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Work analysis seeks to breakdown the work behaviors that people do and the characteristics of people who successfully perform the work, and then to reassemble the information in a form that has many uses in practice. The information can be used to specify job expectations, establish quality standards, develop training programs, document work processes, and anticipate safety risks, among many other uses. This book is a practical guide to using the work analysis process for improving performance in the workplace, particularly with the emergence of knowledge work. Work has undergone much change, and the trend is towards increased complexity, demanding employees to use their cognitive abilities to a greater extent. Work analysis has often been criticized for its historical focus on documenting simple, observable, and routine behaviors performed by individuals involved in low-skilled production work. But it doesn’t have to be so, as readers will discover. Indeed, the demands of organizations and societies in the digital age has placed greater emphasis on documenting the changing nature of work.

This practical book addresses the questions of how does one perform a work analysis? How can complex work be documented? How can the information be used by organizations, technical schools, and government agencies? Readers will find detailed descriptions of numerous work analysis techniques, along with case studies and example documents from actual organizational and national workforce development situations.

This book serves as a relatively comprehensive resource for human resource development professionals in range of settings. The book should also be useful for human resource managers, line managers and supervisors, and other professionals such as quality and safety staff. Readers will value the information in the book, based on the author’s extensive experience, which is presented in a clear and concise approach.



Part I


1. Defining Work Analysis

The first chapter introduces work analysis as a critical part of human resource development (HRD) practice, especially with the emergence of knowledge work. The chapter defines work analysis as having two major components: first, to document the work that people do and, second, to understand the characteristics of the most successful people who perform a set of work. The techniques related to these two components are presented in the chapter. These two components are combined here for the first time since they reflect the challenges of contemporary HRD practice. The chapter also provides a historical context for understanding work analysis, starting with the early part of the twentieth-century Industrial Age. Finally, the chapter defines the basic terms that will be used throughout the book.
Ronald L. Jacobs

2. Human Resource Development and Work Analysis

This chapter provides a context for understanding the field of human resource development (HRD), and presents a definition that is consistent with that context. There are at least three overriding perspectives of the field: the humanistic perspective, the learning perspective, and the performance perspective. In general, the performance perspective aligns best with work analysis since system theory provides an underpinning for that point of view. The chapter proposes that there are four major areas of HRD practice: employee development, organization development, career development, and performance support. Within the context of these areas of practice, HRD professionals make use of work analysis information more than any other profession does.
Ronald L. Jacobs

3. Work Analysis Roles and Process

Work analysis projects are most often conducted by a group of individuals who essentially serve in two different roles. First, there are the subject-matter experts (SMEs), who are presumed to have expert-level knowledge and skills about the work being analyzed. Then, there are the analysts who work closely with the SMEs, and who have knowledge and skills in the work analysis process. Some organizations undertake work analysis projects with the belief that the analyst should be content-bound. That is, the analyst also serves as an SME. More informed perspectives believe that the analyst should be, in a relative sense, content-free. That is, not having expert levels of knowledge and skills in the work being analyzed. The perspective here is that being content-free provides many more benefits when gathering work analysis information. The chapter also presents a general process for conducting work analysis projects.
Ronald L. Jacobs

4. Structures of Work

Most individuals may not realize that there exists an underlying structure that facilitates an understanding of jobs, tasks, occupations, work processes, and individual competencies. For instance, the structure of all jobs is composed of a set of duties, tasks that are related to each duty, and the component behaviors of the tasks. Understanding that these structures exist allows the analyst to engage in new situations with ease, and allows greater consistency in the way that work analysis information is reported and understood. Having the structures also facilitates an understanding of how to make best use of the information. Indeed, suggesting that these underlying structures exists is, in fact, a form of theory, and that each time a project is carried out, the theory is tested in terms of its consistency and practical usefulness. Over the past 40 years, the structures have proven to be beneficial for engaging in work analysis projects.
Ronald L. Jacobs

