Seven Steps to a Solid Job Task Analysis

Jill Monte - Content Specialist ·

Although Job Task Analysis (JTA) was created to help management make hiring, promotion, wage, and salary decisions, it serves a much bigger purpose. JTA is a data-driven approach that is designed to identify the work requirements of specific jobs by providing a detailed overview of the knowledge, tasks and responsibilities that must be performed by workers in a given occupational area to successfully perform the job. Before going any further, an important point to remember when conducting a JTA is that it’s an evaluation of the job, not the person doing the job.

In your workplace, have you ever heard or said any of the following:

“We need to revise our job descriptions.”

“How should we go about upskilling our current employees?”

“How do I know what to train them on?”

“Our new company push is to create a training program for our skilled workforce. Where do I start?”

Important thoughts, wouldn’t you agree? In this article, we will address those and more, including the significance of JTAs and the steps to conducting an accurate one.

Anyone – regardless of industry – who is in the process of updating outdated job descriptions, identifying skill gaps, or developing any type of new training plan needs to know how to conduct an accurate JTA. This is because they serve as the foundation of the above referenced materials. Inaccurate or poor quality JTAs have a catastrophic and cascading effect. This ultimately produces poor quality job descriptions and training. And no one wants that!

JTA is an underutilized approach when it comes to effectively managing your talent. Whether it’s developing accurate job descriptions, identifying training needs, or conducting strategic workforce planning, it represents the basis of a solid talent management strategy. It’s critical to have accurate job task analyses – they help you understand what tasks your employees need to complete in order to get the job done!

JTA Deliverables

If organizational goal attainment is your desire, JTA is the answer.

This process helps you:

  • Develop accurate job descriptions, which get you the right people to effectively perform the jobs your organization needs
  • Determine a clear picture of the skills your organization needs
  • Create effective job descriptions
  • Generate an understanding of the training that may be needed to increase your employees’ skills
  • Define how much to pay your employees

How to do it well.

Conducting job task analyses is also a skill in and of itself, which has been gaining newfound attention in these times of war (for talent). So where do you start? What information do you need? Determining which tasks employees perform is not easy. As depicted below, it takes many different methods and tools to gather all the relevant data.

According to a 2014 SHRM survey, the leading methods to conduct a job task analysis were

interview (50 percent), observation (33 percent) and structured questionnaire (27 percent).

Use this 7-step results-driven process to conduct an accurate job task analysis process.

1) Identify Subject Matter Experts (SME)

This is your “go to” employee, the person who is the most knowledgeable in the role. Collecting information directly from the most qualified incumbents will produce the most effective results. Here are some tips to Identify a SME:

  • Look for SMEs who have a documented history of working in the area for which they are an expert.
  • Make sure SMEs have actually done the work. They need to understand your challenges and the details surrounding those challenges. They’ve analyzed requirements, measured data, documented business processes, managed critical projects, etc.
  • SMEs need to understand industry best practices and can communicate those insights to help you improve your business model.

2) Prepare for the interview

Think of the interview as a discussion about the “who, what, when and why” of the position. A good way to prepare for the interview involves reviewing any existing documentation about the job such as work instructions and job descriptions.

Before beginning with the interview, be sure to review how to word and structure the JTA, which consists of a list of main job responsibilities, and their associated tasks. See more on this in Step 3, below.

3) Define tasks and responsibilities

A responsibility is a broad category that will be broken down into more specific tasks. Responsibility statements are written using an “ing” verb applied to a system or large sub-system. In general, broad action verbs such as “maintaining”, “servicing”, “using”, “performing”, or “interpreting” are appropriate for responsibility statements. If a responsibility has a large number of tasks (20 or more) and is too broad, break the single responsibility into two or more responsibilities, and be sure to note which task goes with each new responsibility.

A task is a unit of work which has a definite beginning and ending point and results in the completion of a product or process. Task statements are meant to be very clear and concise. Task statements consist of:

  • Action verb (present tense; identifies what is being done)
  • Words such as: “update,” “inspect,” “verify,” “diagnose,” “repair,” etc.
  • Object (element that is acted upon) and/or
  • Qualifier (used to make tasks more specific)
  • Interview accident victim

Examples:

Responsibility: Fulfilling customer orders

  • Print out order information for label
  • Package orders for shipment

Responsibility: Conducting safety investigations

  • Interview accident victim
  • Complete incident report

4) Conduct interview and draft tasks

A great place to start the interview portion is to ask your SME what their main 3-5 job responsibilities are. This gives a great base idea of the most important things involved in the job, and may be considered an initial pass at the list of responsibilities for your JTA.

From here you can easily break things down and identify the list of associated tasks by asking these 2 critical questions:

First question: What do you need to know and be able to do to perform the job task?

Second question: Can you teach (and can a person learn) this task in 30 minutes or less?

If the answer to the second question is no, ask the SME to break it down into subtasks.

Structuring the questions and JTA this way and using the 30-minute question is important for the following reasons:

  • Manageable amount of time to learn a task
  • Easy to modify if changes to equipment, processes specs., etc. are changed
  • Allows for immediate feedback

Next, after conducting the interview, review and organize the notes to develop the finalized list of responsibilities and tasks.

5) Verify Job Responsibilities and Tasks Performed

Confirming and refining the JTA with SMEs and supervisors is the next step in the process.

As you organize your notes and information, you may find it necessary to interview more than one person – for accuracy purposes – because people may perform tasks differently. This may produce slightly different JTAs.

If you find discrepancies, record both and verify data later with supervisors. For best results, interview 2-3 people, then ask both a supervisor and someone in the position to review the material. This step also helps with successful adoption of new processes, because studies show that when people offer their input, they feel more ownership in the process and acclimate better to impending changes.

6) Gather additional information

You may want to gather additional information while conducting the JTA. Gathering which competencies are required to perform each task may be helpful.

Competencies may be helpful to collect when creating job descriptions and as additional supporting information for training programs. Competencies are measurable patterns of knowledge, abilities, behaviors and skills a person needs to perform occupational functions. Here is a short list of some competencies:

  • Writing
  • Mathematical reasoning
  • Attention to detail
  • Safety focus
  • Customer focus
  • Teamwork
  • Negotiating contracts
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Reading comprehension

Work instructions may also be helpful to gather, especially if you plan on creating a training program. You can think of work instructions as a list of subtasks stemming from a single task. This task (which if you have recorded it correctly, should take less than 30 minutes to complete) likely requires a list of steps to complete. Some tasks may be very unique and specific, and recording work instructions will be helpful for training purposes.

7) Finalize JTA

A comprehensive JTA is one major element of a more comprehensive knowledge management strategy that helps both your employees and your organization reach their full potentials … think of it as your road map to determining:

  • training needs
  • skills gaps
  • accurate job descriptions
  • appropriate employee hiring

You’ll know you’ve conducted a successful job task analysis if the following components have been captured:

  • A comprehensive list of main job responsibilities
  • A list of tasks associated with each responsibility written in a concise format and approved by multiple SMEs
  • List of competencies needed to perform the job

All new training projects can seem daunting at the start, but with an accurate road map, or JTA, the process is straightforward and yields successful results.

To further your thinking on JTA’s or learn how to build your knowledge management strategy, be sure to check out our free, downloadable knowledge management templates.