Job Analysis in the Jobless World

grim_and_evil__jobless_by_thedood20-d4v1b52Job Analysis is one of the most important functions performed by an HR manager in an organization. It involves procedures for determining the duties and skill requirements of a job and the kind of person who should be hired for it (Dessler and Varkkey, 2011). Job Analysis includes Job Description and Job Specification.


While Job Description is a list of job’s duties, responsibilities, reporting relationships, working conditions, and supervisory responsibilities, Job Specification is a list of job’s “human requirements”, that is, the requisite education, skills, personality, and so on (Dessler and Varkkey, 2011).


A Jobless World

Joblessness is a dreaded scenario, not just for the political or governing class but also for people who are in the service sector. Over the last one decade, many countries both developed such as the US and the UK and the developing ones like India have witnessed growth without a similar growth in the number of jobs. One can attribute this to two main factors – increasing automation in jobs that are manual in nature and; the trend towards outsourcing and off-shoring.

According to Thomas Frey of The Futurist Magazine, the increasing use of machines to replace human effort is likely to cause 2 billion jobs to vanish by the year 2030.

“With technologies like driverless cars, robotic assembly lines, and teacherless schools on the horizon, the handwriting is on the wall…” says Frey who blames the complacency of the academic institutions and the myopia of the business leaders for the future jobless scenario that he has predicted.

And although Frey’s predictions may sound too apocalyptical to be true, one cannot ignore the fact that automation is replacing muscle power with electric power. Only time will tell whether they would be able to completely replace human beings or not.

However, the more contentious and politically controversial issue right now is not automation but outsourcing and off-shoring.

While outsourcing is sourcing of a job or a set of jobs to some external agency, off-shoring involves outsourcing to an external agency which is located beyond the geographical and political boundaries of the country where the job is originally created. Outsourcing has been a prevalent practice for quite some time now but with breakthrough innovations in the field of Information Technology, it has become possible to source work to people located thousands of miles away. In developing countries, any company, especially the one in service sector that aims to meet the cost challenge of its rivals cannot afford to ignore outsourcing and even off-shoring.

This creates a scenario where the jobs which would otherwise been performed by domestic employees being performed by foreign workers at a fraction of the cost. Moreover, it also possesses challenges for the HR managers in terms of job analysis. These challenges are discussed in the section below.


Challenges of Automation, Outsourcing and Off-shoring to Job Analysis

During the early years of industrial revolution, machines were viewed by workers are their biggest enemies because of their ability to perform tasks much quicker and at lower cost per unit. Those years witnessed numerous riots where workers stormed factories to destroy machines. However, as hoped by those workers, their actions did not lead to the business owners reverting back to the use of manual workers to perform tasks that were repetitive in nature. Instead, the use of machines opened newer and better opportunities for the workers as a result of which people in the West has been able to achieve high standard of living.

This trend which started at the dawn of the industrial revolution is continuing till date, albeit at a higher pace which brings us to the problem faced by HR managers during job analysis. As already discussed, Job Analysis which consists of Job Description and Job Specification involves determining the duties and skill requirements of a job and the kind of person who should be hired for it.

With unskilled jobs gone to the ‘unthinking’ machines, HR managers now have to analyze jobs that are suitable for the ‘thinking’ human beings. Moreover, the increased emphasis of the respective governments to enhance the education and skill of its people means that the jobs now created should be rewarding not just in terms of money but also in terms of job satisfaction.

As far as Outsourcing and Off-shoring are concerned, the challenges are of two types – 1. Regarding the types of jobs that should be outsourced by the outsourcer company and, 2. The job description of the outsourced job to be performed by the service provider.

The Remedies:

Conventionally job is more or less is unchanging specific set of duties that one carries out for pay. However the concept is changing rapidly. This has prompted managers to re-think how they conduct job analysis. Since the duties that entails a job today may be very different tomorrow.

From specialized to enriched jobs:

Job enlargement: assigning workers additional same level activities, thus increasing the number of activities they perform.

Job enrichment: redesigning jobs in a way that increases the opportunities for the worker to experience feelings of responsibility, achievement, growth, and recognition.

