data, interviews, and questionnaires.

The Critical Incident Technique focuses on structurally collected incident data through interviews and observational data from the people involved in the incident. The Task Inventory focuses on listing the different duties and tasks performed in the job, which can be done either through observational data, interviews, or structured questionnaires. The focus here is the creation of a list of tasks, time spent on these tasks, and the importance or difficulty of the task.

Data gathering method Description
Observational dataObservational data is the most neutral form of data collection as it (supposedly) does not interrupt normal performance. The job analyst observes the person doing the job, either in real life or on video. Observational data can describe activities based on the chosen unit of analysis (see the Table above). Mere observation can already influence the way individuals conduct the job, a well-known example being the Hawthorne effect.
InterviewInterviews serve as another key way to gather data, which can be used in combination with observational data. Based on observational data, specific questions are asked. Interviews should be well-prepared and carefully conducted. Here again, the interviewer can focus on the different units of analysis to identify duties, tasks, activities, and work elements.
QuestionnairesThe third way to gather data is through questionnaires. These can be self-designed or off-the-shelf, with the best-known example being the Position Analysis Questionnaire (PAQ), which can be administered by a job analyst.

4. Analysis

The time spent on analysis depends on the data collected. When large amounts of quantitative data are collected, it is useful to report mean scores, standard deviations, number of participants, and the standard error of the mean (SEM). The latter is relevant as a measure for the reliability or precision of the results. A high SEM value for a specific task may lead to additional research.

In the example below, we can see that there is consensus among participants about the first four tasks but there is a low mean score about expectation management for visitor waiting time. This may indicate that this is not seen as part of the core role. Maybe only more senior professionals do this or it is not seen as part of the core job (so it may be qualified as extra-role behavior). 

Task for ReceptionistMSDNSEM
1. Answering the intercom4.30.5490.1
2. Welcoming guests and seating them4.00.6480.1
3. Providing refreshments to guests3.71.2200.3
4. Answering questions from visitors3.21.6320.3
5. Managing expectations about visitor waiting time2.52120.6

Morgeson and colleagues list a number of other more analytical measures, including inter-judge agreement, interjudge reliability, and internal consistency as ways to assess reliability, and correlation and regression, factor and cluster analysis, and other multivariate techniques to measure validity.

5. Impact

An essential last step is the realization of the intended impact of the job analysis. This is referred to as consequential validity, which is the degree to which the job analysis impacts the interventions that are derived from it.

In other words, does the job analysis lead to a tangible impact on Human Resource Management? This is hard to assess but crucial when it comes to making the job analysis design choices for the next time around. 

If a quick interview with two receptionists yields almost the same quality job description as a structured study of all thirty, the former approach is much more cost-efficient than the latter. Not only because it saves the job analyst time but also because it saves the receptionists hours and hours which they can spend on answering the intercom and welcoming guests instead.

Conclusion

This also brings us to the final point of this article. Job analysis is a brilliant and well-tested technique that has a clear place in human resource management. Indeed, a good application of job analysis will impact business outcomes.

For example, a thorough job analysis will lead to a better job description, which leads to a better hiring decision and eventually to higher on-the-job performance. It will also lead to a more accurate training needs analysis, which, in turn, will lead to better formal training and, as a result, higher on-the-job performance. It will also lead to a more precise way to give performance management feedback, leading in turn to better performance.

Job analysis is, however, also a very time-intensive technique. Conducting a detailed job analysis will involve filling in questionnaires or interviewing up to tens of people, making it a very costly endeavor. The question that should always be asked is to what extent a full job analysis is worth it, also taking into account the rapidly changing nature of work – although this may at the same time be a reason to do the job analysis in the first place.

In conclusion, it is good to master the essentials of the job analysis as everyone will use the techniques described in this article to some degree. Whether you are a manager, HR professional, or an employee, having a good understanding of the job will lead to better and more strategic decisions in the job, on the job, or about the job.

FAQ

What is job analysis?

Job analysis is a systematic process in which a job is broken into smaller units (like tasks and activities) which are then analyzed to describe what is done in the job or what capabilities are needed to do the job.

What are the objectives of job analysis?

The objective is to get a deeper understanding of the job, in order to (among other things) create a job description, job design, performance appraisal, worker training, workforce planning, or to make the job safer.

How to conduct a job analysis?

A job analysis is conducted by defining its purpose, selecting the job analysis method, gathering and analyzing data and implementing the findings to have an impact on your human resource management policies.

Why is job analysis important?

A job analysis enables better human resource decisions. For example, a thorough job analysis will lead to a better job description, which leads to a better hiring decision and higher on-the-job performance as a consequence. It will also lead to a more precise way to give performance management feedback, leading in turn to better performance – and so on.

What are benefits of job analysis?

A job analysis creates a deep understanding of all tasks and activities involved in doing the job. This is helpful for many HR processes, including the creation of a job description, training needs analysis, to make the job safer, or to optimize the time spent on the job. 

What are the disadvantages of job analysis?

The main disadvantage of job analysis is the time involved in doing a thorough analysis. Such an analysis can take hours for both the job analyst and for the people in the job.

 

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