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Job Analysis in HRM – Meaning and Definition

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Organizations are characterized by division of labour and specialization because most of the activities in modern organizations cannot be carried out by one person. Besides, most of the tasks are technical and require different technical skills. Consequently, the organization must systematically determine which employees are expected to perform a particular function or task. The organization’s cornerstone is a network of interdependent jobs performed by employees. As a result, they are studying and understanding employment through the process known as job analysis is a vital part of human resource management. This article starts with defining the concept of job analysis, then gives information on components of job analysis, uses of job analysis and methods of undertaking job analysis. A case study of job analysis will be presented before concluding.

What is Job analysis?

(Mathis and Jackson, 2011)

Armstrong (2009) defines job analysis as a process of collecting, analyzing and setting out information about the content of jobs to provide the basis for job description data for recruitment, training, evaluation and performance management. Examining these jobs helps identify their main features, duties to be fulfilled, results to be achieved, significant tasks, nature of work, relationship with other jobs in the organizational hierarchy, effort, skills and qualifications required. (Armstrong, 2012). In general terms, job analysis answers the following questions:

  • Why does the job exist?
  • What physical and mental activities does the worker do?
  • When is the job to be performed?
  • Where is the job to be performed?
  • How does the worker do the job?
  • What qualifications are needed to perform the job?
  • What are the working conditions (such as the temperature levels, light, offensive fumes and noise) of the job?
  • What constitutes successful performance?

Components of job analysis information

According to Noel et al. (2011), job analysis produces two kinds of invaluable information for human resource management- job description and job specification.

Job description

This is a list of tasks, duties and responsibilities in a given job. It defines the observable actions of specific duties, general tasks, functions, and responsibilities of an employee, commonly known as key result areas (Noel et al.,2011). Job descriptions are usually narrative and may contain a simple list of competencies and aspects of relationships with other people in the organization. Mathis and Jackson (2011) identified the following elements as essential components of the job description:

  1. Tasks: identifiable work activities composed of motions.
  2. Duties: more significant work segments
  3. Tasks: small work components
  4. Job responsibilities: obligations to perform tasks and duties.

These components are difficult to distinguish and separate because they are dependent variables that form a task-based approach to job analysis. According to Steen et al. (2012), the task-oriented approach is a straightforward method that involves listing tasks to be performed in each job by first classifying positions concerning their occupations. Each lesson is rated according to a defined set of criteria: relative importance, difficulty, frequency of task performance, activities, and conditions under which it will do the job.

According to Cully (2006), the competence-based approach designs job descriptions by considering capabilities to influence organizational performance and teamwork. This approach, according to Cully, is not yet common. Still, it is the most proactive approach that ensures a competitive outcome for each employee because it is based on an employee’s abilities.

Person specification

Job analysis also produces a person’s specification information to make a sensible choice if an organization knows the type of person sought for the right jobs. The following are elements of person specification:

  • Experience
  • Qualifications
  • Skills
  • Abilities and knowledge
  • Personal qualities and
  • Special requirements needed to perform a particular job successfully

Job analysis methods

Methods used to conduct job descriptions include interviews, observations, questionnaires and incumbent’s diaries and some use “do it yourself.” These methods, if used correctly, can produce correct job analysis information for the organization. According to Sandra (2009), the sources of information for current job information are the job incumbents (people who currently hold that position, supervisors and the human resource department. The job holder is a logical source because they are acquainted with the job details but may not give very accurate information to appear of more value to the organization. 

Some of these methods

The questionnaire method

In this approach, managers, supervisors, and subordinates fill questionnaires in a structured or unstructured questionnaire. However, this method also suffers from personal biases, requiring great care when framing questions for different grades of employees.

The observation method

The observation method involves watching incumbents perform their jobs and observing methods, ways, and skills to perform work. This method includes three techniques: direct observation, work methods analysis and critical incident technique. 

The interview method

The interview method can be complemented with the observation method. Interviews are most effective when structured with specific questions based on observations, other analyzes of the job types in question, or previous discussions with managers about HR representatives, trainers, or appointments.

The critical incidents and work diaries method

The critical incident technique asks subject-matter experts to identify essential aspects of behaviour or performance for a particular job that lead to success or failure and to have a logbook where the incumbent records all the tasks that have been performed. The frequency of those tasks implies that they are the main activities for that job.

Use of job analysis information in HRM

According to Holman (2007), most jobholders who have copies of their job descriptions perform very well because they know the required performance standards and reporting relationships. They clearly understand their duties and responsibilities. Armstrong (2012) says job analysis is essential to the organization as it is the basis for recruitment and selection, management development, performance management, career development, the grades and pay structure, learning, development and job design.

Job analysis information can be used in human resource planning to acquire correct and complete details on the level of skills required in various jobs(Armstrong,2005). An organization can tell whether it can recruit new staff or redesign the job based on job descriptions and person’s specifications. The information can also decide on retrenchments and downsizing specific jobs. Jobs can be cut to enlarge another job with more similar tasks and requirements, especially in times of economic downturns that affect business profitability.

Armstrong (2005) further argues that job analysis is a pre-requisite for job evaluation, which provides the basis for determining wages. Job evaluation involves assessing the relative value of each job to the organization to put dollar values, job analysis which is necessary to get information about different job requirements, the complexity of duties, to compare them to come up with fair job rankings.