Job rotation: moving the person from department to department to broaden his or her experience and identify strong and weak points to prepare the person for an enhanced role with the company. Thereby systematically moving workers from one job to another, to enhance performance.

Competency- based job analysis:

Describing a job in terms of the measurable, observable, behavioral competencies (knowledge, skills, and/or behaviors) an employee must exhibit to do a job. As traditional job descriptions with the list of specific duties which may actually backfire if a high performance work system is the goal describing the job in terms of knowledge skill and competency the worker need is more strategic and helps maintain a strategic focus. The measurable skills, knowledge and competencies are the heart of any companies performance management system.


Desseler, Gary and Biju Varkkey, Human Resource Management. India, Manipal press ltd,2011.

Predicting Performance with Letters of Recommendation

ImageIn psychology, it is commonly believed that the best predictor of future performance is to look at past performance. While it is not very difficult to verify the previous employment of an applicant, it can be rather difficult to verify the quality of his/her previous performance. An employer must obtain information about the quality of an applicant’s previous performance by asking an applicant either to supply names of references that the employer can call or to provide letters of recommendation from previous employers. According to Muchinsky, Even though references are commonly used to screen and select employees, they have not been successful in predicting future employee success. In fact, the average validity coefficient for references is only 0.13.

This low validity is due mostly to four main problems found with references and letters of recommendation: Leniency, knowledge of the applicant, low reliability, and extraneous factors involved in the writing and reading of letters of recommendation.

  1. Leniency:
    1. Choice of References:

We have all seen that in most of the cases the letters of reference are positive as they are chosen by the candidates themselves. This action of choosing ones references makes it lack reliability or validity. Even Osama Bin Laden can come up with three positive references when required.

  1. Confidentiality of the Reference:

Confidentiality of the reference is also one of the factors that lead to leniency. Reference letters are viewed by candidates, its proven by research that a person writing a reference is prone to write a positive or favorable reference if he knows his letter will seen by the candidate. Hence prone to include only nicer things.

  1. Sex and Race:

Sex and race of the reference provider is also an aspect to consider while analyzing a reference letter. According to researcher these two are factors that affect the leniency of the references. Researchers found that female letter writers are more lenient in providing good reference when it comes to other women. Likewise Black professionals are more lenient in evaluating the contents of the letter than a white professional.

  1. Knowledge of the applicant:

One of the major problem faced while evaluating a recommendation letter is the limited knowledge of the applicant by the recommender. The person writing the letter either doesn’t know the person very well or has not observed all the aspect of the candidate’s behavior. Such recommendation cannot be termed as complete and accurate. Even if the person recommending the candidate is his supervisor it cannot be termed as complete as employees often act differently around their supervisors in comparison to their behavior with their co- workers and customers.

  1. Reliability:

Reliability is one of the major concerns when it comes to a recommendation letter. There exist no agreement between the two people who provide reference to the same person. The problem is so severe that according to researchers that is more agreement in two letters written to two different candidates by the same person than two letters written by to different person to the same person. So it poses an interesting question if two letters to the same candidate by different person differs which one to accept?

  1. Extraneous factors:

 According to researchers the method used for writing a recommendation letter is more important than the content of the letter. For example:

 i.      Letters which contained specific examples are rate higher than letters that contain generalities.

ii.       Male and females use different forms of recommendations when referring to the candidates.      

iii.      A positive reference is usually longer than a not so positive letter depending upon the level likeliness towards the candidate.

Improving the validity of the references:

 To improve the validity of the reference Peres and Garcia (1962) developed a unique way to make letters more useful by focusing attention on the relevant content rather than the positiveness of the letter.  According to this two letters might describe the person favorably but the two letters will vary greatly in the choice of words used to describe the person. These choice of words used for describing the person can be categorized into 5 categories.

  1. Dependability- reliability.
  2. Consideration co-operation.
  3. Mental agility.
  4. Urbanity.
  5. Vigor.

So to predict the performance, an employer can:

  1. Determine the importance of each of these five categories to the  performance of a particular job,
  2. Read each letter of recommendation and underline the traits in each letter used to describe the application,
  3. Used the list of the words composed by Peres and Garcia to place each trait into one of the five categories.
  4. Total the number of words for each of the categories.


