Job Analysis and Design

views updated


Job analysis is the term used to describe the process of analyzing a job or occupation into its various components, that is, organizational structure, work activities, and informational content. The process results in a relevant, timely and tailored database of job-related information that can be used in a variety of ways: to develop conventional, individualized, computer-based and/or critical incident education and training programs and materials; to create and classify job titles; to write job descriptions; to prepare organization charts; to conduct time and motion studies; to determine quality assurance standards; and to write both knowledge- and performance-related employee evaluation measures. Also, job analyses are basic to the preparation of such government publications as the Occupational Information Network (O*Net), Standard Industrial Classification (SIC), Standard Occupational Classification (SOC), Occupational Outlook Handbook, and other informational resources describing the job situation (See Figure 1).

Two terms often used interchangeably with job analysis are occupational analysis and task analysis. In the literature, job and occupational analysis most often are viewed as the same. The process focuses on the analysis of a job into its occupational structure, work activities, and informational content. Later, the data provided by the analysis guides the organization and development of the occupational training program.

In contrast, task analysis is an integral part of the job analysis process. More specifically, task analysis addresses the process of analyzing a particular task into its various elements, that is, performance steps; performance step details; technical information topics; career and occupational guidance information topics; standards of performance; frequency, importance, and complexity; and tools, equipment, materials, supplies and technical references. The information resulting from the task analysis provides a basis for developing the knowledge- and performance-based learning activities of the training program.


A number of individual authors and organizations have detailed the process of conducting job analyses (Blank, 1982; Bortz, 1981; Finch and Crunkilton, 1999; Fryklund, 1965; Mager and Beach, 1967; Norton, 1997; U.S. Department of the Air Force, 199899; U.S. Department of the Army 1990; U.S. Department of Labor, 1998). The analytical approaches of the various authors and groups differ somewhat in organization and procedural logic. Nonetheless, each analyzes a job or occupation with the intent of identifying its components and incorporating the findings into the development of related "products," that is, training programs and materials, job descriptions, job classifications, and so forth.

Three questions seem to be basic to the majority of the authors. These questions address the issues of organization, activity, and informational content:

  • What is the structure of the occupation?
  • What does the worker do ?
  • What does the worker need to know ?


The first question concerns the structure or framework of the occupation being analyzed (Bortz, 1981). If the data derived from the job analysis are used in a situation where organizational structure is important to the product being developed, then the structure of the occupation can serve as a basis from which the organizational structure of the product is developed. For example, the hierarchical order of occupational titles in a functionally related family of occupations can serve as a basis for ordering and naming the units and courses of the training program resulting from the job analysis.


The second question addresses the activities of the worker in terms of both tasks and performance steps. Once identified, the tasks, or completed units of work, serve in various capacities ranging from the writing of learning objectives of a yet-to-be-developed competency-based training program to the classification of job titles and writing of job descriptions.

The performance steps for completing each task also will be used in the development of a variety of related materials. Whenever procedure is an issue, the performance steps of the tasks come into play. To use an example from the training of employees in psychomotor skills, the sequence of performance steps guides the instructor through a demonstration of the steps of the learning objective, to the student's practice of the procedural steps, to a final determination of the student's ability to perform the process on a performance test. In each of the three performance-related learning activities, procedure is fundamental to identification and development.


The third question involves identifying the knowledge or informational component of the occupation. Depending on the author, the three types of information most often referred to are technical information, general information, and career and occupational guidance information.

Technical information is that information the worker must know to perform a specific task or group of tasks. Technical information gives the worker the judgment forming, decision-making ability to perform the task(s) in a safe and correct manner. It is the knowledge base from which the worker can make informed decisions affecting and controlling his/her on-the-job performance.

General information, although related to the job itself or to the individual tasks that comprise the job, does not have direct bearing on the performance of either the job or its component tasks. General information complements the activities of the workers but is not crucial to their outcome. For example, detailed knowledge about the manufacture of computer chips has no direct bearing on the performance of a computer programmer or systems analyst.

Career and occupational guidance information allows workers to make decisions about themselves and the workplace. It includes information on such topics as the short-, intermediate-, and long-range employment needs of the community; the career interests and abilities of individuals; work, work roles and responsibilities; jobseeking skills; the employment outlook; and local, state, national, and global economic trends.


Each of the following are specific applications of the information gained from a completed job analysis. In some cases, most or all of the information is used in the development of the final product, in other cases, only a portion of the job analysis data is used. (See Figure 1.)

Training Program Development

The organizational structure, work activities, and informational content identified in a job analysis serve as the basis for developing both the structure and content of a training program. The structure of the occupation determines the organization of the curricular components of the training program. The content of the training program depends on the activities and information needed to perform in the occupation. In a competency-based training program, the titles of the tasks become the titles of the corresponding learning objectives. The technical information topics and performance steps of the tasks, respectively, serve as the basis for identifying and organizing the knowledge- and performance-related learning activities of the learning objectives.