Job analysis provides essential information on which performance appraisals can be assessed, thus making it possible to determine how well an individual is meeting each job requirement (Noe, 2009). Managers evaluating the performance of employees compare the standard or desired output with delivered or actual production. Marchington and Wilkons (2005) reiterate that job analysis helps employers to identify the gap between expectations and performance to equip employees with the necessary training to develop competencies that enhance productivity and quality through continuously training the employees.

In summary, information on job analysis helps manage people in organizations in these ways:

  • Job analysis is the basis of job description and specifications
  • Aids the supervisor and employee in defining each employees’ duties and related tasks
  • Serves as a reference guide to move employees in the correct work-related direction
  • Prescribes the importance and time requirements for a worker’s effort
  • Provides job application with realistic job information regarding duties, working conditions, and job requirements
  • Identifies reporting relationships for supervisors and subordinates
  • Determines a job’s relative worth to maintain external and internal pay equity
  • Ensures that companies do not violate the equal principle
  • Provides selection information necessary to make employment decisions
  • Serves as the basis for establishing career development programmes and paths for employees
  • Identifies worker redundancies during mergers, acquisitions and downsizing
  • Guides supervisors and incumbents in respectively writing references and preparing resumes for employees leaving and seeking new employment
  • Job specification defines the knowledge, skills and abilities required for successful job performance.
  • Job analysis provides practical job orientation and requires a clear understanding of the work to be performed
  • Helps to identify and clarify the organizational structure and design.
  • Aids the recruitment process by establishing the job requirements
  • Assists the selection process by identifying what the job is by defining its duties and responsibilities.
  • Helps in setting performance standards and conducting performance appraisal

Challenges constraining proper utilization of Job analysis information

Various challenges affect the effective utilization of job analysis information as follows:

  • Improper data can also cause problems in implementing the job analysis information in the organization if there is not enough information on the job. According to Watson (2012), the discretionary and ever-changing nature of supervisory and managerial jobs cannot be predetermined and prescribed accurately. This means that job analysis conducted many years ago may include inaccurate data.
  • Changing the environment is an aspect that affects the utilization of job analysis information. Some changes occur too fast to maintain an effective job analysis system. Thus, job analysis that could have been done might not fit the latest jobs and might therefore have inaccurate data about the job.
  • Due to changes in the environment where jobs are rapidly evolving, obsolete job analyst information can hinder an organization’s ability to adapt to change. This means that employees will be holding to their old job description, mentioning senior duties which no longer exist. This makes employees very rigid and not flexible at all to meet the requirements of the new environment.
  • Multi-skilling and multi-tasking have a significant drawback in utilizing job analysis information in these modern environments. This means employees will be trained on different skills and be transferred from one section to another where there is demand. This does away with the traditional job description, which prescribes the task to be carried and replaces it with the role profile, which specifies the range of knowledge and skills the role holder needs. This means that all the job analysis information will not be necessary to the organization.
  • The shortage of human resources makes it challenging to utilize the job analysis information as employers are forced to give the overload of work to the few remaining employees. Thus, it isn’t easy to implement the information on the few employees who are doing tasks that are not in their job description.
  • Due to the issue of wanting to attract the rightful candidate for the job, the organization may not use the information from job analysis information fully- prospective employers do not divulge all the risks and challenges of the job. The employer will portray a good image of the job. To prevent the candidate from turning down the offer.
  • Armstrong (2012) points out that flexible working is a pattern of working practice or working hours that deviates from the standard or regular arrangement. The issue of work-life balance and work flexibility affects the utilization of job analysis information in the organization.
  • The impact of labour laws can explain why job analysis information cannot be fully utilized. Certain areas could lead to lawsuits by employees because of the inequality rewards system and discriminatory excises.
  • Some jobs are stationery meaning their job description is prescribed by law. The Act’s task and duties are well spelt, making information derived from job analysis less critical. It will be of no importance to conduct the job analysis.

Case study: Job Analysis Information Products

Job description of a faculty administrator

1. Position Title: – Faculty Administrator 2. Department/ Faculty: – Social Sciences

2. Reports to – Dean of Faculty 4. Pay Grade: 8

General summary

Supervises, coordinates, and assigns work to faculty staff to ensure all faculty departments’ accurate registration and examination results.

Primary duties or/and essential job functions

  1. Facilitates processing of student examinations
  2. Services faculty board and faculty planning meetings
  3. Performs junior employee performance evaluations
  4. Supervises department secretaries
  5. General administration of the faculty, for example, monitoring telephones and office appearance.

Job / Person specification

  1. Knowledge of University programmes, policies and procedures
  2. Possession of skill in oral and written communications, Ability to follow oral and written instructions

Education and experience: A relevant first degree in Social Sciences or Administration plus two years of tertiary education.


Job analysis is an essential and pervasive HR tool for planning, recruitment and selection, job evaluation, performance management, and other human resource activities.

The information is used to prepare job descriptions and a person’s specifications. It becomes easier to identify the work tasks involved, duties, responsibilities and conditions under which the job is done, and the qualifications and experience required for it to be performed. To come up with correct information, job analysts should ensure that appropriate methods of collecting data are employed. Due to technological changes, job analysis needs to be frequently reviewed in a rapidly changing environment. There is a growing view that job analysis is becoming obsolete as management constantly redesigned work can promote rigidity and inflexibility. Management redesign jobs that provide challenges, autonomy and satisfaction that provide employees meaningful work results in high productivity and employee commitment.

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