Predicting Performance with Letters of Recommendation; By Aamodt, Michael G.; Bryan, Devon A.; Whitcomb, Alan J.

The world in a tea cup

Some of the world’s most beautiful places are those where man and nature have both had a hand in creating the landscape. Now let us begin our journey from golden tips of the tea leaf to the subtle cup in our hands, this is the tale of the tea with a twist…I woke up feeling refreshed, there was a faint buzz coming from somewhere outside. When I glimpsed through the window it was raining. “What a lousy day for a visit to a tea estate, how can we explore anything in this rain?” I thought as I prepared myself for the trip. It was cold outside and the warmth of the blanket seemed to be the best place on earth at that moment. But since it was compulsory I dragged myself to the spot where the bus was waiting for us. We all boarded the bus, the inside was quiet warm as it was packed with forty four souls, couldn’t exactly call them as enthusiastic but hungry at the most. As the bus moved on the people inside gradually settled down and we began to move in a steady pace toward our destination. Along the route we all perceived the destruction left behind by last night’s storm as we saw trees uprooted and roofs of houses blown away. The journey continued and the people inside the bus started to show signs of life having had their breakfast, some started to sing and dance and slowly the journey came to live.

As we entered the tea estate we were greeted by an escort party and the bus followed their jeep as we all ventured into the tea estate. The tea estate was the boroi tea estate (BOROI tea estate District: Sonitpur, Area under Tea: 360.32 Hectares. Estimated crop: 1070000 Kilograms), which is s part of the McLeod Russel group which has been growing tea in India since 1869 and are today the largest tea producing company in the world. Mcleod Russel manages 47 tea estates in the Assam Valley, 6 tea estates in the Dooars region of West Bengal, 3 factories in Vietnam and 6 estates in Uganda. The tea estate has a golf course of its own at Boroi, TheEast Boroi Club.  As we followed our escort we ventured deep into the tea estate crossing the tea plantations and the houses of the people who work in the plantation.

“ Have we entered into an alien planet?”, perhaps was the question in all our minds, having been living in the university campus for some time now the tea estate felt different, the cement jungle was gone replaced with lush greenery and we found ourselves in unknown waters. The inhabitants of the estate came out to glimpse at the unknown creatures that have entered their paradise. Along the way we saw churches and temples which reflected the tolerance of these simple people. Our bus entered through a huge gate that stated “BOROI TEA ESTATE” and were all greeted by the manager and the assistant managers. The manager being Mr. Bidyut Bordoloi, an MBA from Guwahati University who joined the tea estate in the year 1990 having being a part of this industry for more than two decades he is the “Sahib” of this estate.

After getting off the bus we were briefed about the estate including its history and the plan of action to be followed for the day, which was followed by a short interaction with the students. From the briefing section we came to know that harvesting more commonly known as ‘Plucking’, the young fresh shoots are carefully plucked off the top most portion of the tea bushes. It is these young shoots that hold the key to quality and the highest level of care and supervision is required to achieve this.The company maintains a stringent quality control system that ensures only the very best plucked leaves enters the factory and therefore only the highest quality of tea is manufactured.Assam tea is generally harvested twice, in a “first flush” and a “second flush.” The first flush is picked during late March. The second flush, harvested later, is the more prized “tippy tea,” named thus for the gold tips that appear on the leaves. This second flush, tippy tea is sweeter and more full-bodied and is generally considered superior to the first flush tea.

As we moved on the process of tea making became clear to us.After the Green leaf has been collected from the plucked sections it arrives at our factories and is spread evenly in the ‘Withering Troughs’.By using fans that blow hot and cold air through the green leaf, their moisture is reduced by between 28%-32% (chemical wither), this process lasts for 14 to 16 hours. The green leaf is now limp and flaccid (physical wither) and can now proceed to the processing area.The withered leaf is either rolled or rotorvaned prior to CTC or Orthodox processing (i.e. preconditioning of the withered leaf).