Part II


5. Job Analysis and the DACUM Process

This chapter describes one of the most commonly requested work analysis techniques, job analysis. Job analysis is defined in this chapter and describes the Developing a Curriculum (DACUM) technique in particular. DACUM has proven to be a relatively effective approach for conducting a job analysis as it relies upon a panel of subject-matter experts to come together to generate the duties and tasks of a job. The DACUM process also generates additional information about a job. The chapter provides a process for conducting a DACUM, and suggests that the role of the DACUM facilitator is critical for ensuring the effectiveness of the job analysis project. Many human resource development (HRD) professionals have heard of job analysis, and perhaps they have heard of the DACUM process as well. Unfortunately, many HRD professionals do not have experience in serving as a facilitator of the process.
Ronald L. Jacobs

6. Task Analysis

As a follow-up to Chap. 5, this chapter discusses the important work analysis technique of task analysis. Task analysis is the process of identifying the component behaviors within a task. A task is defined as a unit of work with a defined beginning and ending, discrete from other tasks, and has an outcome at the end. The chapter identifies six patterns of task behavior: procedure, troubleshooting, decision making, inspection, adjustment-revision, and manage a work process. These patterns tend to appear with some regularity across most jobs. The chapter presents a process for conducting a task analysis. For many human resource development professionals, task analysis may be one of the most important sets of skills related to work analysis.
Ronald L. Jacobs

7. Occupational Analysis

Many people confuse the respective meanings of an occupation and a job. As stated, a job refers to a set of defined work within a specific context. An occupation refers to a set of related jobs across work settings. Thus, an occupation represents a broader understanding than a job does. This chapter introduces the process for conducting an occupational analysis. There are many uses of occupational analysis information, including the development of technical-education curricula and courses. Perhaps most prominently, occupational analysis is used for developing national occupational standards. Three types of occupational analyses have emerged from practice. First, there is the analysis of an entire occupation, which like a job analysis provides complete information about the occupation, including forecasts of demand. Second, there are occupational analyses that focus on specific aspects of an occupation. Finally, there are occupational analyses that focus on prerequisite information to the occupation.
Ronald L. Jacobs

8. National Occupational Standards

National occupational standards (NOSs) have become an increasingly important topic of interest related to work analysis. NOSs specify what is required of an individual to perform in an occupation, as the occupation appears across various workplace settings, at a regional or a national level. NOSs also specify the background knowledge and skills individuals should possess to meet that standard. Each NOS defines one occupation or an area of competence across occupations. NOSs are used for the following reasons: to forecast employment priorities and trends by government agencies and educational institutions; to provide a benchmark for companies so they can compare their job expectations with the occupational standard; to provide the basis for the design of training and education programs; to construct job descriptions by human resources staff members for use with recruitment and selection; and to identify occupational options and their respective educational requirements by individual job seekers. Many HRD professionals in the United States are not familiar with NOSs. But these are commonly understood throughout Europe, most of Asia, and many developing countries.
Ronald L. Jacobs

9. Critical Incident Technique

Many human resource development (HRD) professionals, not to mention many managers, may wonder how it might be possible to analyze work that is mostly cognitive in nature. That is, work that expressly requires thinking as the major part of completing the task. Can work analysis actually be used to document what occurs inside your mind? For many, work analysis techniques are believed to be better suited for work that is more straightforward and observable in nature, simply because that is the way most techniques have been used in the past. But as has been pointed out in this book, work has undergone much change, becoming more complex and requiring greater demands on individuals doing the work. In response, work analysis techniques should be available to respond to those changes. This chapter focuses on the critical incident technique, a technique that was first introduced in the 1950s by John C. Flanagan, a well-known and respected researcher and consultant in the field of industrial psychology. Now the critical incident technique seems even more important as a means to document the behaviors required to perform certain complex, knowledge-based, units of work.
Ronald L. Jacobs

10. Work Process Analysis

Perhaps no other principle has influenced management practice more than the emphasis now being placed on work processes. Managers are now keenly aware that work processes in effect define how all organizations actually function. As presented in Chap. 1, a work process is defined as the series of human actions and technology-based events that occur over time, often taking place across functional boundaries and involving diverse groups of people, which convert inputs into outputs. Authors in the quality management literature first began discussing the importance of work processes in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This chapter defines work processes and presents four different types of work processes found in organizations.
Ronald L. Jacobs

