Job and occupational analysts do all the nitty-gritty, fact-finding work
behind the scenes in human resources departments. They provide a company's
decision-makers with the means to wrap their brains around all the work being
done within their walls.
"We're a sort of a vested in-house brain," says Jay Tartell. He is the
director of the U.S. Air Force's occupational analysis program.
"We provide the information about the work people do here. And then those
who are responsible for decisions about classification, training, recruiting,
selection -- they can use our information to make those decisions."
These analysts interview and survey employees to collect task lists and
statistics. They analyze the information to write job descriptions and classify
jobs into groups to improve the selection, training and promotion of workers.
The job analysis process is very detailed and comprehensive. It requires the
feedback of thousands of workers to analyze a single job.
"Job descriptions are getting very specific. It's not just a point-form
thing anymore," says Travis McCavour. He is a human resources classification
advisor. "We evaluate jobs using certain criteria to determine things like
salary level and career paths. We need to know their responsibilities, what
their work environment is like, everything."
Job and occupational analysis is a popular tool used by organizations throughout
the workforce, in both the public and private sector. Johnny Weismuller co-founded
the Institute for Job and Occupational Analysis (IJOA). He says the more forward
thinking the company, the more of a priority it puts on analysis.
But he also says that having or lacking the budget needed to undertake
good job analysis will also determine if an organization uses it.
Weismuller has done analysis for bodies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation,
the National Security Agency and the United Nations. He says it's a tool used
more often in the military and civil service than in the commercial world.
He says this is simply because government coffers are generally fuller.
"[Government and military] are among the few organizations who have the
resources to invest in this," says Weismuller.
McCavour says government also uses analysis to keep themselves accountable
to the public.
"Writing and evaluating an accurate job description is all about being
open about the process of who gets hired to do what, and how much they get
paid for it," says McCavour. "The government acts as a leader [in job analysis].
We have to make sure the process is as fair and equitable as possible, because
we're under a magnifying glass. Our actions are looked at by everyone."
The field is made up of two very different roles -- job analysts and occupational
analysts. Weismuller says a job analyst looks at the worker. An occupational
analyst looks at how that worker fits into the greater occupation of which
they're a part.
"Job analysis focuses on a single job and is mostly concerned with compiling
task lists and writing descriptions to facilitate the selection process,"
"Occupational analysis is about the whole life cycle of the person. It's
a cradle-to-the-grave plan that's best for the employee and the company. It
ensures smart promotions that make good use of their skills, helping people
guide themselves through a career."
The focus on promotion is a big part of the work of both job and occupational
analysts. The information they collect and analyze builds standard promotion
tests, used especially in military and police organizations.
"When promotion tests are made, our occupational survey information is
used to determine what parts of the occupation should be tested, essentially
validating those test questions," says Tartell. "If you're going to validate
any promotion test, you better make sure it's grounded in the work that people
do in that occupation."
Analysts also point employees in the right direction by assessing their
skills and what kind of jobs use those skills higher up in a company.
"The main goal is to establish a career path," says McCavour. "If someone
is starting out in an administrative area, we establish that's where their
career path is most likely going to lead.
"If we've got someone in a management level writing policies, we make sure
they're working at the right level so their career can progress properly.
We don't push them, but we allow for career planning to happen."
Job and occupational analysis is generally a 9-to-5 desk job. It could
easily include people with special needs in its ranks. Its only physical demands
involve some heavy jet-setting. Interview subjects are usually met in person.
That requires extensive travel on the analyst's part.
"The people we have building our questionnaires spend from 50 to 60 percent
of their time traveling, often worldwide," says Tartell of the air force.
McCavour says it's important to talk to workers face to face. That's because
it contributes to good staff relations.
"I've been on seven trips in the last year," he says. "I think one of the
reasons is to make sure the employee feels represented in their job description.
And face-to-face contact is a big part of that. Employees have to feel they've
been consulted and involved."
The actual work involves collecting and comparing the results of detailed
interviews and questionnaires. Analysts have to come up with a big picture
specific to one job.
"First we make up a list of tasks done on the job, using feedback from
experienced people," says Mitchell. "Then we take that list to others and
have them look at it. We use a sample of people in this occupation from different
organizations all over, usually about 4,000 to 5,000 people.
"We ask each person if they perform these tasks, and if so what is the
normal amount of time spent on them. We get ratings and time estimates. Then
we pull all that information together to see how consistent the information
is throughout the occupation. We use a computer database to manage the information
and process the results."