A CTC (Crush, Tear and Curl) roll process lasts about 20-30 minutes whereas a CTC rotorvane process lasts for about 5-7 minutes. An Orthodox roll process lasts about 30 minutes. After this initial process, the withered leaf is subjected to CTC or Orthodox processing.

Fermentation is the oxidation process for both the CTC and Orthodox Mal and lasts between 100 to 180 minutes, depending on the colour and the smell (nose) of the fermented leaf and which process has been used. It is at this point that the green mal turns a coppery red or rust colour.

To halt the natural process of fermentation and to displace moisture, the mal is fed into dryers in a regular manner and is subjected to temperatures of between 121-127 degrees Celsius with controlled through put time of 22 to 25 minutes. All the fermented CTC tea is dried in VFBD’s (Vibro Fluidised Bed Dryers). Orthodox teas are dried using conventional driers that convey the leaf on slow moving, perforated trays through the drying chamber, so preserving the natural bloom, liquor and taste of the tea.

The ‘black’ teas can now be sorted into primary and secondary grades by passing them through sorting machines that use meshes of various sizes.  CTC teas are also passed through Fibre extractors to remove excessive fibre and the sorting of these will produce Primary and Secondary grades. Primary grades comprise 90-94% of the product line, the remainder as secondary. The Primary CTC grades are – BPS, BOP, BP, PF, PD, D and CD (secondary CTC grades are BP1, D1, CD1 and RD). The Orthodox grades include TGFOP1, TGFOP, GFBOP, FBOP, GBOP, BOPF, OP, OP1, BOP1 and BPS1.

Following the Sorting process a grade of tea is bulked together and stored in climate controlled bins. The packing process involves the transfer of a single grade of tea that has been bulked, to be released from a storage bin and conveyed to the packing area.

The tea is then carefully measured and funneled into large Kraft Paper sacks (other variations of packing material also exist), sealed and gently placed on wood pallets.  Through containerisation, the paper sacks can be stacked on top of one another totaling 20 sacks per pallet (ten layers of two sacks).

Thus, the tea is ready to be served to us simple folks without ever having the knowledge of how it came to our cups.

After this educational insight on production of tea we were marched off to the tea garden to have a firsthand experience of the tea estate. Everything around us seemed like it has just received a fresh coating of green paint by the life providing hand of Mother Nature and I couldn’t help but guess that perhaps the best time to visit a tea estate was indeed a rainy day as I regretted my earlier notion; the rains seemed to transform the entire place into an enchanted world and left us mesmerized. After interacting with the laborers we were invited to the manager’s bungalow for some refreshment. The manager’s bungalow or ‘the sahib’s bungalow’ as I call it, was a quintessential British bungalow. It can be called palatial and regal in its own rite. For once you feel transported to a different era in time, a feeling of being an English Sahib. The white suited help, the tree house and the sprawling verandah with an expansive well maintained lawn and garden finished the `awe-some’ picture. The green lawns lie spread across the open courtyard like a proverbial carpet. Ah! what wouldn’t i give up to wake up and sip the early morning tea, served in bed as is the tradition, and wait for the sun’s rays to warm up the ground and flood the flower beds with light. It made us all think, at the least for a moment of a career in a tea estate, of being a “sahib” too.

After the delicious refreshments served to us by the ‘home manager’ of the sahib of the tea estate, that is, his wife, we sat in the lawn relishing the beauty surrounding us. Evening was dawning upon us by now and the tea plantation seemed to have been gifted with a second life by this time. The day’s work was almost done, the temperature was (slowly) starting to drop and the sun was hanging low in the sky. To make the setting even more idyllic, trees growing amidst the tea bushes gave the plantation a romantic feel. Finally the tea was served to us, the one thing we cannot afford to miss having come to this place. The tea was malty, smooth and sweet. It is said tea sparks a good conversation and also relaxes the mind and body. As we were all lost in the serenity of the place, it was time for us to return so we thanked our hosts for their generous hospitality and returned to our piece of earth, writing this write up from all the pleasant memories gathered in the hope that we all will get an opportunity to relish this piece of paradise once again and question ourselves have we been missing out on the gifts of nature so I quote W.H. Davis’s poem “Leisure”
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
-W. H. Davies