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Individual Differences and Job Analysis

Updated on March 15, 2016

Individual Differences

Effective leaders understand the strengths and skill sets of each of their respective employees. For instance, one employee may have excellent analytical skills, and another may have stellar oral communication skills. It would then make sense to assign an analytical task (such as project planning) to the individual with strong analytical skills. It would also make sense to assign an oral presentation to the person who has strong oral communication skills.
One management issue that many leaders face is whether or not it is better to strengthen an employee’s existing skill set or teach that employee new skills. Interestingly, as long as the employee has the basic, necessary skills to complete a task, it is often better to focus on strengthening existing skill sets of respective team members.
For instance, imagine a basketball team and its many players. Every team member does not need to know how to make three-point shots. In fact, it is a more efficient use of time to focus on the strengths of each team member so that the team (as a unit) can better handle any situation that arises. It is ideal for the team to have a couple of people who are excellent three-point shooters, a couple of people who are able to guard effectively, and so on. While it is ideal for every team member to excel in every area, this is not practical. By focusing on the strengths of respective team members, the overall unit will function more effectively.

Take a look at the O*NET site and then answer this question: Why should we care about individual differences in the workplace?

It is important for an industrial and organization (I-O) psychologist to understand the importance of individual differences in the workplace. It is believed that the differences among individuals can be used to predict behavior to a certain extent (Landy & Conte, 2013, p. 88).The main factors used when predicting behavior are intelligence, personality, and knowledge. However academic achievement, intellectual development, crime, delinquency, vocational choices, income level, poverty, and occupational performance are also important aspects to take into account when utilizing individual differences to predict behavior (Landy & Conte, 2013, p. 88). An I-O psychologist would need to understand the value of individual differences and the way in which they cause people to react differently in order to be able to hire the correct person for the correct job and to assist is solving workplace conflicts.

The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is a database of occupational requirements and worker attributes; the database is used to understand the skills and knowledge required for occupations, the ways in which the work will be performed, and the type of work setting (O*NET, n.d.). O*NET is typically utilized by businesses, educators, job seekers, human resource professionals, and I-O psychologists in order to match the individual with the occupation that compliments their knowledge and skill set (O*NET, n.d.). Diversity in the workplace is important because different jobs require different skill sets. A workplace that incorporates individual differences can have increased productivity, creativity, problem solving, synergy, and market share (Sahar Consulting, 2010). The O*NET is one of the ways in which I-O psychologists can use individual differences to their organization or business’s advantage.


Landy, F., & Conte, J. (2013). Work in the 21st century: An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (4th ed.). Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.

O*NET. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2015, from

Sahar Consulting. (2010, March 26). 6 advantages of Workplace Diversity. Retrieved December

8, 2015, from

Job Analysis

Before one can determine the skill sets needed by each employee, it is best to work backwards and start by analyzing the job itself. Specifically, what skill sets are needed by individuals in order to successfully complete the tasks related to the job? Once a job analysis is complete, Human Resources may more effectively place individuals with the proper skill set into appropriate roles within the company. A job analysis is needed in order to properly place an individual within a position. Further, performance can be more easily tracked and managed, since expected behaviors are outlined and clearly understood.

Consider personal individual differences as they relate to respective positions. A strong understanding of personal strengths can help individuals to more effectively contribute to organizations and to the workplace in general.

Imagine you were asked to conduct a job analysis for a company. What questions would you ask? What specific steps would you take to ensure that your job analysis is thorough and meets the needs of the organization?

Job Analysis

Industrial and Organization (I-O) psychologists can work either with or in the human resources department of a company or organization. In this role an I-O psychologist may be required to conduct a job analysis for the company or organization that they are employed by. If I was an I-O psychologist and I was asked to conduct a job analysis for a company or organization I would begin by asking if the job analysis was being done with the purpose of investigating the job in sufficient detail to enable the recruitment of people or for assessing the performance of people who are already working in the positions (Job Analysis, 2015). The purpose of the job analysis would influence both the methods and questions that I would utilize during the job analysis.

If the company or organization informed me that the purpose of the job analysis was to enable the recruitment of employees into positions within the company or organization, then my job would be to create an accurate job description of the positions I was evaluating. The first method I would use would be the observation method, meaning that I would observe what is done (Job Analysis, 2015). I would ask that the company or organization send out a message to their employees prior to my observation informing them that my observation is not an evaluation of the employees, but to assist me in creating accurate job descriptions, in order to avoid false assumptions about my observation.

After my observation I would utilize the work-oriented method of participation, meaning that I would get involved in the jobs I am analyzing; for more technical jobs I would either shadow the professional or assist in a junior or supporting role (Job Analysis, 2015). My goal in using the participation method would be to get a better understanding of the tasks involved in the jobs that I am analyzing. Participation would also allow me to separate the tasks that are a part of the position from the tasks that the employees were only doing during my observation because they felt like I was evaluating them.

When I finished my participation, I would interview the employees that I had worked with during my participation; by interviewing those employees I would hope to eliminate the chance of them telling me only what I wanted to hear through them being familiar with me and hopefully not feeling threatened. During my interview I would ask them questions like: are there any tasks that are a part of your position that I have not seen, are there any tasks that you do only on a monthly/yearly basis, are there any tasks that you were doing that were not a part of your position, are there tasks that are a part of your position that were done by someone else? My goal in asking these questions would be to ensure that I was made aware of any irregularities during my job analysis that would have affected my understanding of the job. For instance, perhaps an employee was out sick and some of their tasks were being completed by other employees or perhaps one of the employees were working on a big project so a co-worker offered to pick up some of that person’s work for them.

I would finish my job analysis by speaking to the manager before leaving to find out if there is anything he or she believes I should be made aware of in relation to my job of creating accurate job descriptions. I would finish by creating the job descriptions and sending them out to employees that currently fill those positions to see if they feel like I missed any aspect of their job.


Job Analysis. (2015). Retrieved December 10, 2015, from


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