11. Individual Competencies

Each of the previous chapters introduced work analysis techniques that addressed the first underlying question: What is the work that people do? That is, the focus has been on the work, not on the people doing the work. There is now a need to address the second component of work analysis: What are the characteristics of the people who are effective in doing the work? Understanding the nature of the people in the context of their work has a growing number of implications. For one thing, this question connects with the broader strategic planning issue in organizations of determining what type of individuals would be best suited for the future. Given the rate of change in many organizations, many global managers are now asking more fundamental questions about the people doing the work, beyond whether the people possess the specific knowledge and skills to meet job expectations. More and more human resource development (HRD) professionals now have job titles such as manager of talent development or talent management, suggesting an emphasis on the characteristics of individuals.
Ronald L. Jacobs

12. Conducting a Competency Analysis

This chapter discusses how to conduct a competency analysis. The focus here is on using competency analysis to identify which individual competencies are critical for success in a certain job role, and then to develop a competency model that describes in detail each of the identified individual competencies. A competency model includes an operational definition of each individual competency, the levels of behavioral indicators, and presents the relationships among the individual competencies. A competency model is the outcome of conducting a competency analysis. Competency analysis can be used to identify organization-wide core competencies or function-specific competencies as well. Most human resource development (HRD) professionals have had limited experience in conducting a competency analysis. Yet, competency analysis is often part of implementing a talent management effort, that typically involves the coordination of a broad range of activities, including recruitment, selection, development, and promotion. In many instances, managers realize that such a broad-based set of activities requires a critical analysis of the organization’s mission statement, resulting in the development of a detailed plan related to the management of the organization’s workforce in general.
Ronald L. Jacobs

Part III


13. Task Statements and Training Design

This chapter begins the section of the book that addresses the question of how to use the information that results from a work analysis. This chapter specifically addresses questions related to the design of training programs, when the training content is drawn mostly from a task analysis. Any meaningful discussion about designing training programs based on task information is virtually nonexistent in the human resource development (HRD) literature. Part of the issue is the misconception that task analysis is best suited for analyzing work that is relatively simple, procedurally based, and technical in nature. In that sense, any training program based on this information would be considered simple and straightforward as well. As discussed throughout the book, the reality is that work has become much more knowledge-based, requiring that workers engage in much more critical thinking along with engaging in their actions. So the understanding of tasks and task analysis should progress far beyond the preconceived notions of the past. The question of concern for many HRD professionals now should be how to design training programs based on knowledge-based tasks? This chapter will not address the entire training design process, which would require an entire book unto itself. This chapter will cover only two aspects of particular importance when designing training programs: deriving training objectives from task statements and organizing the knowledge components of tasks. The knowledge components often represent the prerequisites of the task.
Ronald L. Jacobs

14. Structured On-the-Job Training Modules

Structured on-the-job training (S-OJT) is defined as the planned process of having an experienced employee train a novice employee on a unit of work in the actual work setting or a setting that closely resembles the work setting. S-OJT is the only training approach that makes use of a planned process for its design and delivery, occurs in the actual work setting, and has the direct involvement of a trainer. That is, trainees learn through a process of engaging in a series of trial and error on their own, watching others perform the task without any guidance, or being trained by someone who may not be fully qualified or prepared to be a trainer. As a result, research has shown that unstructured on-the-job training takes longer and achieves outcomes that are lower than S-OJT. Perhaps no other training approach is as dependent on using information from a task analysis as is S-OJT. The task analysis provides the content for the training and, as a result, forms the core aspect of an S-OJT module.
Ronald L. Jacobs