Critical incident training is the result of applying the activities and content of a job analysis in a specific training situation. As discussed by Davies (1981), the critical incident method of instruction "focuses upon collecting information on key tasks, particularly on those where problems occur" (p. 131). For these tasks, special training can be devised using the activities and informational content first identified in the job analysis and later, translated into learning objectives, curricula and instructional materials.

Job Classification

A job classification is used to group occupations by function level or ability. To classify jobs by function means to categorize them by similarity of function or activity. For example, titles such as marketing, accounting, production, management, and human resources development imply that all people working in the one of these defined areas are performing a similar type of activity. Functional job classifications are regularly used in organizational development and in the preparation of organization charts.

In contrast, to classify occupations by ability level involves using terms that designate amount of on-the-job experience, skill level, and types of education and training. Terms such as apprentice, journeyman, master, entry-level, technician, and specialist all reflect a classification of jobs by ability level. The classification of employees by ability levels also guides organizational management in establishing the wage and salary schedules of employees.

Job Descriptions/Job Titles

A job description is a narrative statement defining a job, that is, what the employer expects of the employee in terms of on-the-job performance. As stated by Winning (1996), "A job description [or position description] is a list of responsibilities and functions required in a particular position" (p. 1). A job description categorizes and defines the activities of a worker in more general terms then those used in a job analysis. The description is intended to provide a profile of the job rather than describe the occupation in the detail found in most job analyses. The entries in a well-written job description are introduced by a descriptive verb and closed by a noun defining the activity, for example, "maintains bank records."

Complementing the job description is the job title. Job titles are general in nature, in that they reflect all the activities contained in a job description. In one sense, a job title is more an extension of the job description than of a completed job analysis.

Organization Charts

Organization charts visually depict the line/staff relationships and responsibilities of departments/units and individuals working in an organization. The information gleaned from a job description, together with that found in the accompanying job classification, serves as the basis for determining the final configuration and content of a completed organization chart.

Time and Motion Studies

Time and motion studies address the issues of industrial production and efficiency, since they attempt to measure time on task, product quality, and worker safety. These studies are conducted in the workplace under normal working conditions. A completed job analysis provides the researcher with the necessary list of tasks and performance steps, that is, work activities performed by employees in the completion of their jobs. The focus of a time and motion study is to eliminate wasted motion and determine the most efficient way of performing a particular task.

Quality Assurance Standards

As defined by Peach (1997), "Quality assurance includes all the planned and systematic activities implemented within the quality system" (p. 38). A job description provides the quality assurance professional with the list of tasks performed in a particular job and the performance steps (procedures) required to perform each of the tasks. Also, in a comprehensive job analysis, standards of performance for both the tasks and performance steps are included. The two sets of criteria assist in determining the quality outcomes of both the task (product) and procedural steps (process).

The same two sets of quality standards are also applicable in the education and training of people for the workplace. Again, the content of the completed job analysis would provide instructors with the standards used in preparing students for employment.

see also Job Enrichment


Blank, William E. (1982). Handbook for Developing Competency-Based Training Programs. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Bortz, Richard F. (1981). Handbook for Developing Occupational Curricula. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Davies, Ivor K. (1981). Instructional Technique. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Finch, Curtis R., and Crunkilton, John R. (1999). Curriculum Development in Vocational and Technical Education. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Fryklund, Verne C. (1965). Analysis Technique for Instructors. Milwaukee, WI: Bruce.

Mager, Robert F., and Beach, Kenneth M., Jr. (1967). Developing Vocational Instruction. Palo Alto, CA: Fearon.

Norton, Robert E. (1997). DACUM Handbook. Columbus: Ohio State University Press.

Peach, Robert W., ed. (1997). The ISO9000 Handbook (3rd ed.). Chicago: Irwin Professional Pub.

U.S. Department of the Air Force, Air Force Officer Accession and Training School (199899). Curriculum Catalog. Alabama: Maxwell Air Force Base.

U.S. Department of the Army, Combined Arms Center and Fort Leavenworth (1990). Training the ForceBattle Focused Training FM 25-101. Kansas: Fort Leavenworth.

U.S. Department of Labor. (1998). O*NETThe Occupational Information Network. Retrieved October 26, 2005, from

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (199899). Occupational Outlook Handbook. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration O*NET 98 (1998). Keeping Pace with Today's Changing Workplace [CD-ROM].

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (2000). Standard Occupational Classification Manual. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Winning, Ethan A. (1996). "The Many Uses of the Job Description." Retrieved October 26, 2005, from

Richard F. Bortz