Understanding the New Job-Analysis Technology

By Aho, Kaye L. | Personnel, January 1989 | Go to article overview

Understanding the New Job-Analysis Technology


Aho, Kaye L., Personnel


Understanding the New Job-Analysis Technology The new component-based approach to job evaluation will have a significant impact on the role of the HR manager.

More than ever before, traditional methods of job analysis are facing the pressures of a changing workplace. Trends such as rapid job change, organizational decentralization, the need for increased productivity, legal challenges, and changing workforce needs are causing established processes of job evaluation and manual job description to lose their relevance in many fast-paced organizations.

This article provides an in-depth look at these trends, at the evolving job-analysis technology, and at the potential impact this technology may have on HR professionals. In addition, it will summarize the key features to look for in a job-analysis system.

The Trends Shortened product life, technological advances, specialization, and organization restructuring are some of the influences that cause jobs to change rapidly. Such changes create new challenges for employees, managers, and HR professionals. Employees want to know more clearly what is expected of them; managers want to know what work employees are actually performing and how much time they are spending on their activities. HR professionals need to get more information about the work performed and to find a way to keep job information current.

Manual job descriptions quickly become outdated and are misleading when used as a basis for decision making. To avoid the labor-intensive process of continual updating, some organizations have moved toward increased generalization in descriptions; however, this has decreased the descriptions relevance, made them difficult for employees and managers to relate to, and reduced their usefulness for human resources personnel, managers, and employees in general.

Organizational decentralization supports business needs for competitiveness and responsiveness to product and service markets. At the same time, decentralization commonly results in conflicting pressures for business unit autonomy yet maintains a sense of equity and fairness across business units. Traditional centralized job-analysis and job-description methods tend to mask differences in work across business units; thus the resulting human resources programs lose their relevance. Similarly, a decentralized process is usually ineffective because the duplication of effort across business units increases costs. In addition, measures intended to ensure fairness across decentralized units are limited by the inability of human resources and management to compare job descriptions that use different terminology. Therefore, decentralization is hampered by these conflicting pressures, making traditional job-analysis methods part of the problem rather than a strategic solution.

HR managers currently face productivity challenges on a number of fronts. Managers, for example, are looking for advice on controlling "grade creep," or overpayment for work performed. Vague narrative job descriptions, coupled with vague standards for determining the relative contribution of jobs to the organization, make it impossible for managers to monitor their units' performance in the most productive manner. Further, HR departments are pressured to contain costs and to do more with the same or with fewer resources; nevertheless, it is common for each personnel function to perform its own job analysis. Such redundancy presents a clear opportunity to improve productivity.

Legal challenges are also on the rise, placing pressure on HR personnel and managers who must defend HR decisions as job-relevant and minimize non-job-related bias. Vague or out-of-date job descriptions, coupled with committee decisions on job evaluations, make it hard to document and defend these HR decisions. Traditional job analysis and evaluation is typically influenced by an individual's ability to present the job either on paper or orally; in addition, it may be influenced by incumbent-and job title-based stereotyping. …

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