Jeff Radan & Fahim Rahmani
MSP Capacity Building Team
There’s no argument – staff always deserve our best tools, training, leadership, coaching, guidance, and support to empower their repeatable, accurate and compliant performances on the job.
But, how can we know if the support staff receives is, indeed, fitting? Can we recognize when their job requirements have evolved/devolved over time? What steps can we take to pinpoint real-world requirements and match them with individual staff capacities? How do we ensure that the training staff receives actually enhances the knowledge, skills, and attitudinal requirements of their role? How do we identify new competencies that may be required in the future?
These, and similar challenges, are not atypical, especially on active programs. Sound daunting? No worries, the resolution can be quite simple.
One technique we can employ to tackle these queries is through the use of a Job Task Analysis/Validation (JTA/V). Relatively straight forward, this management process aims to (re)clarify the links between real-world job requirements, predictable and measureable staff performances and outputs, and the hierarchy of need (criticality). Ultimately, a JTA/V can help managers recalibrate the tools, training, coaching, guidance, and support provided to staff with authentic program requirements.
Let’s face it; staff roles can change over time. Simply put, a JTA/V offers managers a means to document role-specific tasks and the staff competencies required of each, to rank each task in terms of relative criticality to the role and performance frequency, while providing a standard to measure staff performances by. JTA/V findings are regularly used to clarify new training needs, update position descriptions and grade classifications, and inform other personnel actions, such as promotions and performance appraisals. Sure, it all sounds fancy and tech-y, but truthfully, the JTA/V does not need to be a complex undertaking. Let’s take a look.
A CASE STUDY
Program X has been active for well over a year. Three months ago, the program scope and schedule were altered to reflect more complex client data collection requirements and accelerated field reporting timelines. During this adjustment process, it was assumed that field staff would only be required to alter their practices slightly. Unfortunately, this assumption proved to be a false one. Field staff now feel stretched and less able to meet new these demands on-time and to the degree of required quality. It’s now apparent that these evolutionary program changes may require additional staff support.
In collaboration with her HQ and field staff, the Chief of Party launched a JTA/V effort to answer the following questions;
- What job tasks are considered most important, of average importance, and of least importance to the requirements of the position?
- What job tasks are performed most frequently, at an average frequency, and at the least frequency – and why?
- What job tasks are the position holders most prepared to perform, considered to have an average ability to perform, and considered to be least able to perform – and why?
- Which job tasks are no longer considered applicable and therefore not performed?
- Which job tasks require new training, refresher training, or advanced training?
- Do additional job tasks exist that have not yet been considered or assigned?
- How do these findings compare across each assigned geographic area?
In very short order, a variety of data collection techniques were employed to elicit stakeholder responses, to include;
- Nameless surveys distributed both to supervisory and field job holders
- A comprehensive review of historic training documentation and performance metrics
- Interviews with subject/context matter experts (SMEs)
- Consultation with key stakeholders with specific knowledge of the job (including client representatives)
Within weeks, the products of these inquiries were collated and evaluated. In cooperation with these same stakeholders, decisions were made to revise the training curriculum for field staff, to establish updated job tasks, conditions and standards, to streamline the logistical support chain, and to restructure all work stream policies and procedures. The resulting impacts on the program were significant. Roles were re-clarified and staff, once again, were empowered to perform at their very best.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Often, the need to conduct a JTA/V stems from a policy or program shift, degraded staff performance metrics, or a simply a filled, “Complaints Box.” It’s not unusual for a program to undertake these steps in instances of management changes (i.e.: a new CoP or other managers join the program). As a management tool, the JTA/V can help reset expectations while ensuring team mates are supplied with the best tools, training, leadership, coaching, guidance, and support.