Do you know what, exactly, your employees do? Believe it or not, many executives haven’t taken the necessary steps to truly understand each position in their organization.

In today’s chaotic employment landscape, a job analysis should be the first step in every major human resources effort. A job analysis provides the objective criteria needed for executives to make informed decisions regarding staffing, selection, performance, succession planning and compensation.

While some people use the term job description interchangeably with job analysis, the processes are actually quite different, says Jody Wheaton, director of Organizational Effectiveness for Corporate College. “A job description is a written statement about the job,” she says. “A job analysis is a systematic process that captures the entire job in compliance with professional and legal guidelines. Ultimately, this helps you develop a selection system that is valid and legally defensible.”

Smart Business spoke with Wheaton about the benefits of a job analysis, what approaches are available and who should be involved.

How can an organization benefit from conducting a job analysis?

Conducting a job analysis is important because organizations are being asked to work leaner and more efficiently while developing growth and innovation. It’s important to be aware of the critical responsibilities for each position, especially those that are considered strategic in nature, and those that impact the customer and the bottom line. In addition to determining the critical tasks associated with each job, it’s crucial to identify the desired knowledge, abilities, skill sets and other preferred characteristics.

Job analysis serves as the foundation for helping select the right people into an organization, in terms of job fit as well as cultural fit. A job analysis allows companies to not only create better selection systems, but also create effective training development programs, compensation and talent management systems. Often organizations hire for technical ability and fire for personality flaws. Organizations should consider hiring for both experience and cultural fit. Job analysis provides the needed data. In the event an organization is challenged legally, the court will look to see if a job analysis was done properly and if the selection system was considered to be job-relevant. Organizations should take a proactive approach to minimize legal challenges.

What job analysis approaches are available?

Many companies begin with reviewing the Occupational Informational Network (O*NET), which provides comprehensive occupational descriptions and data under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration.

To build on the O*NET data, the first approach is conducting interviews and focus groups. Typically these are conducted with job incumbents and supervisors. The drawbacks to this approach include the time required, scheduling and large number of people that need to be included if there are a large number of incumbents serving in the role.

Surveys are another option. This method allows you to gather data quickly and summarize the data statistically. Drawbacks include the inability to ask clarifying questions and gain needed buy in.

Off-the-shelf job analysis systems don’t allow for flexibility and are often too generic. We believe a blended tailored approach is the best choice, gathering and leveraging multiple perspectives and methods. We also believe leveraging technology in the process is critical.

What kind of components should be included?

Knowledge, skills, abilities, work behaviors, tasks associated with the job, competencies and cultural aspects of the organization should all be part of the data collection process. Be sure to distinguish between essential and non-essential characteristics for Americans with Disability Act (ADA) purposes.

Who should be included?

You want to make sure you have a good sample of high performers who understand the job and do it well. You should include senior-level management, direct supervisors and anyone who has critical knowledge about the job. Finally, include those who understand the training and development function, because they can often best articulate where people go wrong after attending training.

How much time will it take?

It depends on your approach. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to three months. You don’t have to take a manual- or labor-intensive approach. Often, a manual approach involves time, resources, creation of job analysis questions, summarizing the data, availability of employees, travel, schedules, etc.

Having a systematic process and leveraging technology-based tools allow job analysis participants to go through the process in a more efficient manner. Such tools provide standardized questions that can be edited to ensure they are customized to that job, as opposed to off-the-shelf tools, which use generic statements that can’t be customized.

How can businesses ensure standardization and legal compliance?

The best practice is educating and training all employees on the process, the importance behind it, and why you do it. In some organizations, stakeholders get involved in the process, even becoming engaged in the selection measures that are chosen. With other organizations, the HR department bears the entire burden. For legal compliance, it’s important to follow professional guidelines regarding sampling — who you include, the type of information you include, etc. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Uniform Guidelines and the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology’s (SIOC) Principles for the Validation and Use of Personnel Selection Procedures are a couple of good resources to help with compliance.

Jody Wheaton is director of Organizational Effectiveness for Corporate College. Reach her at or (216) 987-5867.

Published in Cleveland

Has your company found it more difficult to compete in today’s marketplace? With the increased economic pressures and a more informed customer base, many organizations find it increasingly difficult to meet or maintain business objectives.

