Wednesday, April 4, 2012

HRM- job analysis and design

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I. Introduction.

The University of Melbourne is a large and developing corporation consisting of a diverse workforce of approximately 5000. The University realises that in order to achieve competitive advantage the firm must seek to harness their human resources in innovatory ways. Facilitation of such has been sought through the analysis and subsequent redesign of jobs. The current design of Human Resource Officer (HRO) strongly advocates the satisfaction of high quality work performance through the advancement of employee motivation. However, analysis provides that collateral refinement of the current design may further enhance the enrichment of the position.

II. Key Issues.

A. Job Analysis

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The importance of job analysis to managers and organisations can not be understated. Almost every HR activity requires some type of information that is gleaned from job analysis (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart and Patrick, 14). The environmental challenges facing today’s rapidly evolving business world demand a proactive response from managers and HR, the information provided by job analysis more readily facilitates such a response (Werther and Davis, 16). There is, hence, pertinence in the notion that job analysis is the building block of all that a HR manager does (Noe et al, 14).

The prominence of job analysis in HRM is easily identifiable, the application extends much further than the shaping of job descriptions, but rather infiltrates a myriad of different HR activities such as, HR planning, selection, performance appraisal, training and development, and job evaluation (Blunt, 186).

Broadly speaking there are three alternative approaches to job analysis, explication of job content, job requirements and job context. Fortunately, these are not mutually exclusive and each will yield different insights and information regarding the job. It is necessary to examine all three approaches together, because a dependence on any one will skew the analysis (Billsberry, 000).

A number of alternative methods were adopted to analyse the position of HRO. More specifically, analysis involved the use of diaries, logs and interviews. Each job analysis method provides different type of information, the method used will ultimately depend on the type of information needed (Noe et al, 14). Interviews are an effective from of data collection as they enable the interviewer to explain unclear questions and probe into uncertain answers. Essentially, interviewing of the HRO ensures a high level of accuracy, although it is very time-consuming and costly (Werther et al, 16). The facilitation of an employee log or diary enables the HRO to periodically summarise tasks and activities. This collection of job information is generally regarded as being time-consuming for job holders and therefore proving costly, however it may be the only feasible method of analysis if interviews and questionnaires do not capture the complexity of the position (Stone, 00).

The success of an organisation rests heavily upon this detailed information. Thus, analysis is all about understanding, identifying and determining how the employee interacts with the job and the environment in which the job is set (Kelly and Clegg, 18). The basic premise, therefore, is that jobs are more likely to be described, differentiated, and evaluated consistently if accurate information is available (Bratton and Gold, 1). Moreover, the design and redesign of jobs becomes more readily accessible.

B. Interdependence between Job Analysis and Job Design.

The interdependence between job analysis and job design is unequivocally present. Often, a firm will seek to redesign work to make it more efficient and effective. To redesign the work, detailed information about the existing job must be available (Noe et al, 14). The organisation can then use the information generated via the written job descriptions and job specifications in the design or redesign of jobs (Stone, 00). Hence, it is important to understand the specific tasks so rendered by an employee in order to restructure or reallocate those tasks so that employee satisfaction and performance can be enhanced. The role of job analysis information consequently proves invaluable.

It is important to distinguish between the passive and active roles inherent in both practices. Where job analysis has focussed on analysing existing jobs to gather information, job design has more actively concentrated on redesigning existing jobs in order to promote efficiency and motivation. Thus job design maintains a more proactive orientation toward changing the job, whereas job analysis provides a passive information-gathering alignment (Noe et al, 14).

C. Job Design.

It is important to discern that organisations are structured around jobs, but the flexibility they seek is far more profound than simply considering new time patterns of work and new forms of pay (Sparrow and Marchington, 18). While these issues have to be considered, this is increasingly just a part of a total package, and part of a process that is compelling flexibility in the very definition of what a job constitutes (Hackman and Oldham, 180). As organisations attempt to introduce less rigid structures, extensive decentralisation and delegation of control, with enhanced productivity and competency in mind, they do so through the design of jobs.

A great deal of research has been conducted on the topic of job satisfaction, and a small number of important inferences about the ‘psychological requirements’ for satisfying work have been drawn (Blunt, 186). The Hackman and Oldham model suggests the more that a job possesses five core job characteristics, the greater the motivating potential of the job. The existence of ‘moderators’ such as knowledge and skills, growth need strength and context satisfactions explain why jobs theoretically high in motivating potential will not automatically generate high levels of motivation and satisfaction for all workers (Hackman et al, 180). This approach to job design emphasizes the fulfillment of social needs by recomposing fragmented jobs. First, there is a principle of closure, whereby the scope of the job is such that it includes all the tasks to complete a product or process, thus satisfying the social need of achievement. Second, there is the incorporation of control and monitoring tasks, whereby the individual or group assume responsibility for quality control. Third, there is a task variety whereby the worker acquires a range of different skills so that job flexibility is possible. Fourth, there is a self-regulation of the speed of work. Fifth, there is a job structure that permits some social interaction and a degree of cooperation amongst workers (Bratton et al, 000).

