Foggy Job Analysis

While looking into job analysis this week, I found some good tools and not so good tools.

One of these is a template to create job statements. Here it is below with an example statement:


Action verb Outcome Tool Discretion
Who is doing the work What they are doing The result What tools or methods the person is using to do the work Frequency, importance, ect…
The student will write a blog using WordPress each week

Finished statement: The student will write a blog using WordPress each week.

Very clear and easy to use!

Where does it get tricky? When you start checking to see if the list of statements is accurate! To do this you have several methods at your disposal.

Qualitative methods Quantitative Methods

Direct Observations


Document review

Questionnaires or Surveys

Application is where it can get tricky. Another member of the course brought up the example of a focus group that was meant to define and clarify job tasks, but had to be abandoned because of caustic bickering and complaining by the employees. Certainly a level of trust and cooperation must exist if one chooses self-reports or interviews!

Another issue is the questionnaires and surveys. The book A Practical Guide to Job Analysis contains several job analysis templates, however they are quite foggy. Here, I refer to the Gunning Fog Index which measures the readability of written English. A high fog index score means that the reading is more difficult.

First, let me show how difficult the instructions for the survey are:

instructions sample fog index

Here is an example statement from the instructions explaining the scale score 3: “This rating indicates that the work activity is moderately important for fully effective job performance relative to other activities, and has about average priority among all activities performed.”  I think putting this sentence before employees is rude and presumptuous. Perhaps a better sentence would be, “Compared to other work tasks, this one is medium or average importance.”

This sort of high-level HR speak also permeates the templates. Here is a comparison between the Fog Indexes for a job analysis template for a production operator and a senior manager:

Production operator

sample text fog index

Senior Manager

executive difficulty to read

It seems unreasonable that a survey for a production operator is almost as difficult to read as that for a senior manager. If I ask a production operator, “Tell me about your ability to communicate with co-workers through conversation or discussion where effectiveness depends on making oneself understood.” I would expect a blank stare. I suggest, “Ability to talk with co-workers so they understand when something is important.”

Although the templates from A Practical Guide to Job Analysis are useful, their language would need to be modified before they confound or insult employees.

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