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.