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How to Identify Task Areas for Job Performance Assessments

By categorizing you can tell how many different tasks require similar abilities and kinds of training.

When assessing your employees, look for ways to group together similar tasks across departments and job functions.

Developing major task categories means lumping tasks that are similar together. Each task in a given activity category usually requires at least some of the same skills or talents as other tasks in that category. By categorizing you can tell how many different tasks require similar abilities and kinds of training. This can help you determine the desirability and content of training. Priority can be given to training programs developed around "full" activity categories. Execution of all tasks in a category can be addressed by a given training program. Without task categorizing, training programs may fail to reference important tasks that should be included because of the type of skill they require. Task categorizing helps show the different major classes of skills that a job requires. Consequently, it aids in developing more relevant training programs.
Different parts of a given job may require different means for assessing the employee's performance. Too frequently, we try to use one instrument, one evaluator, or one method to evaluate all employee performance along all task dimensions. This typically results in invalid appraisals along some dimensions.
With task categorizing, activities with similar characteristics are identified. This helps in adapting assessment methodology to different phases of the job. For example, one's performance in group work can often be best assessed by other group members; one's performance on non-supervisory tasks can usually be assessed properly by one's superior; one's performance on unplanned work may be best assessed by an independent observer or outside consultant. The point is that performance on activities in each different category may require different modes of assessment. Categorization helps pinpoint specific means of assessment that are most appropriate for different kinds of activities.
Forces a Full Disclosure of Time Usage
Activity formatting that recognizes non-work/semi-work activities and unplanned work forces development of a complete and accurate profile of how the human resource is being used. It shows fully how one's time on the job is spent. These categories of time usage are typically ignored in the classical job description. The classical attempt is to account for 100 percent of a worker's time by allocating time only to planned work. This results in false representation of how time is actually spent.
Categorizing activities also makes it easier to determine how much time is allocated to different activities. In a job analysis it is often difficult to determine exactly how much time to allocate to specific tasks, but an estimate of time for an entire class of activities can be relatively easily established. Realistic time estimation for each of twenty-five or thirty tasks is a simpler task if first a time allocation is determined for each of the major categories for which individual tasks are a part.
Formatting provides a depth of analysis, an understanding, and an appreciation missing from the classical JD, The format described in the previous section is not the only possible format, however. Activities may be classed in literally dozens of different, but useful, ways. The format described in this chapter does offer some special utilities that others do not.
How the duty statement section is written is critical for understanding the real meaning of the work. It should be noted before reading further that here the terms duty and task are used interchangeably. Many writers define duties as larger in scope than tasks. That is, a duty may consist of numerous tasks. This distinction is not made here.
Itemized Duty Statements
Itemized duty, or task, statements are better for describing a job than a narrative description because such statements separate the job into distinctive elements. Each task statement represents a unique, relatively self-contained component of the total job to be done. Numbering each statement in the list is better than lettering because a quick glance tells the reader just how many distinctive components of the job have been identified.
Categorized Duty Statements
It is useful for illustrating the structure of a job to, as suggested earlier, categorize duty statements. Within each category, task (duty) statements should be arranged by priority, with the most important task being listed first and the least important last. This helps the employee focus on key areas when reading the job description as they read from top to bottom.
A Comprehensive Listing
It is possible in writing task statements to lump a number of different duties together into a single statement. This practice, though perhaps helping to simplify and shorten the job description, is not appropriate for clarifying the design of the work. Separate duties should be listed separately and as many different statements incorporated in the job description as is required to describe the whole job. Nothing should be left out.
As discussed earlier, it is often desirable to classify duties into major functional areas of responsibility. This aids immeasurably in interpreting the structure of a job. It is usually wise to attach an "Other" category (or statement), at the end of the list of major functions to cover responsibilities not properly covered by previous statements and to allow for duty assignment flexibility-that is, to allow for assignment of additional duties if so required.
Note that the "Other" category has been used to cover other routine items, temporary tasks, unplanned tasks, group tasks, and non-work or semi-work.
Accuracy and Detail
In writing individual duty statements care must be taken to achieve accuracy, to choose words that are readable and clearly communicate the meaning of the duty, and to give enough information and sufficient detail to fully describe the duty. There is no definitive rule on how much detail should be built in. What is truly necessary is to include enough detail so that a person unacquainted with the duties of a job can thoroughly comprehend what is necessary to meet their responsibilities. Remember, however, that a job description is not a description of methods--not an elaborate write-up on how to do everything within a job. Brevity has its virtues and the preparer of a job description must avoid the overly elaborate statement.
See the following articles for more information: