Manage Work Better to Better Manage Human Resources: A Comparative Study of Two Approaches to Job Analysis

By Clifford, James P. | Public Personnel Management, Spring 1996 | Go to article overview

Manage Work Better to Better Manage Human Resources: A Comparative Study of Two Approaches to Job Analysis


Clifford, James P., Public Personnel Management


"Deming (1986) maintains that most variation (over 90%) is due to systemic factors such as procedures, supplies, and equipment not under employee control. Management's job is to reduce the level of variation, and to enlist the help of employees to constantly improve system processes."(1)

The importance of job analysis is well established in the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (1978)(2) and the Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures.(3) Job analysis is fundamental to documenting valid personnel procedures and actions. Therefore the effectiveness of various approaches to job analysis is extremely important with respect to the management of human resources. In this paper the pros and cons of two approaches are considered: the position classification approach and the task inventory approach. Recently two events occurred which provided an opportunity to conduct a comparative study of the two approaches to job analysis. The first event was when an outside consultant conducted a wage and salary study using the position classification approach, and the second was the establishment of on-the- job training programs for 16 classifications using a task inventory approach administered by in-house human resource specialists. The two different approaches to job analysis were administered in approximately the same time period, involved the same employees and analyzed the same sixteen job classifications.

A wage and salary study is an effort to determine whether or not an organization's wages are adequate to attract and retain qualified employees. The on-the-job training program is a "job ladder" concept which means that the lower level position is a training position when satisfactorily completed results in a promotion to the higher position. The job analyses were performed for different reasons. The position classification questionnaire approach was used to analyze approximately 300 separate job classifications in the organization to determine appropriate wage and salary levels; while the task inventory approach, was used to collect data to develop 16 on-the-job training programs.

Alternative approaches to job analysis

The position classification questionnaire approach(4)

"Questionnaires are one of the least costly methods for collecting information. They represent an efficient way to collect a large amount of information in a short period of time."(5) In November of 1990, the consultant conducted meetings with city employees to explain the process of the study and to give instructions on how to complete the position classification questionnaire. The questionnaire included an open ended question regarding work performed. Item 10 on the questionnaire stated:

"Describe below in detail the work you do. Use your own words, and make your description so clear that persons unfamiliar with your work can understand what you do. Attach additional sheets if necessary."

Other information collected by the questionnaire included: name, department, title, work schedule, place of work, full or part-time, allowances, equipment operated, supervisors name, title of the supervisor, name and title of subordinates, the nature of direction received, contact with people from other organizations, decision making authority, and special physical demands. General supervisors were asked to comment on the accuracy and completeness of the information provided on the form by employees. Department heads were also asked to attest to the accuracy of the information on the form. Employees were required to complete the form and send it to their supervisor for comments. The supervisor in turn sent the form to the department head for comment and it was then sent to the consultant.

In January 1991, the consultant conducted job audits. A job audit is a process to verify the accuracy of the data collected by the questionnaire. Employees interested in discussing the data provided about their job with the consultant submitted their name to the Human Resources Department, who in turn scheduled interviews with the consultant. …

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