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Job analysis and design

Editor's note to readers

Welcome to the second edition of Human Capital Matters for 2015—the digest for leaders and practitioners with an interest in human capital and organisational capability. This edition focuses on Job Analysis and Design.

Human Capital Matters seeks to provide APS leaders and practitioners with easy access to the issues of contemporary importance in public and private sector human capital and organisational capability. It has been designed to provide interested readers with a monthly guide to the national and international ideas that are shaping human capital thinking and practice. The inclusion of articles is aimed at stimulating creative and innovative thinking and does not in any way imply that the Australian Public Service Commission endorses service providers or policies.

Job analysis involves a systematic investigation of jobs using a variety of methods, to determine essential duties, tasks and responsibilities. It facilitates accurate recruitment and selection practices, sets standards for performance appraisals and allows appropriate classification/reclassification of jobs.

The Australian Public Service (APS) Work Level Standards for the APS Level and Executive Level (EL) classifications have been developed to provide a consistent platform for classifying jobs. They accommodate the diversity of roles across the APS and are structured to clearly differentiate between the work expected (i.e. responsibilities and duties) at each classification level. While this digest doesn't focus on the Work Level Standards, they are an important part of job analysis and design in the APS.

The first article provides a summary of the approach that the University of South Australia takes to Job Analysis. It identifies questions that can be asked in the data collection phase and identifies important factors to take into account when designing jobs.

The second article refers to a CIPD fact sheet on job design. The fact sheet acknowledges that job design is influenced by organisational environment, changes in the external context, and employee-related considerations. CIPD suggests that the objectives of job design will vary according to business demands and the organisation's approach to job design.

The third article provides the principles of job design used by the University of Cambridge. There is some similarity between these and those suggested by the University of South Australia.

The fourth article provides information on job analysis in the context of United States Government jobs. Job analysis is regarded as the foundation for all assessment and selection decisions.

The fifth article contains a link to a recent handbook on workplace analysis. This takes account of the shifting boundaries of rigid jobs to ones that have more flexible boundaries. The authors are a mix of academics and practitioners. The link provides partial viewing of the book-enough to make a decision about whether to explore it in more detail.

Thank you to those who took the time to provide feedback on earlier editions of Human Capital Matters. Comments, suggestions or questions regarding this publication are always welcome and should be addressed to: humancapitalmatters [at] apsc.gov.au. Readers can also subscribe to the mailing list through this email address.

APS Human Capital Matters: Job analysis and design

University of South Australia, Human Resources Unit. Job Analysis

Job analysis involves a systematic investigation of jobs using a variety of methods, to determine essential duties, tasks and responsibilities. Job analysis facilitates accurate recruitment and selection practices, sets standards for performance appraisals and allows appropriate classification/reclassification of positions.

Information can be sought from a number of sources and the process that is undertaken can vary depending on the complexity of the role. A new position in a structure will require a more detailed analysis whereas an established position may only need a review of the duties and activities.

Jobs should not be designed in isolation from other jobs within the work area. The local area, structure and objective of the work area should be taken into account.

The article identifies questions that can be asked in the data gathering phase of job analysis. These include:

  • What are the future directions/objectives of the local area?
  • What are the responsibilities of the position?
  • Is the position academic or professional/general (does the role require knowledge of the teaching and learning environment)?
  • What is the length of appointment and/or service fraction?
  • What are the specific tasks and how will they be done?
  • Why do they need to be done?
  • What impact will there be on other positions in the area?
  • Where will the work be done? (physical location)
  • Who are the clients and what are their needs?
  • How the work is currently organised?
  • Who will the position report to?
  • Will any positions report to this position?
  • What is the minimum knowledge and skills required to do the position?
  • What equipment or working aids are required?

It is noted that the data analysis phase should include:

  • Grouping the tasks into functional areas, eg. Process enrolment forms and respond to student enquiries should be under the functional heading of Student Administration.
  • Eliminating all unnecessary and wasteful activities.
  • Simplifying unnecessarily complex activities or procedures.
  • Listing the functional areas in order of importance.

It is argued that the following elements are important in job design:

Editor's Note to Readers

(2014) Job Design

This provides a link to a CIPD Fact Sheet on Job design. The following definition of job design is adopted:

Job design is the process of deciding on the contents of a job in terms of its duties and responsibilities, on the methods to be used in carrying out the job, in terms of techniques, systems and procedures, and on the relationships that should exist between the job holder and his superior subordinates and colleagues.[1]1

The article discusses the evolution of job design from the scientific management methods that emerged during the industrial revolution to later emphasis on empowerment, team work and flexible working.

The fact sheet acknowledges that job design is influenced by organisational environment, changes in the external context, and employee-related considerations.

CIPD suggests that the objectives of job design will vary according to business demands and the organisation's approach to job design.  However, the following will feature to a lesser or greater degree in deciding both the approach and desired outcomes.

Business purpose. Job design should support the purpose of the organisation and what it needs to do to succeed. Its purpose, for example, could be to sell a particular product, to provide a generic service, to constantly deliver innovative new designs etc.

People capability. Jobs are designed with consideration to existing capabilities both internally and in the wider labour market.

Quality. Jobs should be designed to minimise the risk of errors and to impose a degree of self-checking by employees to ensure highest possible quality standards.

Speed. Jobs should be designed to ensure that timeliness of task completion is appropriate to the job.  For example, in the case of an emergency, the speed and appropriateness of the response is probably the most important feature of the job.

