Monday, December 31, 2007

Origins of Worker-Oriented Job Analysis

In the late 1950’s a compromise approach was designed to improve upon the challenges faced by both Personnel Departments and Training Departments. Worker-oriented job analysis allowed companies to analyze and compare even highly task-dissimilar jobs by using a common profile of work activities, the level of detail between job titles and task analysis. This dramatically shortened the amount of data that must be reviewed to classify jobs and provided a clear framework for the development of training classes that could be attended by members of several different functions that shared common skills.

As this technique reached maturity in the 1970’s several standardized instruments were developed to help Industrial/Organizational Psychologists complete an analysis. These tools addressed non-management positions* (usually non-exempt positions) because there were many more jobs of this type and they were more diverse. The first analysis tool for management positions** was not introduced until 1979. Following the conclusion of the 30-year management study at AT&T a host of additional worker-oriented job analysis tools for management positions were introduced and called ‘competency models’***.

Several problems plagued the non-management tools from the very beginning. They required the services of expensive I/O psychologists who created extremely complex and intellectual reports that were not usable by most managers or employees. Not only were the reports information overload, they ensured long-term dependency on the consultant to leverage the initial investment because no one else could interpret the results. The fact that only individual contributor jobs could be evaluated also meant that these tools continued to focus on legal compliance instead of impacting higher-value exempt positions.

Complex language issues also plagued the first-generation and some of the second-generation (competency model) tools for management jobs. In addition, the first generation analysis tools used terms that were too general and the behaviors could not be accurately measured or observed. In the case of the competency models the results of any measurements were unusable to the investing companies because they were confidential. This confidentiality was meant to overcome the pressure to skew results upward because, whether they should have been used for these purposes or not, persons rating the managers knew that the results of any measurement could affect pay and promotion opportunities.

* Position Analysis Questionnaire (1972), Job Element Inventory (1978), General Work Inventory (1982), and Occupation Analysis Inventory (1983) were the most popular.
** Professional and Management Position Questionnaire (1978), Position Description Questionnaire (1979), and Executive Checklist aka EXCEL (1988) were the most popular.
*** Following Bray, Campbell, and Grant’s 1974 research paper on their findings at AT&T several commercial models were created including their own (Developmental Dimensions International), Personnel Decisions International (1984), and Lominger Limited, Incorporated (1992) just to name a few.

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