Job Analysis – What’s New?

What’s new in job analysis? A cynic might reply – “very little.”  However, such a conclusion would lead to a very short blog and, more importantly, would not be accurate.  Despite the foundational nature of job analysis, there have been some recent developments worth sharing.

Consensus on Recommended Practices

Although it is still true that the Uniform Guidelines and courts show no preference for any specific method of job analysis, due to pressures for documentation from regulatory agencies, a professional consensus has begun to evolve and emerge around recommended practices for job analysis.  The associated principles can be expressed as follows.  A job analysis should:

  • Be task-based. Despite continued mention of worker-oriented approaches, including the emergence of competency models, the job description should be task-oriented including detailed listings of tasks and associated knowledge, skills, abilities, and personal characteristics (KSAPs).
  • Identify linkages. The identification and measurement of linkages between tasks and KSAPs is critical.  When job analysis is used in test development, it is equally important to establish linkages between the KSAPs and the test content.
  • Utilize interviews and focus groups. The appropriate use of interviews or focus groups remains important in obtaining job information from incumbents and supervisors.
  • Incorporate questionnaires. Where practical, with practicality a function primarily of the number of incumbents and the quality of the information obtained from the interviews, questionnaires should be used to gather quantitative ratings of tasks, KSAPs, and linkages.  The collected data can then be subject to statistical analysis.  Technological developments, including the widespread availability of easy-to-use online survey software, have made it much simpler and cost-effective to create and distribute job analysis instruments.  In designing surveys, practitioners should be aware of the now ubiquitous nature of smartphones.  Large matrices of the type so frequently used to collect job ratings do not translate well to small screens.  As a result, analysts must be creative in designing surveys when the incumbents will be responding using mobile devices, including tablets and smartphones.

With regard to the above principles, especially the application of complicated formulas to the ratings derived from surveys, it is worth noting that the recommendations are based on regulatory pressures, and not on the research literature or on evidence-based methods.  From a psychometric standpoint, it can be shown that many of the mathematical equations that are applied to questionnaires are either unfounded given the level of measurement achieved in the rating process or unlikely to achieve results that are superior to simple methods such as unit weighting or judgments from subject matter experts or human resource professionals.  Nevertheless, job analysis is as much technology-driven as scientifically-based, and the technology is highly dependent upon adherence to the Uniform Guidelines and a desire to meet the requirements of the regulatory agencies. Thus, job analysis has evolved so as to allow organizations to comply with changing environmental demands and the availability of new technologies.

Importance of Listing Major Work Behaviors and Tasks on the Job Description

As mentioned above, detailed information on tasks is critical.  This was well-illustrated by the recent court case of Stevens v. Rite Aid Corp. (N.D.N.Y. 2015). This case involved a 2.6 million dollar verdict in favor of Stevens.  Stevens was a pharmacist with a needle phobia, who was fired for failure to receive flu shot training and refusing to administer immunizations.   The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ruled that Rite Aid discriminated against Stevens by failing to accommodate his fear of needles.  A main argument in the case was that Rite Aid had issued a revised job description that listed 16 duties of the job, but administering immunizations was not listed as a task.  The jury found against Rite Aid.  The take home lesson from this case is that it is difficult to argue that a task not listed on the job analysis is an essential function under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008.

On the Other Hand – A More Liberal Approach to Job Analysis Documentation

In a now slightly older case, in MOCHA v. City of Buffalo (2012), the United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, upheld a city’s promotional test for firefighters. The question before the court was whether a jurisdiction could show that its exams were job-related based on job analysis data gathered from a consortium; where a minimal amount of confirmatory data may have come from the employees of the city.  The court’s answer was in the affirmative, which can be viewed as lending support to the use of multi-employer job analysis in transfer, transportability, and consortium studies.  This can be viewed as good news for the public sector, where many organizations, especially smaller governmental entities, rely upon transfer or consortium studies.

