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What is the work performance survey system (WPSS): Analyzing job inventory and task statements in the workplace

Updated on April 5, 2012

What is the work performance survey system (WPSS)?

The Work Performance Survey System was computer-aided job inventory approach developed by AT&T. This system takes task statements, functions, and job inventory questionnaires and applies it to a larger set of framework which makes it easier to collect, analyze and also focus on how the information is presented. The WPSS uses tasks and functions as the basic units measured when describing a job.

The Work Performance Survey System was designed primarily as a way to produce information that high-level managers could use. The idea was that the managers would use the data collected to reach effective human resources planning and administrative decisions, as well as being tuned in to which jobs had what responsibilities within the company. WPSS projects were developed by AT&T in order to establish a protocol for each job position throughout the company (so, the Technicians in Texas had the same skills, knowledge, and responsibilities as the Technicians in Michigan). In a company as big as the Bell System Telephone Company used to be it was easy to have job positions that overlap, or certain workers taking on additional roles, even job positions that were only relevant or used in certain areas of the country (perhaps a marketing director was used on the coasts but the executive director handled it for the Midwest regions). After perfecting the system by using a computer to track the data, AT&T showed the word its model and it became well known job inventory survey system for large-scale companies. WPSS is very well suited for analyzing jobs performed by many widely circulated employees because of its uniform nature (blend of data which comes from observation, content analysis, personal interviews, and questionnaires.

For the task statements and functions that were asked about on the surveys, the WPSS had several techniques for finding out what the job was like and how work was accomplished. Some of the specific ways that task statements were derived for the WPSS include:


Job incumbents are observed while doing their work and questioned at various stages during the job. Sometimes the workers were even filmed and later analyzed to see the work process used by the employees. Some people believe that observation is not very effective for developing the WPSS since all they can see is the employee sitting at their desk reading documents, and email, and having conversations which the watchers do not likely understand the background or context.

Content Analysis:

The materials written down about a job, or job duties listed in a job posting. While this can be useful information it has to e checked often, as often side-duties and other responsibilities will develop for the employees, and other duties will be put off to other employees.

Interview System:

Employees and their managers will sit down to an interview discussing daily work and their job responsibilities. The intereview system si very effective, but due to tiem constraints, can only be used on a few participants and therefore it is not feasible to rely strictly on WPSS interview data.


Employees and the supervisors complete the specially derived questionnaires to show what they believe to be the most important job tasks, regular duties and responsibilities, etc. The questionnaire is distributed throughout the company to all different levels in order to gauge the similarities and differences among the same jobs at different locations, and also to see what kind of overlap there is between the job descriptions. The most often used of the techniques was the questionnaire since the questions are uniform and the answer options have an assigned value (such as a number scale system where you rank satisfaction at a certain level.. for instance 1= Not Satisfied at all and 10 = Extremely Satisfied). This allows the data to be calculated more quickly with less chance of getting bad data.

Basic Survey
Basic Survey | Source

WPSS Continued...

Even if you are unfamiliar with the work performance survey system before there is no doubt you have seen versions or adaptations of it at some point in your education or career (examples include the questionnaire about how well you liked a class in college, or an exit interview with your company when you leave a job).

It was a remarkable way to economize the job inventory and task statement surveys. It also allowed it so that information could be collected in large quantities, at various locations, and still give enough valid data so that a high-level manager could make an informed decision.


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