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Data Gathering Tools to Help Maximize Your Time in the Workplace

No job analysis should force the employee to provide data too quickly. Data gathering should not take time away from other important tasks the worker must do.

Know where to begin as you collect data for workforce management and how much time you can save in that process. Find out more here.

Filming, direct observation, work samples, and work logs conducted over too short a time span will not provide a picture of fluctuations in job content and context over time. You need an adequate sample of behavior taken over a period of time that covers, at a minimum, one complete work cycle. If multiple cycles can be studied, the quality of the data is further improved.
No job analysis should force the employee to provide data too quickly. Workers should not have to cram data providing in and around other tasks or feel excessive pressure to submit data by a specific date. Data gathering should not take time away from other important tasks the worker must do. When this happens, the worker is hurried to submit data and consequently submits data laden with error. If the job analysis is so important, it should be given the time it deserves. Indeed, providing data for the job analysis should be a duty built into the worker's job design. A certain amount of time--company time--should be allotted for it. It is not wise to request employees to generate job data on their personal, away-from-work time.
How to Properly Prepare Data Providers
Those who provide data about a job do not provide comprehensive and accurate data when they are not trained properly. Data providers should be fully instructed, prior to execution of data-gathering procedures, about how to fill out any instruments that will be used such as questionnaires and work logs, how to word task statements submitted on questionnaires, what to include in task statements, at what intervals they should stop work and record job analysis data, and so on. They need to be thoroughly oriented on the various means by which data will be gathered, the various sources from which data will be acquired, and on the rationale for consulting different sources and using different means. This enhances their receptivity to the process.
Data givers should understand that job analysis takes time and that it will prove frustrating from time to time. Analysts may repeat questions and probe for clarity to a point that irritates respondents. Supervisors and subordinates may well not agree on what a job is like. Time will have to be taken to resolve these differences.
Those providing data about a job need to be motivated to do so, too. They need to be told why the data are being collected—specifically, to what uses the data will be put. Someone, preferably in upper management, must convince them that all levels of management support the job analysis effort and that such an effort will bring substantial benefits to the employee and to the company. These benefits should be thoroughly discussed with and explained to employees.
A plan for granting employees rewards contingent on the quality of their efforts during job analysis should be developed and communicated to the employees. Also, employees should be informed on what problems to expect during the process and on the type of help that is available to them during the process. Further, management would do well to assure employees they will receive full feedback on the results of the data-gathering effort and on any documents, such as job descriptions, generated from the data.
When Do You Get Involved in the Process?
Above all, managers and/or analysts must not assume a job data-gathering effort will run by itself. Intervention is necessary to control the process--to keep it on schedule and to assure quality data come in. Providers of data will need help as they will have questions that need answering.
Unless the analyst, or management, establishes clear checkpoints for certain data to be turned in, the process can easily slip behind. What often happens, for example, is that employees will save up their recording of data on instruments until the end of the day or week. Letting time slip by like this means that when the data are recorded they are not as fresh in the minds of workers and, therefore, not as accurate. Such data as from work logs and work samples should be collected daily to spot any problems and to assure they are being recorded regularly.
Intervention is also useful to keep worker motivation, established prior to the actual data gathering, from slipping. During data acquisition, workers can be praised for their efforts, given special opportunities to sit down and fill out data forms, or given privileges for on-time submittal of data.
The point is, be sure not to assume that the data-gathering operation will run by itself--it will not. Due to the initial time investment, this process requires regular attention and care. It needs intrusive management that actively intervenes to dig out problems rather than passive management standing by and waiting to be told about problems. Problems often do not come to light without proper investigation and prodding as necessary.
Use Participation in Planning
When employees participate in formulating basic parameters of the job analysis effort, they understand the effort better and are more willing to accept it.
After all, participative planning involves employees in a process that is partially theirs. Instrumentation and specific techniques for data acquisition should be decided by the analyst, but it is really employees who can provide useful insight into what kinds of instruments and techniques might best be used. Sometimes work logs, for example, are not appropriate. It may not be practical for the worker to stop periodically and to record activity up to that point. Sometimes filming may be the only good way to gather data. When, for example, precise time percentages must be attached to tasks, filming is probably essential. Workers, themselves, can provide valuable insight here as to what they might prefer.
Almost always, workers can provide useful information on questionnaire construction. They can help word questions such that they will be clearly understood. Workers should decide when to conduct the analysis based on what time is convenient for them. In scheduling data gathering by log, questionnaire, or interview, for example, the analyst must recognize the other time demands on the worker. As a result, the worker should have a considerable voice in the process.
Workers can further participate in the job analysis planning effort by suggesting problems that they or others may encounter--problems of stress, of motivation, of lack of time (i.e., related to lack of data reliability and validity), and so on. After all, the workers know their jobs better and know better how the job analysis will fit their work situations than does the analyst. For this, the analyst needs their guidance.
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