Six Sigma is a business management strategy initially developed by Motorola in 1986. Lean manufacturing is the result of years of practical operational efficiency tools developed by Toyota, often referred to as the Toyota Production System (TPS). Business practitioners have melded Six Sigma ideas with lean manufacturing to yield a methodology termed Lean Six Sigma. Put simply, it seeks to eliminate process variation and defects while optimizing the process by eliminating or reducing waste and increasing efficiency.

“Lean Six Sigma is a systematic approach using analytical tools to identify and remove problems within a process,” says Ed Siurek, director of Quality for Corporate College. “It creates efficiencies, drives productivity and reduces costs — all things companies are looking to achieve in a struggling economy.”

Smart Business spoke with Siurek about Lean Six Sigma, who should be involved within an organization and how the model should be evaluated.

Why is it important for companies to be aware of Lean Six Sigma?

In today’s global economy, consumers have become better informed and increased demands for higher quality, more consistent products at a lower price. Companies have been forced to perform at higher levels with the same or limited staff. Reduction of waste in the form of defects, operational inefficiencies and nonvalue-added activities is one place companies have turned. An additional benefit to reducing variation and defects is higher customer satisfaction. Having happy customers typically results in repeat business.

Why is Lean Six Sigma effective when compared to other management programs?

Plain and simple, it uses data. Lean Six Sigma uses a defined methodology when looking at process optimization. Part of this methodology involves collecting process data and using tools to pinpoint problems using statistical analysis. The approach takes into account variables that occur and may not necessarily be obvious. These process influencers are often not even considered when using other continuous improvement methods because they are not seen as directly involved in a process. Often management thinks they know what’s wrong with a process. But until they analyze the problem, it’s hard to identify the true root cause.

Is there an optimal time for an organization to implement a Lean Six Sigma program?

Any organization can see the benefits of Lean Six Sigma tools, but until an organization makes the conscious decision to deploy the program, the benefits will only be minimal and may not be sustainable. Organizations seeing the biggest benefits from Lean Six Sigma are those that implement the program before they ‘need’ to do it. Being proactive can allow companies to develop efficiencies and, more important, the culture necessary for continuous improvement. Implementing when it becomes a necessity is still very effective. Organizations must be diligent in the commitment and planning of their implementation to obtain the maximum benefits.

Who should be involved within the organization?

Lean Six Sigma is intended to be an enterprisewide program. Management must champion the different projects so they can help with major decisions and clear roadblocks. But the reality is that the people who are really analyzing and fixing the process are those who are doing the work — they are the closest to it. You also want to have individuals involved who are adept at identifying collateral damage. If the process you’re working on negatively impacts another process, you can create a bigger problem for yourself. This doesn’t mean every employee needs to be a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, but every employee should be introduced to the basic concepts and principles. Individuals will then need to be selected to be trained to various levels within Lean Six Sigma, depending on their role in continuous improvement projects.

How should an organization get started with Lean Six Sigma?

First, make a commitment. Management needs to make sure they understand the program and commit to continuous improvement. Initially, many employees are afraid Lean Six Sigma will become the ‘program of the month.’ When implemented that way, it will fail. As management gets involved and employees see the personal benefits to their daily work, the program begins to take hold. Employees start to look for ways to optimize their work and others want to learn how they can benefit. At that point, the program has started to truly take hold and the benefits will quickly increase.

How should the effectiveness of Lean Six Sigma be evaluated?

Every project should have clearly defined measurables. Spending the time in the first phase of a project allows an organization to understand the process, the project scope and potential influencing factors. When evaluating a process, it is common for a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt to ask the process owner, ‘What’s your biggest pain?’ or ‘If you could fix one issue with the process, what would it be?’ Taking initial measurement of the process ‘as is’ is critical to understanding the impact of any continuous improvement project.

Effectiveness should be measured in defect reduction, time savings, monetary measures or anything else that can show direct benefit to the increased efficiency of the process.

Using Lean Six Sigma as an organizational tool for continuous improvement allows companies to constantly seek to minimize problems, increase efficiencies and maintain the highest levels of productivity, even during tough economic times.