D. Design of the Human Resource Officer.

When determining whether the position of HRO at Melbourne University need be redesigned it is first important to identify the type of environment with which it interacts. Analysis indicates that the HRO works in a predominantly service based environment, utilising knowledge and skills based on HR principles. The process of redesigning the HROs job is, as such, more conducive to a worker centred accentuation, where emphasis is given to designing jobs which are propitious to worker motivation and job satisfaction (Blunt, 186). The converse method of redesigning the position would place greater emphasis upon the processes and equipment used, whereby jobs are designed so as to minimise production time through the development of rational methods of work and work specialisation (Kelly et al, 18). However, such strategical design issues are widely accepted as being the preserve of manufacturing operations as they seldom offer opportunities for accomplishment, recognition, psychological growth, or other sources of satisfaction (Werther et al, 16).

This indicates that the position of HRO can not be designed by using only elements that aid efficiency. Rather, HR managers must draw heavily on behavioural research to provide a work environment that helps satisfy individual needs. The five core job dimensions need be aligned directly to the position of HRO in order to promote employee motivation and satisfaction, this shall, consequently, manifest itself in the form of high quality performance and low staff turnover (Blunt, 186). The term job enrichment, therefore, holds significant aptness in the examination of this position.

Job enrichment refers to a number of different processes of rotating, enlarging and aggregating tasks (Bratten et al, 000). As will later be discussed, though, not all of these activities prove relevant to the position of HRO.

To adequately understand the position of HRO, management must first understand the larger context in which the job exists. To view the position in isolation from other jobs with which it is interdependent will result in a flawed conception of the position (Noe et al, 14). Analysis indicates the position lies within the Client Services Unit in the department of Human Resources. The issue of workflow design holds particular pertinence in the context of this examination. Workflow design recognises the analysis and subsequent design of the position of HRO is only effective when viewed with regard to the larger process of the unit’s workflow (Noe et al, 14). Analysis indicates that this has readily been considered in the current design of the position as the roles and tasks of the HRO are soundly linked to the primary purpose and key activities of the Client Services Unit in which it operates.

D.1. Behavioural Elements.

As evidenced previously in the report, a major consideration in the design of jobs is the degree of task variety inherent in the position. The current design of HRO promotes employee satisfaction by injecting extensive diversity into job tasks. The impetus behind the variety, is to reduce the boredom and monotony associated with performing one simplified task, through the diversification of worker activities (Bratten et al, 000). The undergoing of multiple tasks and activities such as recruitment, payroll and training operates to expand the job cycle and draw on a wider range of employee skills. Such a practice is commonly referred to as horizontal loading (Werther et al, 16), however it appears not to have been intently pursued as a component of the job design, but rather a product of necessity.

A recent review of the position has resulted in a series of changes. These variations see certain payroll aspects of the position being removed so as to be rendered by staff in other sections of HR. Accordingly, the HROs position in more complex activities has been enhanced. The intrinsic motivation behind such restructuring is to seek increased organisational versatility by tapping, and better matching, the skills, capabilities, adaptability and creativity of the workforce through management intervention (Sparrow et al, 18). Relevant to the position of HRO, such intervention has also attempted to reduce boredom by curtailing tedious activities. This appears to be a sound decision made by management, and is upheld by extensive research.

Intrinsic and extrinsic feedback also constitutes a subset of overall job enrichment, and holds that the effectiveness of work activities should be validated by other members of staff and through the actual undertaking of a task itself. The notion provides that when jobs do not give employees feedback as to how well they are doing, there is little guidance or motivation to perform better (Werther et al, 16). Prompt feedback of results allows for inaccurate behaviour to be rapidly corrected. Analysis provides that consultants, team leaders, and managers heavily support this extrinsic aspect in the current design by providing accurate information regarding the effectiveness of the HROs performance. Furthermore, the design permits clients to provide feedback. This ensures that the actual service provided by the HRO is monitored and appraised by those most reliant upon it, whilst contemporaneously offering an avenue for recognition and appreciation of one’s work.

Recognition and appreciation are closely linked to the notion of task significance. In essence, appreciating that the work is important to others advances experienced meaningfulness and determines the extent to which the HRO finds the work meaningful, valuable and worthwhile (Billsberry, 000). The questionnaire indicates that task significance, although not constituting a major facet of the job design, is however present in the form of remuneration. The HRO may experience an even further sense of self-importance if task significance was enhanced. Such a notion will be touched upon in the recommendations.

It becomes evident, through analysis, that in most instances the job requires the completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work. This operates to satisfy the principle of closure wherein the HRO feels that he/she is making an identifiable contribution to the successful running of the organisation (Kelly et al, 18). Without task identity, the HRO may hold little sense of responsibility and pride in task results. The recommendation section will offer a proposal pertaining to increased knowledge development that will seek to ensure the exclusive completion of every task, in an effort to succor further job enrichment.