Health and safety. Jobs must be designed to ensure they do not risk the well-being or safety of the job holder, their colleagues, customers or other individuals.

Productivity. Jobs must be designed to ensure the primary focus of the job holder is on things that matter and add value to the business.

Sustainability. Jobs should be designed with a view to sustainability, ensuring that organisations can respond flexibly in the face of changing economic, social and political landscapes.  Consideration should also be taken to ensure there is room to develop the job over time to take account of the evolving individual and organisational capabilities.

Quality of working life. Job design should incorporate sufficient flexibility, breadth and challenge to ensure individuals are motivated, excessive and prolonged stress is minimised, and wherever possible an assurance of job security in order to sustain good quality work for employees.

CIPD argues that the discipline of job design planning requires a balance between operational needs/flexibility and attention to the needs of the employee to enable sustainable delivery of the desired organisational outcomes.

CIPD is an independent not for profit professional body for HR and people development.

Editor's Note to Readers

University of Cambridge, Human Resources. Principles of Job Design

The University of Cambridge Human Resources area suggests the following key factors need to be taken into consideration when designing roles:

  • Variety—Greater variety in a job can improve the interest, challenge and commitment of the role holder to the task. Doing the same repetitive tasks may offer little challenge and can lead to role holders losing interest or becoming and dissatisfied.
  • Responsibility—Individuals need to feel responsible for the work they are doing, either individually or as part of a team. Their work should be clearly identified so they can see that they are personally responsible for the outcomes (successes and failures) that occur as a result of their own actions. If the responsibilities are clear, then the role holder and their supervisor will be better able to know if the accountabilities of the position are being delivered. The employee should be able to understand the significance of the work they undertake and where it fits into the purpose of the organisation.
  • Autonomy—This goes hand in hand with responsibility. Autonomy means giving more scope to individuals to regulate and control their own work within the parameters set for the job. The role holder will need to have some areas of decision-making that they can call their own, within the overall framework of their job. For example, this might include scope for exercising some discretion over their method of working in order to deliver.
  • Task identity—Individuals often receive more satisfaction from doing a 'whole' piece of work. This is more likely to occur when a task or job has a distinct beginning and end which is clearly apparent to the role-holder and others who work around them. It is highly desirable that people see the end results of the work they have produced, either on their own or as a part of a team.
  • Feedback—Everyone benefits from information on how they are doing and this helps role-holders feel motivated and contributes to their development in the role.
  • Providing genuine feedback is primarily the responsibility of the line manager, and can be built in to the formal working relationship through e.g. regular one-to-one meetings to discuss work objectives.
  • Participation in decision making—Most people want to take part in decision making about matters that directly affect their work. As a result of experience they also have considerable potential to contribute. People are, generally, far more likely to act upon and own decisions that they have had a part in making.
  • Recognition and support—People usually aspire to have jobs that contribute to self-respect, particularly through acceptance and recognition by fellow workers and their supervisors.
  • Working environment—A job must be designed to support a safe and healthy working environment that is inclusive, non-discriminatory, free from harassment, occupational health and safety hazards.

Editor's Note to Readers

US OPM. Job Analysis

This site provides information on job analysis in the context of United States Government jobs.

OPM sees job analysis in a similar way to other organisations. It argues that job analysis is the foundation for all assessment and selection decisions. To identify the best person for the job, it is crucial to fully understand the nature of that job. Job analysis provides a way to develop this understanding by examining the tasks performed in a job, the competencies required to perform those tasks, and the connection between the tasks and competencies.

Job analysis data is used to:

  • establish and document competencies required for a job
  • identify the job-relatedness of the tasks and competencies needed to successfully perform the job
  • provide a source of legal defensibility of assessment and selection procedures.

Information from a job analysis can also be used to determine job requirements, training needs, position classification and grade levels, and inform other personnel actions, such as promotions and performance appraisals.

The website includes links to a range of training presentations which while aimed at a US government audience may have broader appeal.

Editor's Note to Readers

The Handbook of Work Analysis, Methods, Systems, Applications and Science of Work Measurements in Organisations. Edited by Mark Alan Wilson, Winston Bennett, Jr., Shanan Gwaltney Gibson, George Michael Alliger (2012)

The handbook, dedicated to Sidney Gael, is the next generation of Gael's Job Analysis Handbook for Business, Industry and Government, published by Wiley in 1988. The entire publication includes 37 chapters. It consists of four parts: Methods, Systems, Applications and Research/Innovations.

In shifting the focus from job analysis to work analysis the publication responds to the changing nature of work where analysis extends beyond single jobs and may involve much larger systems.

The authors are a mix of academics and practitioners and the chapters are written to be useful to both academics and practitioners alike.

The authors note that the outputs of work analysis are used by different people for different purposes. For this reason at the outset it is important to be clear about the objective of undertaking the analysis.

The authors acknowledge that there is no one best method to analyze work. There is also no single best source of work information. They may include job incumbents, supervisors, trained work analysts, other organisation members or external customers or clients.

In recent decades there has been a blurring of boundaries between jobs and organisation units. Collecting work information from a variety of sources has become more important for developing a complete understanding.

Editor's Note to Readers

[1] ARMSTRONG, M. (2011) How to manage people. London: Kogan Page.

Last reviewed: 
29 March 2018