Human Resources
A Job Analysis without SMEs is like Water Without Oxygen

A Job Analysis without SMEs is like Water Without Oxygen


Nov 15, 2016 | by Mike Heil

Job Analysis……What is your first reaction when you hear that word? Does is bore you because you think it’s not nearly as exciting as engagement, big data, or leadership? Maybe it excites you because you love to learn about what other people do for a living and job analysis feels a lot like being paid to attend Career Day. If you’re a hiring manager, the term job analysis might evoke concerns about challenges with getting buy-in from both stakeholders and subject matter experts (SMEs) who may view it as a disruption.

If you’ve been identified as a SME who’ll participate in the job analysis, you may not be thrilled by the prospect of time away from your day-to-day responsibilities. Basically, your thoughts about job analysis are likely to vary based on your perspective, your role, your understanding of the purpose, and the impact it has on your work.

Regardless of how well planned or organized the job analysis may be, success ultimately hinges on SME participation.  The greatest challenges associated with completion of a job analysis tend to be related to SME availability and cooperation. Given SMEs’ critical role, a successful outcome depends on our ability to clearly articulate the importance of the job analysis and the need for input from the people who know the job best.

Why are we conducting a Job Analysis?
Why is a job analysis so important? Why do we need to pull people away from work so that they can talk about the work they’d be doing if we just left them alone? The bottom line is that job analysis provides a foundation for Human Capital decisions and programs. We need to understand both job and worker requirements so that we can determine if we need to make changes and, if so, what changes need to be made. Some primary goals of job analysis include:

1. Ensure that personnel decisions are job-related 
2. Identify gaps between required competencies and those currently possessed by the workforce
3. Define performance requirements
4. Identify worker characteristics that need to be assessed when hiring
5. Identify trainings needs
6. Validate assessments

So, do you really need another job analysis if you’ve already completed one? Some important considerations are:

1. When was the last time a job analysis was performed?
2. What was the purpose of the job analysis?
3. How much has the job changed since the last job analysis?
4. How much will the job change between now and implementation of the new program (e.g. assessment, training, etc.?)
5. Does the job require physical abilities? Have these been evaluated?

The answers to these questions should guide the planning for the new job analysis. If you have a recent job analysis that was used for the same purpose, and the job has not changed, then you may be okay. Otherwise, a new job analysis is probably needed to ensure that your latest intervention will be successful and job-related.

Subject Matter Experts
As stated above, the success of the job analysis depends on the SMEs. So, who are these SMEs? The short answer is that SMEs are people who know the job….know what work is performed on a daily basis and which tasks are most critical. Additionally, they can identify the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KSAOs) that are needed to successfully perform these critical tasks. The SMEs should be people who not only know the job, but are able to articulate the requirements and understand the job at a broader level so they can speak to more than just how they do the work.

It’s very helpful if they also can speak to upcoming changes could impact the job as well as the extent to which the job is performed the same across different geographic locations. Although the SMEs are likely to be people who are currently performing the job, supervisors may serve as SMEs as well. SMEs should have sufficient tenure to fully understand the job and have the ability to describe the job to others.

Since people who perform the same job are likely to have different experiences and perspectives, it’s important to work with multiple SMEs with diverse backgrounds and work experiences, as well as diversity based on race, gender, and geography.  Since the SMEs will be working with others, it’s essential that they are able to play nice, are assertive, and self-motivated. Furthermore, the job analysis activities will be more productive if all SMEs fully understand the purpose.

What will SMEs need to do?
They are likely to be asked to:

1. Answer questions about their job as consultants observe them at work
2. Meet in a group and discuss the job
3. Review lists of tasks and duties, then discuss and revise them as a group
4. Review lists of KSAOs
5. Complete a linkage of tasks and KSAOs
6. Identify upcoming changes to the job (e.g. new tools, technology, etc)
7. Complete a survey

Overcoming Challenges
Usually it’s easy for people to understand the need for conducting a job analysis; however, the biggest challenge comes when it’s time to turn the plan into reality. One of the most difficult challenges is freeing up SMEs so that they can participate. The key is to reduce the burden on SMEs as much as possible so that they can complete their work and focus on the job analysis. Solutions to this challenge include:

1. Support from management
2. Acknowledgement and reward
3. Assistance with work, including the ability to delegate to others if needed while engaged in the job analysis
4. Flexible job analysis plan that allows SMEs to miss less work time (e.g. remote meetings, shorter focus groups).

Since the SMEs are key to success, we need to make sure we engage, communicate, and clear obstacles to their involvement. Contact Mike at to learn more about the importance of job analysis or Aon Hewitt’s other selection and assessment tools/services.

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