Applying the Data Base

By Cohen, Stephen L. | Training & Development Journal, September 1989 | Go to article overview

Applying the Data Base


Cohen, Stephen L., Training & Development Journal


Applying the Data Base

This series of articles has contained two major assumptions. First, the presence alone of accurate data will not necessarily produce effective decisions--other factors influence the quality of decisions made about people. Second, without relatively accurate data about people, you can make few effective human-resource decisions.

As such, you must create a good data base to start--good data are a pre-requisite for effective decision-making about people and, indeed, about anything. As a manager, you must not only understand and control the influences that contribute to unreliability and invalidity, but also recognize the many human-resource methods available to you to help in the day-to-day management of your people.

We have already dealt with the first assumption about control influences. Now, we must see how to create useful data bases from existing human-resource-management technology. In general, you can categorize that technology in four ways:

* selection and placement;

* performance management;

* training and education;

* career planning and development.

A common thread through those types of data is sourcing--getting information about job duties; individual and organizational needs; employee knowledge, skills, and abilities; morale and satisfaction; attitudes and interests; orientation to work; and personality and style. Those sources provide much of the information upon which you make personnel decisions. As such, it is important that you not only acknowledge them, but also use them judiciously. It is important as well to note that no one expects managers to have all of those sources at their finger-tips; they will have ready access to some, but others are available, or should be, through human-resource-management departments. Where they are not, managers must manage their organizations' human-resource functions to meet their needs best. After all, human resources should service all employees to permit a smooth, cost-efficient system for managing people.

A brief description of the possible data sources will help you understand what is available. They fall into the following areas of analysis: organizational, position, performance, training, and employee.

Organizational analysis

The data concerning organizational analysis have a relatively big-picture focus. They relate to the organization's strategic plan, its competitive strategy, its market analysis, its past and future growth, and its mission and purpose. The basic questions answered by such an analysis:

* What business are we in?

* Where have we been?

* Where are we and how did we get here?

* Where are we going and how will we get there?

From a human-resource standpoint, it's clear that answers to those questions will tell an organization not only the number of people needed but the types as well. The value of such information for recruiting and hiring is self-evident. But understanding future needs and comparing them to existing capabilities also identifies what training and education should take place. A training needs-analysis offers the appropriate data base for that, and surely the data will be critical to your succession-planning process.

Position analysis

Once the relevant organization data are available, it is important to understand how the requirements of existing jobs fit into the larger organizational context. To learn about the jobs in question, you must make an appropriate analysis of the actual tasks or duties required for performance. A job analysis procedure that identifies the importance, frequency, and level of difficulty of the various job tasks will provide the right basis for understanding how the job fits into its function within the organization. It will also provide the manager and employee with a consistent point of departure for managing day-to-day activities.

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