What is Occupational Analysis and How Can It Help?

Occupational Analysis is a specialized type of Job Analysis with its focus on how a given occupation is employed across multiple organizations.  Typically, Job Analysis is appropriate when the objective is to address an organization's staffing needs, where Occupational Analysis is employed across an enterprise, or even across a whole industry.  Occupational Analysis generally employs survey methodology to gather job information.  That information may be used to help establish recruitment and selection criteria for entry into the occupation, support human resource utilization (assignment) policies, support promotion policies and practices, identify training standards for evaluating training efficacy and efficiency, and ensure equity and defensibility of compensation policies.  In practical terms, Occupational Analysis is conducted in four phases:
Survey instruments are constructed with the end in mind.  They usually contain some biographical/demographic data used to (1) determine the degree of confidence in the resulting survey sample with respect to target populations and (2) to provide the keys to parsing the resultant survey data so that comparisons can be made among relevant groups of respondents.  In addition, most surveys usually contain background information about respondents (e.g., education, job tenure, levels of responsibility, position within organizational hirearchy, tools and job aids employed, attitudes and opinions on relevant job satisfaction issues).  In behaviorally oriented Occupational Analyses, the surveys also usually contain some form of task statements list describing the actual work performed by the target population.  They may also contain lists of knowledge statements, skill lists, and sometimes tools and job aids inherent in performing the tasks.  Many issues must be decided regarding the use of various scales that can be applied in capturing job information on these surveys.  Other issues must be decided regarding the best candidates to answer the surveys.  Still other issues must be decided regarding how the surveys will be delivered to and retrieved from respondents.  Finally, issues must be decided regarding the (statistical and analytic) tools to be used in analyzing the resulting survey data.  The interplay among these issues sometimes results in incredibly complex, at other times amazingly simple, surveys.

There are many ways to collect Occupational Data.  From the pre-digital days, paper-and-pencil surveys were ubiquitous.  Much experience has been gained, and Psychology and Sociology literature is repleat with guidlines, recommendations, and pitfalls.  Since the explosion of the digital world (i.e., personal computers, digital elecdtronic communications; and the Internet) our ability to gather data has multiplied dramatically.  Since the early 1990s, the survey community has distributed floppy-disk surveys equivalent in form to paper-and-pencil surveys as one means of automating survey processes.  As technology increased in sophisticaltion and widespread deployment, the floppy-disk surveys was rapidly supplanted with Internet-delivered surveys.  The use of ever-increasing techological sophistication has paid off in both time, cost, and quality.  Cycle time for large-scale occupational surveys from conceving the survey instrument, to placing the instruments in the hands of respondents, to getting the instruments returned, to converting the data from the survey instrument layout into data tables ready for analysis dropped considerably.  Along with the time savings, costs for printing and mailing surveys, then later costs for procuring, duplicating and mailing floppy disks, been dramatic.  Concurrently, accuracy of returned data has been greatly enhanced by the process of converting the data, first from paper-and-pencil form to aggregated computer files, and then from individual respondents' floppy disks to aggregated computer files.  While there are still substantial issues about getting representative samples (that is, getting the right people to do the surveys) many requirements of the old methodologies for error-checking and data quality control have been automated out of existence.

The intended uses of the Job Analysis results usually bear heavily on the analytic tools selected.  The fundamental statistics are still there; however analysts have many statistics packages available today to address specific issues.  Several popular proprietary survey tools have statistical packages built into the survey development software.  In addition, several popular statistical packages are available today which have the necessary power and sophistication to meet the analyst's requirements. 

Ultimately, however, we come back to the begining: Surveys are constructed with the end in mind.  Almost anyone can do a survey, but the Art and Science of responsible, effective survey development requires substantial education, training and experience.  Independent Job Analysis is available today to consult with you on the best way to address your Job and Occupational Analysis needs.


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