Ed Siurek is director of Quality for Corporate College. Reach him at (216) 987-2828 or

Published in Cleveland

Maybe you’ve noticed that there are some members of your team who aren’t quite living up to their potential. Have you taken the time to figure out why, or whether these people should even be in these roles within your organization? To compound the problem, perhaps your top performers are starting to look restless.

If you’ve been delaying the task of getting your team in top-performance shape because you don’t know where to begin, the time to take action is now.

“Talent optimization is so important today because businesses and the economy are starting to recover, and now business leaders are challenged by a new concern: talent,” says Meghan Bilardo, director of Organizational Strategy and Assessment at Corporate College. “No longer are they cost-cutting and trying to survive; they’re really looking to innovate and grow, and that takes a new strategy and approach to talent.”

Smart Business learned more from Bilardo about what it takes to win the talent war in a make-it-or-break-it business climate.

Why is talent optimization so important?

To win this year and beyond, organizations need skilled and engaged employees. They can either build the talent that they have on their team through education, coaching and assessment processes, or they can work to recruit talent away from competitors. It’s so important this year — and especially with supervisory and mid-level managers — that people can innovate and that they have opportunities to develop and advance within an organization. Managers must understand their employees’ capacity for new and emerging skill sets in order to help the business reach its objectives.

What are the consequences businesses face by not paying attention to this?

Companies that are limited to the old hierarchical structures are becoming dinosaurs. We’re in a business environment that is more skills-based than ever and we know that talent drives performance. One piece of the puzzle is that organizations don’t understand where their talent lies, what people’s capabilities are, and what they need people to be able to do differently for their organization to win. Organizations must integrate talent optimization into their strategic planning process.

Another piece of the puzzle is the selection process, which includes everything from identifying the critical roles needed to meet business objectives, sourcing candidates and then hiring them. Many organizations do not have the processes and tools in place to be able to make that selection, so, again, they miss out on an opportunity to win.

How can businesses improve their hiring processes so they’re bringing in the right talent?

Begin with the end in mind. What are the organizational goals for this year? What skills, attributes and knowledge do your candidates need to have to meet and exceed those goals? Ensure that your job descriptions are up to date and accurately depict the tasks and responsibilities of each role. Job descriptions should clearly define what a person needs to do to achieve those goals.

Once you’ve identified qualified candidates, another best practice is using testing and pre-employment assessment tools. Using an assessment tool with high validity means that it’s got a greater predictor of success for certain roles, and would also be legally defensible since you’re using it for selection. The goal is to match a candidate’s capabilities with an organizational need. Assessment tools can help you identify knowledge or ability to apply skills, as well as analyzing and problem-solving abilities.

The next piece to focus on is the employment experience. Organizations need to develop a brand for what type of employer they are. Are they an employer of choice? Do the most skilled and talented people want to work there?  With a strong brand you can attract talent from the competition and decrease your time to fill open positions.

Once hired, it is essential to orient new hires to your organization so they can hit the ground running. Managers have a responsibility during the first 90 days to educate, support and check in with new employees.

How will talent optimization help businesses attract and retain top talent?

It relates back to your employment brand. If you are known for setting clear expectations, coaching employees, rewarding high performance, encouraging professional development and delivering bottom line results, the most skilled employees in the market will want to work with you. The best employee talent base is always learning, so businesses must understand what their people need to learn, why they need to learn it and the ROI in terms of increased performance and employee retention. Alignment with training companies and community colleges that offer curriculum and courses is a very important component as well. The entire skill acquisition learning space is evolving very quickly, and if businesses don’t understand this then they’re going to have difficulty in being agile and responsive to the market.

Most companies will burn out talent, as if they’re disposable. The companies that are going to win are those that feed their talent and give them what they need to realize personal, social and economic gain through their organization. That soon becomes the reason a talented person wants to work there: they know that they’re going to have an opportunity to grow continuously and to do new work over time. Those are the kinds of things talented people are going to be looking for when they’re deciding where to work, and they also drive employee engagement.  When engaged, employees go above and beyond, which of course leads to improved financial performance for the organization.

Having a good talent optimization system doesn’t mean you’re always going to win, but not having one means you don’t have a chance.

Meghan Bilardo is the director of Organizational Strategy and Assessment at Corporate College. Reach her at (216) 987-2800 or

Published in Cleveland
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