Good supervisors make work plans and keep these plans in some written form. Notebooks, well kept, can provide one with a detailed and comprehensive view of many kinds of work engaged in by the employee. If delegated assignment completion dates are recorded in the notebook, insight can be gained into how long different tasks take. Such figures tend to be much more accurate than those supplied by workers during interviews or on questionnaires.
The supervisor's notebook can provide an excellent record of how one's job may be changing over time--changing in the kinds and volumes of assignments. It also will allow for ready analysis of work load distribution across all workers in the supervisor's department and may, thereby, suggest changes in job design to improve work load balance.
For jobs where a large percentage of the work is non-routine, highly random, or highly variable in nature, and delegated on a daily or weekly basis, the supervisor's notebook may be the very best source of objective data about work engaged in by the incumbent.
Daily To-do Lists and Appointment Books
If you can get employees to prepare and to save their to-do lists, you have another excellent source of information about what one does on the job (particularly when the to-do list is coupled with the supervisor's notebook). Getting employees to keep a to-do notebook with tasks scheduled and crossed out as accomplished can provide very rich data on task sequences, required completion dates, work interruptions, or uncertainty in task completion times.
Properly kept appointment books can also provide valuable insight into the kinds of issues and problems the employee deals with, who else is involved, and when such issues were engaged. These books provide an objective, chronological record of certain work activities. For many jobs, they may serve in part as a substitute for keeping a work log. The appointment book is usually not seen as a nuisance as is the work log. Instead, it is viewed as an indispensable aid.
Critical Incidents Techniques
Critical incidents techniques can be powerful for establishing what is really important in a job. The approach is used in interviews or in questionnaires. Basically the incumbent is asked to identify key examples of job performance over the last six to twelve months that show real effectiveness or ineffectiveness. Or incumbents may be asked to list six to twelve things they must be good at in order to perform well on the job. The analyst will then probe these areas to identify key task domains, duties within each domain, task frequency, time consumption, and importance.
A variation of this approach is to ask incumbents to categorize their job into six to fifteen or so major responsibility domains. After this, incumbents are asked to identify specific duties within each domain, how long duties take, how important they are, what skills and abilities are essential in each domain, what resources are used to carry out duties, and when duties are performed. The primary point in these approaches is to structure and stimulate incumbent thinking about the job by first having incumbents focus on critical, or major, aspects of performance on the job. This cues the analyst on what to pursue in probing for data.
Almost any written communication associated with a job--any information related to the job or its performance written by the jobholder or sent to the jobholder--can give insight into characteristics of the job. It may take time to analyze paperwork associated with a job and it may be difficult to convert information from this source to worthwhile statements of responsibility, but such an approach tends to be objective and uncovers task items otherwise missed. Interoffice memos, file drawers, bulletin boards, telephone logs, records of office visits, mail, travel records, progress reports, and even the content of waste baskets can provide valuable clues of what and when the employee performs their tasks. Just studying what is on top of one's desk or what information is stored in one's work area can yield worthwhile insights.
Former employees often see little advantage to be gained by distorting the picture of their old jobs, so this is a good way to avoid bias in reporting. Present employees often do see an advantage in this. You can use interviews or questionnaires with former employees. Some combination is probably best. A good practice is to make the exit interview, in part, a job analysis session. You do not want to wait too long to gather data from former employees because you lose touch with them. Jobs change after people leave and people may not remember well enough once a certain amount of time passes after they have left.
Some companies use exit interviews with good-performing retiring employees as the primary source of job data. These interviews do not disrupt the performance of a present employee and usually provide data from one with considerable experience and understanding of the true nature of the job. The disadvantage here is that by not involving the present incumbent, you miss an opportunity for the worker to gain understanding and insight into the job through participation in the process of generating and compiling data about the job. One of the great advantages of using work logs, interviews, and questionnaires is not so much the data itself that is generated, but the learning process that it provides the worker. New supervisors, for example, can benefit immensely from participation in a job analysis exercise.
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