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By Steve Whiddett, WHE UK

Job Analysis - From The Horses Mouth -01


My personal journey of job analysis

I recently spotted a query on a LinkedIn forum, asking about simulation exercises that people might recommend for use in senior level assessments.  Many years ago I worked for Shl and we had many very good off-the-shelf simulation exercises.  I know of several other excellent sources of off-the-shelf exercises.  However, I have rarely used off-the-shelf simulation exercises.  Not because I’m bloody minded, but because I want to see how well candidates perform in tasks they will be employed to do.

How well somebody performs in a job, depends not just on the characteristics they bring to the job but also the expectations of the organisation and the environment in which the job takes place.  My perfect simulation takes account of all of these factors. When I describe this approach to my clients they recognise the benefits and this is what we agree to use.

When I work on leadership and senior management development programmes, I create learning experiences so realistic that they change how people feel about their leaders and managers.  These learning experiences take real meetings and real issues and bring them to life in safe settings, usually with actors and Business Psychologists providing feedback. These events change people’s lives by enabling them to feel what is needed and not just think about it.

Recently, much of my work has been helping organisations change.  Changes have included: culture, management style, new systems of appraisal, and even changes to organisational structures.  These have been challenging programmes, often because the people in those organisations could neither see the need for change nor their role in it. The approach I use provides staff with a voice and a valid role in the change that buys them into the journey without coercion.

This is a potted history of work I have been involved.  The work has been tremendously varied and hugely enjoyable and despite my liking for novelty and change, all of it has been possible and successful because of a few basic job analysis techniques.

No substitute for a thorough understanding of the job

All of these successes are based on a thorough understanding of jobs and the organisations in which they are carried out.  This understanding comes from involving the people who know those jobs and job settings the best; job-holders and their managers.  It can be challenging to get the time to talk to these people.  However, well established and time proven techniques exist that make these conversations efficient highly effective in gathering targeted information.  These techniques engage people in projects that will eventually affect their lives and so keeps their engagement in the initiative even after a project has ended.

I was taught techniques of job analysis as part of my basic toolkit when I started work with Shl 30 years ago.  I did not appreciate how fundamental a set of tools they would prove to be. They have helped me achieve and maintain excellence in the standards of work I provide for my clients by ensuring that what is needed has not been dreamt up in a darkened room but developed from evidence collected directly from the horses’ mouth.

Three principles for any work and critical for doing job analysis

  • Involve people who will be affected by the work the JA contributes too
  • Keep people informed about what is happening and why
  • Keep the process and outcomes relevant to user needs

Some of the benefits of using job analysis

  • Gives access and voice to the ‘hands on’ job experts
  • Avoids using atypical information
  • Helps engage staff in the project work
  • Helps show staff how project works fits into the organisation
  • Builds buy-in to and ownership of the outcomes
  • Helps identify issues that have not been anticipated
  • Uncovers the ‘elephants in the room’ that senior people did not want to tell us
  • Provides valid job content and situational data for use in criteria, scenarios and simulations
  • People love to have a voice in what is going on and are more cooperative when given one

About the author

Steve WhiddettSteve’s work as a Business Psychologist, has taken him across the world to work with individuals in many types of organisations. Beginning his career with Shl developing and providing training in job analysis techniques, Steve went on to become a Partner at Pearn Kandola before co-founding WHE UK in 2002. He is also a former Chair of the ABP.


Hear Steve speak

If you’ve enjoyed this article and would like to hear more about job analysis, Steve will be running a training event for the ABP on Friday 23rd May in London. The workshop will provide delegates with an opportunity to explore the following:

  • Experience of tools that are essential for almost all areas of business psychology practice
  • Ability to adapt these techniques to different applications
  • Be more effective and efficient in collecting job information
  • Know how to ensure future applications are more relevant to real work issues
  • Ability to show clients that proposed interventions will match the client’s real world challenges

The workshop is very active and encourages reflection and discussion. Find out more here.


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