'Understanding Jobs-Why bother?'

I am regularly asked by clients, ‘why it is so important?’

Job analysis can be defined as a structured, multi-method approach aimed at defining the skills, knowledge and personal attributes necessary for identifying superior and effective performance.

Development initiatives
The process is designed to set the foundations for an organisation’s recruitment and development initiatives. Without it, all else that follows, will be on shaky ground. Activities such as interviewing, assessment centres, succession planning and psychometrics will become next to useless at identifying the stars of the future.

It’s like building the most complex tower in the world, the Burj Dubai by using low grade foundations at its base.

If it is so important then, why don’t organisations put more effort into this most fundamental of tasks?  Done properly, it is a time-consuming task with structured interviews, on-the-job diaries, observations and questionnaires being used to collect information about all aspects of a job. 

The last minute creation of a job description happens in every organisation; but that doesn’t make it any more acceptable!

The job description or performance profile as I prefer to call it, is the basis of all the people processes in an organisation; to pay such little focus on getting it right says a lot about an organisation’s view about its people!

But what are the implications of getting it wrong then? Your organisation is recruiting the wrong people without properly defining what you are looking for, you will be basing recruitment decisions on incorrect criteria.

For example, “team working skills” sounds like a desirable personal attribute to look for recruiting. However, if 75 per cent of the job involves working alone, using this to select people will result in recruits with an inappropriate skill set.

Great potential
People are dissatisfied and are leaving your organisation if people are recruited whose skills, personality and knowledge do not match the requirements of the job they have far greater potential to become dissatisfied, de-motivated and leave.

Your organisation is wasting large amounts of money.  A manager’s time does not come cheaply, so asking a manager to give up any time to interview around criteria which do not capture the essence of a job does not make business sense. The return on investment from using objective assessment techniques can be huge, but only if they target the right areas.

Your organisation may use badly-designed interviews.  This worst-case scenario applies not only to interviews, but to all aspects of an assessment process; without knowing the job requirements accurately and clearly it becomes very difficult to choose interview questions, assessment processes etc. and may mean that you select people for the job that doesn’t reflect the real world – remember making a wrong selection costs an organisation between 1 ½ and 2 times the salary of the job holder!

People in your organisation may be following inappropriate development plans.  If you have not correctly defined the requirements of a job, development plans may be drawn up targeting completely inappropriate objectives! What actually tends to happen in practice is that people detect this discrepancy and may end up resenting the development process and the activities they are asked to embark upon.

The one sure way to avoid facing the nightmare scenarios painted above is to conduct structured, thorough assessments of the capabilities and personal characteristics required of roles in your organisation.

Whether this is accomplished by bringing in outside experts or whether you decide to become self-sufficient in job analysis techniques is up to you, but taking no action is not an option to my mind. 

If you are an individual contributor or manager in an organisation, go into work today and check out the job description for you job – is it right? Does it reflect what you do? 

I’m sure you’re being appraised against that profile so; remember it needs to be right.  If you are an HR practitioner, review your job descriptions as soon as you can – leaving them to chance is a business risk that any organisation cannot afford to take.

(The writer is Director of Consultancy Services for the Global Assessment Practice, Kenexa)

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