Before job descriptions, job analysis

You can’t really write a job description until you’ve explored all phases of the position you seek to fill. Job analysis is the process that does it.

In today’s business, before there is a job, there is a job description.

But, say occupational specialists from Ohio State University, before there can be a job description, there needs to be a thorough job analysis. In fact, declares OSU, “job analysis is the most basic activity in human resource management.”

Job description and job analysis are not the same. A job description is a listing of the duties of the job, the requirements an employee needs to do them, and the location, title, reporting relationship and level the job will hold in the organization.

A job analysis is the way an HR manager gets the information for the job description. All too often, it’s done after a brief conversation with a supervisor and perhaps a cursory look at the worksite, but OSU’s consultants say the analysis must be far deeper than that.

Before writing word one of the job description, you, the HR manager, should first ask the worker to do some writing … a listing of duties, either through a questionnaire or in the workers’ own words, and perhaps a diary of the work over several days. The supervisor should provide the same information, from his or her perspective.

If the job does not yet exist, then the person proposing the position should do an extensive write-up. In all cases, the HR manager should follow with in-depth interviews, probing for more information to fill the job description.

Next, your job description will need to include information about the physical characteristics of the job, including equipment and materials used, location, and setting. Detail also the job’s interrelationships with supervisors and managers, other parts of the organization, suppliers and customers.

Your job description also must be written to comply with laws, workplace regulations, company policies and any union work rules, so a consultation with and a review by your company counsel might be called for. And it should include educational, work experience, licensing or any other requirements needed to fill the position.

Job analysis is a lot of work. But the effort you put in will, in the end, likely yield a job, well done.