Are Your Most Experienced People Leaving The Organization? – Conducting a Job Analysis


I recently met a friend for lunch to celebrate a job promotion which he had been waiting on for several months. This promotion meant more responsibilities and an increase in pay; however, when he arrived to the restaurant he seemed quite agitated and annoyed. When I inquired, he explained that he had just left a meeting with his supervisor where she had requested that he document his current job. In addition, she asked that he develop some procedures to use as training material for the person replacing him. When I inquired further about his agitation to what seemed like a reasonable request, he gave the classic answer, “I don’t have time, and what she doesn’t understand is I’ve been too busy doing the job, so I didn’t have time to write down everything I do.” Besides he retorted, “I’ve never needed any documentation because most of the processes are ones I put in place, because there were no documentation when I took the job.”

He finally confessed that he didn’t even know where to begin in handing over a job, most of which was in his head. He also explained that there was so much about the job that had changed since he took it over three years ago, and there were hundreds of things that he did, (some which weren’t really part of the job) that to explain them to a new person would take weeks, if not months.

I told him I understood completely, and assured him that his situation was not all that unusual; as a matter of fact it is fairly universal I explained. I said, “what if I told you that the most difficult part of the process will only take two days.” He looked at me curiously and said, “I’m all ears.”

Sound familiar? My friend’s story is well known in the business world. In this volatile business world where things are constantly changing and senior staff is exiting the organization, leaders suddenly need to accelerate the progression of less experienced staff into more senior positions long before they had planned.

According to the Pew Research Center, as the year 2011 began on Jan. 1, the oldest members of the Baby Boom generation[i] celebrated their 65th birthday. In fact, on that day, today, and for every day for the next 19 years, 10,000 baby boomers will reach retirement age. The aging of this huge group of Americans (26% of the total U.S. population are Baby Boomers) will dramatically change the composition of the country and the workforce. Although these numbers are directly impacting the US, this trend is indirectly being felt around the globe. What are companies doing to respond to this generational phenomenon?

Many organizations have had past success by relying on the institutional knowledge of their experienced workers, now with this pool of workers leaving leaders have to rethink their strategies on knowledge transfer. A key part of that strategy has to include conducting a sound job analysis for jobs critical to the organization.

A job analysis is the process used to collect information about the duties, work tasks, necessary skills, knowledge, and worker behaviors of a particular job. Job analyses are used for a host of reasons including, building job descriptions, developing recruitment material, generating development plans, and material for skill gap training.

When jobs are not well documented and standardized, it has a negative impact on the organization in many ways, including:

  • New people being hired and not able to contribute immediately.
  • Additional costs of training, and retraining when experienced workers leave a job.
  • Loss of departing employee’s knowledge, without being documented or transferred properly.
  • Peer knowledge transfer performed inconsistently, and covering wrong or outdated processes.
  • Loss of employee productivity/morale when they don’t know exactly what is expected of them in a job.
  • Loss of opportunity to promote from within organization.
  • Performance gap due to time of transition.
  • Potential loss of revenues.
  • Workers feel unappreciated because they feel no one knows all the things they have to do to perform their job.” (as in my friend’s case)

The two day concept I explained to my friend is an approach that has been around for more than 40 years called DACUM, an acronym for (Developing A CurriculUM). DACUM is a quick and effective method of analyzing jobs and occupations. The two day process results in the production of a DACUM research chart outlining the duties, tasks, and related information about a particular job. The chart describes the job in a concise way, and provides a solid and relevant foundation for the development of curriculum and/or training materials. Other job analysis processes use complicated methods that can result in generic product compiled into cumbersome documents that often end up unused on a shelf because organizations can’t translate the vague theories into action.

There is an axiom I’ve been guided by throughout my management career, which suggests that improving the business is just as important as guiding the business, and running the business. One of the most critical challenges of business improvement is strategically preparing for experienced workers to leave the organization, whether it is driven by retirement, attrition, or workforce localization initiatives.

Now more than ever it is extremely important to have sound job analyses performed as part of your business model, and failing to focus on this crucial aspect of business improvement can prove to be an expensive proposition.

[i] A Baby boomer is a person born during the demographic post-World War II baby boom between the years 1946 and 1964, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. November 2011.

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