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Should You Include Data Reporting Duties in a Job Description?

Job analyses, and job description preparation, if properly executed, can be expensive-at least until a system for gathering data and preparing JDs is established.

Are you providing your employees with the support they need to gather data on their jobs? Find out more here.

Subjects not motivated and trained to provide data.

Too often job analyses falsely assume that incumbents can and will provide data automatically--all that is needed is to simply request it from them. However, the reality of this could not be further from the truth. Most workers do not know what a job analysis is and have little sense of its value or why one is being done. As with anything else, if you want workers to perform well they must be fully motivated and trained. They have to be properly instructed on how to fill out questionnaires, work logs, and such, and have to be intensely aware of how such information is going to be of value to them and the company. Employees will resist job analysis exercises if not fully prepared for them and if they do not fully believe in them. It is up to management to place a high priority on these exercises, communicate this to the workers, and assure that the workers have time to fit data collection and reporting into their own work routines.

Should you use a questionnaire for data acquisition?

This is an extremely common flaw in data gathering. Many companies rely solely on gathering data by questionnaire. This is a quick method and assures standardization in the information that is acquired. However, this method on its own will not provide the variety and depth of perspective one needs to prepare a quality job description. Other methods need to be used to elicit data that cannot be gathered just with the questionnaire, such as real feelings about the importance of certain aspects of work or recurring problems encountered at work. Also, other methods, such as the interview, need to be used to provide more detailed and elaborate descriptions of work as well as verification of data.

Are you relying on just one source of data?

Some companies rely almost exclusively on self-reporting of work by the incumbent. Other companies have only the supervisor provide data on jobs. Still others place the burden almost entirely on specialists in the personnel department who are highly trained in continuous or work-sampling observation techniques. But again, checks and balances on data gathered need to be developed. Using multiple sources is one way to overcome this hurdle. Incumbents, peers, supervisors, personnel specialists, and the incumbent's subordinates can all offer useful data about the incumbent's job. A team approach here is valuable. It is usually an absolute must to collect job information from at least the incumbent and his or her supervisor. Incumbents know what is done; supervisors know what should be done. Ironing out any differences here can be a valuable developmental process for both the incumbent and their supervisor.

Prefabricated instrumentation.

There are many advocates of using standardized questionnaires for job analysis such as PAQ and MPDQ. But these instruments are not well adapted to the unique circumstances found in many organizations. Their use provides irrelevant data and does not allow for proper emphasis on the particular kinds of tasks and the best ways of describing those tasks in a given organization. A better approach is to have a trained person design a tailor-made questionnaire that properly reflects the personality and unique character of the company being studied. Either this or use of a prefab questionnaire together with other tailored approaches such as work logs and interviews is usually required for good results.

Inadequate sampling: Gathering data in job analyses is like gathering data for any other purpose. You need enough of it to describe the entire population adequately. Sample sizes have to be large enough and data have to be gathered over a long enough period of time to assure full coverage of a work cycle. For many managerial jobs, that may mean a year or longer.

Many a data-acquisition effort has failed by insisting that people fill out questionnaires within a few days of distribution. This is not long enough for workers to contemplate the full scope of their jobs. Many companies have used work logs over a two- or three-week period, but the work cycle is two or three months. Similarly, analysts do random observations and continuous observations that do not cover a full work cycle and, therefore, are lacking in timing and sufficient quantity to give statistical confidence. Data gathering must be spread over time and provide an adequate volume of information.

Incumbents afraid of process or excessively stressed by process: Employees often do not know what the job analysis is for and do not understand it. This is cause for fear and stress. It often appears to workers that they are being watched, perhaps to find out if they are really working or to find out if perhaps someone else should be found to do the job. Incumbents often feel too that someone is trying to tinker with their jobs-someone who does not really know what the work is like and cannot possibly learn through these shaky analysis techniques.

A further problem is that workers are often stressed by job analysis because they have to squeeze work logs, questionnaires, and interviews into already too hectic work schedules. Proper scheduling of job analysis efforts and, again, proper orientation of workers can avoid these problems.

When data-providing for the job description is not listed as a responsibility. Few companies make either the subordinate or the supervisor accountable for generating quality data for job description preparation. It is one of those things employees are expected to do every so often--and expected to do well--but it is not a responsibility written into the job descriptions of employees. At the end of the year no one is ever evaluated on how well they contributed to the job analysis and job description preparation effort.

Neither boss nor subordinate is held accountable for job description development and updating. A sound management practice is to list each employee's annual responsibility for providing accurate data for job description preparation in each employee's job description. You may want to indicate for given employees that they will be expected to provide data not only for their own job descriptions but for the job descriptions of work associates. This approach pulls job analysis and job description preparation out of the closet and overtly treats it as an employee obligation. Then during performance reviews, you can legitimately evaluate and discuss the employee's contribution in this area.

Costly and time consuming: Job descriptions contain flawed content because little investment is made in gathering data for them. Job analysis usually means some down time for workers and often means someone, such as an outside professional analyst, has to be paid for conducting the job analysis and perhaps writing the job descriptions. A clear problem associated with data gathering is the overall cost and time involved. However, without a significant investment, job descriptions will likely be flawed and, consequently, become a lethal management tool-especially in the hands of the uninitiated.

See the following articles for more information: