In our prior posts, we have addressed the (a) definition of selection procedures, (b) combinations of different measures into compensatory or non-compensatory systems, (c) specific validation pitfalls associated with criminal history and background checks, (d) important aspects of selection system implementation, and (e) issues concerning reasonable efforts to identify suitable alternative selection measures. In this installment of the UGESP series, we take a step back and evaluate the foundation for almost all thorough and legally defensible validation efforts: job analysis.

Job analysis refers to the systematic process of collecting and interpreting job-related information for a given purpose and is the cornerstone of effective validation efforts. To effectively determine whether a selection procedure is appropriate for a job, it is crucial to understand (a) what is done on the job (i.e., what are the critical job behaviors), and (b) what individual characteristics are required to effectively perform the job (i.e., what are the critical Knowledge, Skills, Abilities, and Other Personal Characteristics). Once such job information is well understood, validation research can be conducted to determine whether selection procedure scores provide an indication of either the critical KSAOs or actual job performance.

The UGESP address job analysis research appropriate for three validity “types” (content, criterion-related, and construct). Although it is widely acknowledged that content, criterion-related, and construct validation do not represent different types of validity, but rather different bases of evidence for supporting decisions based on selection procedure scores, evaluating differences in job analysis guidance across the three strategies is illuminating.

The primary difference between the sets of guidance is that the job analysis requirements are lighter for criterion-related studies, in certain circumstances, compared to content or construct studies. Namely, if the outcome/criterion in a criterion-related study is obviously important to the particular employment context, a review of extant job information may suffice to meet the job analysis burden under the UGESP. Such criteria are typically objective business outcomes such as production rate, error rate, absenteeism, tenure, etc. Although the UGESP don’t specifically require a full job analysis in such situations, thorough job analysis information may be required to meet the burden of searching for suitable alternatives. That is, without detailed job analysis information, it may be difficult to search for and evaluate selection procedures considered suitable alternative.

There are a number of job analysis research features addressed in the UGESP that represent best practices:

  • Determining the important/critical work behavior(s) required for successful job performance
  • Defining the measures used to define importance and/or criticality, including the basis on which they were categorized as difficulty level, frequency performed, time spent, and consequences of error
  • Evaluating the relative importance of the defined work behaviors
  • Determining the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other work characteristics used to perform the critical work behaviors
  • Differentiating between KSAOs required upon entry versus those learned on the job
  • Indicating the relationships between the critical KSAOs and the critical/important work behaviors (most important for content strategies, but useful given enough time and resources, for the other strategies).

Additional Thoughts

We would be remiss if we did not briefly address two additional points about the UGESP and job analysis research.

First, the UGESP are clear that there is no one correct way to conduct a job analysis and that the specific information collected and procedures employed may vary as a function of the particular research or business context. As stated in the UGESP, “Any method of job analysis may be used if it provides the information required for the specific validation strategy used.” Further, professional judgment is always involved to determine the most appropriate and feasible job analysis method.

Second, job analytic purposes and methods have changed dramatically in the approximately 35 years since the UGESP were published. Increased reliance on HR as not simply a support function but rather a key strategic function has resulted, partly, in an increased consideration of job analysis methods for purposes other than validation. Many practitioners have moved away from “job-based” techniques, such as task analysis, to “organization-based” or “function-based” techniques that are more generalizable across the organization. Movement in many companies toward the use of competency modeling reflect such a change. Although a macro-level perspective may be appropriate for achieving business objectives, it may not be the best approach for achieving compliance objectives.

by Kayo Sady, Ph.D, Consultant, Eric Dunleavy, Ph.D., Principal Consultant, and Mike Aamodt, Ph.D., Principal Consultant, DCI Consulting Group

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