Sunday, February 21, 2010


Nature of Jobs
Increasingly, commentators and writers are discussing the idea that the nature of jobs and work is changing so much that the concept of a “job” may be obsolete for many people. For instance, in some high-technology industries employees work in cross-functional project teams and shift from project to project. The focus in these industries is less on performing specific tasks and duties and more on fulfilling responsibilities and attaining results. For example, a project team of eight employees developing software to allow various credit cards to be used with ATMs worldwide will work on many different tasks, some individually and some with other team members. When that project is finished those employees will move to other projects, possibly with other employers. Such shifts may happen several times per year. Therefore, the basis for recruiting, selecting, and compensating these individuals is their competence and skills, not what they do. Even the job of managers changes in such situations, for they must serve their project teams as facilitators, gatherers of resources, and removers of roadblocks.
However, in many industries that use lower-skilled workers, traditional jobs continue to exist. Studying these jobs and their work consequences is relatively
easy because of the repetitiveness of the work and the limited number of tasks
each worker performs.
Clearly, studying the two different types of jobs—the lower-skilled ones and highly technical ones—requires different approaches. Many of the typical processes associated with identifying job descriptions are still relevant with the
lower-skilled, task-based jobs. However, for fast-moving organizations in hightechnology industries, a job description is becoming an obsolete concept. Employees in these “virtual jobs” must be able to function without job descriptions and without the traditional parameters that are still useful with less changeable jobs.
Work Analysis
Work analysis studies the workflow, activities, context, and output of a job. This analysis can be conducted on a department, business process, or individual
level. At one level, the industrial engineering approach of time and motion studies is useful in work analysis. At another level the linkage of what is done
in one department may be looked at in relation to work activities performed in another area. For instance, in an electric utility if a customer calls with a service outage problem, it is typical for a customer service representative to take the information and enter it into a database. Then in the operations department, a dispatcher may access the database to schedule a line technician to repair the problem. The customer would be called back and notified about the timing of the repair. The line technician also must receive instructions from a supervisor, who gets the information on workload and locations from the dispatcher.
A work analysis identified that there were too many steps involving too many
different jobs in this process. Therefore, the utility implemented a new customer information system and combined the dispatching function with customer service.
The redesign permitted the customer service representatives to access workload information and schedule the line technicians as part of the initial consumer phone calls, except in unusual situations. The redesign of jobs required redefining the jobs, tasks, duties, and responsibilities of several jobs. To implement the new jobs required training the customer service representatives in dispatching and moving dispatchers into the customer service department and training them in all facets of customer service. The result was a more responsive workflow, more efficient scheduling of line technicians, and broadening of the jobs of the customer service representatives.
This example illustrates that analyzing work activities and processes may require looking at what capabilities individuals need as well as what they do. That certainly would be true as office support jobs, such as the secretarial job, are examined.
Increasingly, it is being recognized that jobs can be analyzed on the basis of both tasks and competencies.

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