15. Performance Support Guides

All of us have used a performance support guide in some way or another in our daily lives. The next time you put fuel in your car or truck, you will see a list of steps for the user to follow. All fuel pumps provide a brief set of instruction on how to insert your credit card, select the type of fuel you wish, and whether you want a receipt. The prompts are sometimes continued on the screen on the pump. Some prompts even go on to ask if you wish to purchase a car wash as well! Sometimes this information is presented completely with icons or simple pictures, in other instances it is presented as text, and in others as a combination of icons and text. Now that more cars are being powered by electric motors, electric recharging stations will also need to present a performance support guide to ensure that users know how to connect the charging station to their car’s outlet. Most of these users are doing this task for the first time, so that error is always a possibility, and doing it properly is critical for ensuring the recharge has occurred. Refueling or recharging our cars is a simple task that many of us perform on a regular basis, perhaps weekly. One would think we could just remember how to do it, and the information would be unnecessary. There remains the need for providing a performance support guide of some kind, to ensure that the intended activity is done correctly. Without it, there’s always the probability of making an error. This chapter addresses how to adapt a task analysis information to a performance support guide.
Ronald L. Jacobs

16. Performance Rating Scales

An area of practice of increasing importance to human resource development (HRD) professionals is the design and use of performance rating scales. Unfortunately, there seems much uncertainty about what constitutes best practice in this regard, especially when predetermined standards are not available. Regardless, the analysis of tasks or individual competencies should underlie the design of all types of performance rating scales. Performance rating scales have many different uses. For instance, managers use performance rating scales when they review a subordinate at the end of a review period. As will be discussed in the following chapters, individuals also use a performance rating scale when they assess their own abilities relative to various individual competencies. Though often simple in their layouts, performance rating scales can be used in some powerful ways, such as ensuring that learning has occurred, documenting when a person has completed certain actions that need to be done, and ensuring that all parts are included in the delivery of a set of communications. Performance rating scales are almost always used to measure some level of skill or ability. This chapter introduces four types of performance rating scales: checklist, product scale, numerical scale, and graphical scale.
Ronald L. Jacobs

17. Competency Assessment and Development

How do organizations actually use the individual competencies that were discussed in Chaps. 11 and 12? The most common way they are used is through the processes of competency assessment and competency development. In many organizations, competency assessment and development have become part of the broader topic of talent management, a topic that many human resource development professionals have become more involved in. Talent management is considered the entire process of selecting, recruiting, developing, and retaining the best individuals in organizations. Discussions about talent management often include revising the organization’s mission statement and considering whether an alternate perspective might be appropriate for understanding the organization. Competency assessment refers to the process of identifying to what extent individual employees, and possibly their supervisors, rate on the extent that the employee possesses the individual competencies of a job role. The primary purpose of a competency assessment is typically for developing employees, not for reviewing or evaluating employees. In this sense, competency assessment is a diagnostic activity. Competency development is the process of imparting the desired individual competencies to certain employees. A competency planning matrix is introduced in the chapter.
Ronald L. Jacobs

Part IV


18. Knowledge Work and Digital Talent

A skeptic might say that anyone who purports to know what lies ahead is either just guessing or simply being foolish. Many of us find ourselves making informal conjectures about the future, while sitting with friends over coffee. How can we really say with confidence what is around the corner, predicting events that have not been seen in a concrete sense? For the most part, the future of work is staring most of us immediately in the face. So in this case the future may not be so difficult to predict after all, when there is so much evidence to support what direction things are headed. With the advent of knowledge work, this relationship has become even more prominent. This chapter addresses the concept of knowledge work and proposes some further understanding of the oft-used term digital talent, as it relates to work analysis.
Ronald L. Jacobs

19. Future Directions of Work Analysis

This book has sought to take a forward-look approach to work analysis. More specifically, the approach has sought to recognize the two major components of work analysis, in response to the emergence of knowledge work. In doing so, readers should realize by now that work analysis has moved well beyond the techniques associated with the Industrial Era. With the advent of knowledge work across most jobs, work analysis has undergone much change, moving forward to meet the challenges of today’s workplace. Today, work analysis has a far wider range of uses than ever before. What hasn’t changed is the fundamental principle that documenting what people do in the workplace remains an important activity in organizations. Now, there is a need to understand work analysis in the looming digital age, and how work analysis can be used to consider how to meet the challenges that it presents. Now it seems prescient to extend that information into the future practice of work analysis. Many authors are recognizing the digital age as being truly unique and disruptive compared to past economic ages, simply because of the influence of information and communications technology and likely advances in artificial intelligence.
Ronald L. Jacobs


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