Job Analysis: A Local Government's Experience

By Urbanek, Steve J. | Public Personnel Management, Fall 1997 | Go to article overview

Job Analysis: A Local Government's Experience


Urbanek, Steve J., Public Personnel Management


Job analysis has been described by some as the basic activity of human resource management.(1) Others, like Riggio,(2) suggest that job analysis is the starting point for nearly all personnel functions. In local government, informal job analysis occurs regularly when a department head tells an elected official about the need for a new position or when a supervisor making a hiring decision must decide what questions to ask potential hirees. Such activities do not simply occur in a vacuum. Indeed, informal job analysis is probably the norm in many small local governments where the resources to conduct a formal job analysis do not exist.

Deciding to conduct a formal job analysis is rather like deciding to clean out your attic. Generally, you have put it off so long that you are now forced to do it and you know there will be family squabbles about what you can get rid of and what you must keep. The Mobile County, AL Personnel Department, a civil service agency representing about 5,000 employees in 20 separate governmental entities, opted to conduct an analysis of some 500 job classifications. Formal job analysis had been regularly conducted for the validation of selection and promotion procedures in certain critical areas using a model proposed by Menne, McCarthy and Menne.(3) The decision was made to undertake an analysis of the entire classification system in an effort to address employee concerns in a variety of areas. Most of the concerns brought by employees dealt with improper classification and lack of perceived internal pay equity. The Mobile County Personnel Department also saw an opportunity to expand the validation of selection and promotion procedures, reduce the number of job classifications and to enhance the performance appraisal system. It became apparent to the department staff that a unified job analysis approach would be the most efficient, economical and practical means of addressing all concerns while still adhering to necessary legal and technical standards.

Development of the Job Analysis Questionnaire

A review of a number of existing job analysis instruments was conducted. These included the Critical Incident Technique(4) and the Position Analysis Questionnaire.(5) In our search to find an approach that might meet all our needs we strongly considered the Versatile Job Analysis System (VERJAS) as described by Bemis, Belenky and Soder.(6) These authors demonstrated that a comprehensive approach to job analysis was practical and that such data could be applied to a wide range of personnel management decisions. In the end, however, we decided to develop our own job analysis instrument. Some of the existing instruments were simply too long or complicated to be used for a variety of job classifications. Others required too much creative narrative writing on the part of employees. A major consideration was that the instrument should lend itself to data analysis by computer The ratio of project staff workers to employees necessitated this, since the goal was to survey all employees and not just a sample of workers from each job classification.

The development of the in-house job analysis questionnaire took approximately six months. Quantification of data, where practical, was given high priority to ensure as much objectivity as possible. Attempting to make the document readable for a wide range of employees was given much attention. Customized data analysis programs were written and tested. Much effort was devoted to concerns addressed in the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures.(7) The final questionnaire consisted of eight sections as listed in Table 1.

Job duties consisted of broad dimensions of work associated with various jobs. In order to help employees organize their jobs, a list of job duties was provided to employees. The list was generated from job descriptions and other documents on file with the department. The list consisted of job duties like "Typing," "Firefighting," "Counseling" and "Testing. …

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