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5 Ways to Focus on Time Management When Gathering Data

Data gathering must not focus only on what formal, official tasks the worker engages in. Much work is unplanned and much of a worker's day is spent doing things other than formally delegated tasks.

What kinds of methods can you implement to save time when gathering data for workforce management? Read more to find out.

In job analysis we want to uncover truth in design. An organization that is interested in engaging in job analysis is naturally curious about idle time, fatigue time, planned and unintentional delays, intentional travel time, non-work (on-the-job) engagements, and more. A complete picture of work comes only from an analysis of how time is used. Therefore, the worker must be encouraged when filling out work logs and questionnaires to incorporate non-productive time and semi-productive time, as well as productive time. How total time in the day is used will tell us what the job's design is really like and how resources can be better distributed. For example, one may have fifty different tasks that are performed daily, but one-half of their days may be spent idle. Just noting the duties does not tell us what this job is like; consideration for time and how it is allocated for the specific duties inherent in a job is crucial during job analysis.
 
Workers must be encouraged to focus on how they use their time rather than on just what duties or responsibilities they have if those in management are to get a clear picture of opportunities or needs for job redesign. Obviously a job with excessive delay time would be a prime candidate for adding tasks to alleviate an overburdened colleague. A job with no idle time, or fatigue time, might well be a candidate for deleting tasks, or for transferring to other jobs as in the previous example. Jobs that require extensive worker travel might well be candidates for redesign. Perhaps tasks could be located physically closer together. Jobs that involve excessive daily social interaction might well be changed by altering the social environments of those jobs. Focusing on duties instead of time usage tends to encourage workers to fill up their days, on paper, with duties to which 100 percent of the workday time is allotted. Anyone knows that it is rare to have 100 percent of one's workday filled with official duties.
 
Work Down from the Supervisor
 
Where do you start in job analysis interviews? If a number of jobs are to be analyzed, a good practice is to start at the administrative top of the heap and work down. In interviewing job incumbents, interviewing the top manager in a group first gives you broad insight into the jobs underneath. You gain significant knowledge of all jobs in his or her department. This gives you greater savvy as you move throughout the department gathering data by interview.
 
You can ask supervisors in one interview not only about their jobs but also about the jobs of their subordinates. They will likely give you many points to pursue in subsequent interviews with those subordinates. Interview the supervisor first, but when you conduct this interview be sure all other means of data collection have already been pursued. You should have work log data, questionnaire data, and so on for all people in the department, including the supervisor, prior to the interview. The interview is to provide opportunity to probe certain areas in depth-to clarify nebulous areas.
 
After the manager of a department is interviewed, interview his or her subordinates and then, in turn, the subordinates of those subordinates. This gives you a systematic top-to-bottom process that provides maximum preparation for the analyst prior to any given interview.
 
Use Standardized Procedures
 
To assure objective accumulation of data, to help assure fair treatment of all employees participating in a job analysis, and to promote ease of comparison of data acquired on different jobs, the same instruments and procedures for gathering data should be used, whenever possible, across all employees covered by the study. Sometimes variations will be necessary if one job differs in structure substantially from another. For example, it may make good sense to film a machine operator, but a questionnaire may be best for the all-purpose laborer. A strong attempt should be made to acquire the same kind of data for each job. At a minimum, a job data-collection program must be coordinated by one person or a central office to assure equal and fair treatment of subjects in the process.
 
Have Repeated and Ongoing Acquisition of Data
 
Job descriptions must never be looked upon as static. They can—and should—always be refined and improved upon. Furthermore, jobs do not stay immobile. Job description changes should be the norm and openly embraced. This also means that data gathering must never stop. It must be a regular, ongoing effort. You do not need to run in-depth, formal job analyses every other week, but you do need to create systems whereby information on job changes, and information that better describes the job, can be easily generated and regularly funneled to someone responsible for keeping job descriptions current. In this way, whenever you need to search for new candidates, you will have up-to-date information on the jobs in your organization. However, every other year or so, it may be wise to conduct-from scratch-a full, formal job analysis.
 
Have Your Approach to the Process be Adaptable
 
The best way to gather job data depends highly on the nature of the work and the nature of the workers being studied. It also depends heavily on time availability and cost considerations. Even though standardization of procedure is important, different groups of employees within the same organization may have to be confronted with different data-gathering methods.
 
Or a given group of workers may have to be studied with one method at one point in time and another method at another point in time because of changing circumstances. No one approach is always best. The analyst will have to be flexible and adjust to the situation. This could even mean going so far as to pursue a particular approach to data gathering because it is what incumbents prefer.
 
Use Structured Data Solicitation
 
No job analysis effort will succeed if it is not carefully planned well in advance. Determination of exactly what information must be acquired, by what means, and when are critical components of the data acquisition plan. Structured questionnaires, interviews, and work logs-if planned and executed properly-can truly stimulate workers' thinking about the job and serve to draw out points that might otherwise remain forever hidden. Asking the right questions in the right way is pivotally significant. Also using a planned, structured approach helps assure the necessary standardization of treatment of various employees mentioned above.

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