Updating Job Analyses

One of the more difficult questions to answer is how frequently one needs to update a job analysis.  Recently, changes have been made to both the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, requiring employers to periodically review and update job qualifications.  Although this does not require a job analysis, a well-documented job analysis would seem to provide one of the best answers to identifying appropriate job qualifications, as long as the job analysis is updated on a regular basis.  Human resource departments should engage in periodic confirmatory studies of the currency of their job analyses.  A logical time is when a new test administration is planned.  Such confirmatory studies can be conducted in a speedy and an economical fashion using email or an abbreviated online survey.

Clustering Jobs

One of the older questions faced by human resource professionals is how to combine positions into jobs and jobs into job families.  In the past, the best approach involved rational analysis.  Despite improvements in clustering techniques, it is too early to recommend any specific technologically based solution.  However, two approaches to keep an eye on are the use of various types of textual analysis and social network analysis.  Textual analysis programs allow for the identification of commonalities across jobs and positions based on the descriptors used in job narratives.  Social network analysis analyzes and identifies the relational linkages between employees and jobs.  From my perspective, it is still too early to recommend either approach for applied uses, but both bear watching as such techniques may eventually provide solutions to the decades old question of how best to cluster positions and jobs.

Technology

Does your employment website offer video job analyses?  Do you accept video resumes?  One of the hot new employment trends is the use of both video job analyses, on the employer side, and video resumes, on the applicant side.

The term video job analysis seems to be used in two related but different senses. The first is a more traditional usage, where a video record is made of the job tasks and duties.  The logic is an old one – a picture is worth a thousand words, but in this case it is a video record of the job.  By having a filmed version of the job, one can reduce arguments concerning subjectivity regarding whether tasks are required in performing a position.  From this perspective, the video version can be seen as visual evidence for the content of a written job analysis.

The second type of video job analysis involves a concept similar to a realistic job preview.  That is, the video job analysis can be used as a recruitment tool.  In this case, the video will include elements that allow the organization to communicate its brand and employer image to the prospective candidates.

Conclusion

The argument has also been made that job analysis should be expanded to include a greater analysis of work roles.   Certainly, the ability to incorporate a broader organizational perspective has been one of the attractive elements of the competency modeling approach.  However, the need to comply with legal requirements has shaped the traditional approach to job analysis and, as we have seen, one of the recent positive changes has been a consensus on recommended practices in job analysis.  This does not mean that job analysis is immune to the impact of technology and this is evident in the widespread use of online surveys as well as newer initiatives, such as video job analysis.

In the end though, job analysis remains a subjective process requiring expert judgment by human resource professionals.  Such expert knowledge is developed through experience and practice, but also requires keeping up with the latest professional developments.

Dennis Doverspike will be presenting a workshop on Conducting a Job Analysis at the 2015 IPMA-HR International Training Conference & Expo in Denver, Colorado, which will be held on September 26th. The workshop is intended for all levels of HR professional with an interest in job analysis. This newly designed training program will cover the required fundamentals of a job analysis and introduce you to the IPMA-HR job analysis method. This method is designed to be applicable to a wide range of organizations, adaptable to different degrees of potential scrutiny, and provide data that can be used for a variety of human resources activities.

References

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Civil Service Commission, the Department of Labor and the Department of Justice. (1978). Uniform guidelines on employee selection procedures. Federal Register, Volume 43, Number 166, 38290-38315. Uniform Guidelines

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About Dennis Doverspike

Dennis Doverspike, Ph.D., ABPP, is a Full Professor of Psychology at the University of Akron, Senior Fellow of the Institute for Life-Span Development and Gerontology, and Director of the Center for Organizational Research. He is certified as a specialist in Industrial-Organizational Psychology and in Organizational and Business Consulting by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) and is a licensed psychologist in the State of Ohio. Dr. Doverspike has over thirty years of experience working with consulting firms and with public and private sector organizations. Services provided include individual assessments, statistical analysis, development of large scale assessment systems, job evaluation and job analysis, and expert witness services. He is the author of 3 books and over 150 other professional publications. Dennis Doverspike received his Ph.D. in Psychology in 1983 from the University of Akron. His M.S. in Psychology is from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and his B.S. is from John Carroll University.

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