HRO involvement in more complex activities, planning days and the revision of their own PDs is a critical aspect of the current design of the position. The involvement emphasises operational knowledge so as to place the HRO in a better position to see the interrelationships between certain actions and resulting consequences. Accentuation is placed on broader and more proactive role orientations as well as the deployment and acquiring of more specific organisational knowledge (Sparrow et al, 18). Essentially, HRO involvement in both personal and organisational aspects of work advocates continuous employee learning, insight and development. Another means of ensuring such development has been touched upon by the current design of the position, it is commonly referred to as vertical loading.

Vertical loading seeks to add new sources of satisfaction to the job, by increasing responsibility, autonomy, and control (Werther et al, 16). Analysis indicates these characteristics do constitute a facet of the current design, however the issue remains whether these job attributes may be further abetted so as to enhance efficiency. The autonomy and control the HRO holds over the application of most day to day tasks impels a freedom to control their response to the environment. Research provides that jobs giving workers authority to make decisions provides added responsibilities that tend to increase an employee’s sense of recognition and self-esteem and enhance opportunities for personal development, variety, and meaningfulness in work (Blunt, 186). The absence of autonomy, by contrast, can cause employee apathy or poor performance. Management at Melbourne University must nourish the notion that the HRO has control over activities, but not so much as to prevent them from knowing what to do next.

E. Issues of Design.

Job design as a concept captures a kaleidoscope of ad hoc and opportunistic initiatives. However, experience shows that these initiatives all risk high levels of failure if design and organisational implications are not adequately considered (Sparrow et al, 18). In the context of this examination, for instance, job rotation can not be regarded as a viable approach to job design. Analysis indicates that the HRO requires a great deal of experience, education and knowledge specific to the position. Staff in other areas can not easily reproduce these attributes, conversely it may prove difficult for the HRO to effectively discharge the work of another. This further reiterates the need for in-depth analysis prior to subsequent redesign implementation.

In designing jobs it is important to understand the trade off’s inherent in focussing on one particular approach to job design (Noe et al, 14). Job enrichment is not a cure-all technique. Rather, it is a tool employed when analysis indicates that jobs are unrewarding, unchallenging and limit the motivation and satisfaction of employees. There is congruity, thus, in the concept that enriching the job while ignoring other variables that contribute to the quality of work life may simply increase dissatisfaction with the unimproved aspects of the job (Werther et al, 16).

Moreover, an influential study by Friedman (177) argues that although job enrichment techniques, such as vertical loading, may increase job satisfaction and commitment, the key focus remains managerial control. He maintains that job design strategies as a whole result in individuals being given a wider measure of discretion over their work with a minimum of supervision, and this ‘responsible autonomy’ strategy is a means of maintaining and augmenting managerial authority over workers (Bratten et al, 000).

III. Recommendations.

It is to be noted that the current design of the position facilitates, to a large degree the five core job characteristics proposed by Hackman and Oldham (180). The University of Melbourne has, thus, harnessed their human resources in an innovatory manner in order to gain a competitive advantage. I propose, though, that further refinement of the current design may subsequently enhance such an advantage.

A. Increased Involvement in Planning and Strategic Issues.

As evidenced in the body of the report, the notion of task significance advances the meaningfulness an employee holds toward the job. Relevant to the position of HRO this meaningfulness may be further abetted by increased involvement in HR planning and strategic issues that are directly related to the advancement of organisational prosperity. Engagement in such activities will not only facilitate increased operational knowledge and skill, but also offer an opportunity for the HRO to be appointed to a more senior role within HR, indications of which appear within the analysis. Employee performance and motivation will inevitably be enhanced by the knowledge that the attainment of goals relates directly to opportunities for personal and professional fulfillment.

B. Knowledge Development Program.

Analysis indicates that although in most cases the HRO is able to complete a whole and identifiable piece of work there are instances in which the satisfaction of this requirement is left unfulfilled. These instances are the result of the HRO being unable to adequately draw upon the requisite skills and knowledge in answering particular client queries. The involvement of more senior staff and those with specialist skills is, thus, necessitated. This may result in the HRO holding little sense of responsibility and pride in task results. It is, therefore, recommended that the position be redesigned so as to facilitate further employee knowledge and skill pertaining to a more diverse range of issues. This requires the implementation of an employee training and development program that seeks to aid learning and growth in HRO competency and proficiency, thereby advancing the completion of every task from beginning to end. The obvious drawback to such a strategy is centred upon cost of design and implementation.

C. Facilitation of an Autonomous Work Team.

The most prominent redesign recommendation sees the facilitation of an autonomous work team. Analysis indicates that the coordination of such a team within the Client Services Unit is readily accessible. The strategy sees the unit being extensively trained to do each other’s jobs and allows members to share and allocate among themselves the requirements for control and coordination of their task-related activities. The group thereby assumes responsibility for more than just the sum of the individual tasks (Billsberry, 000). In addition, the group takes responsibility for task interdependencies and for monitoring and controlling the contributions of its members. The role of the supervisor changes from that of direct control to a linking function between the work group and the larger organisation (Kelly et al, 18). This approach to job design shall seek to promote high productivity and quality while enhancing the quality of work life for the HRO and relevant team members. A sustainable competitive advantage through the notion of collaboration and reliance is the result.

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