Strengthening USAID Staff Capacity by Quantifying Job Tasks

Providing our staff with the best tools, training, leadership, coaching, guidance, and support is essential to empower them to excel in their roles. However, it’s important to determine whether the support staff receive is appropriate and effective. How can we identify shifts in job requirements over time? How do we align real-world requirements with individual staff capabilities? How can we ensure that the training staff receive enhances their knowledge, skills, and attitudes for their roles? Moreover, how do we anticipate and address future competency needs?

These challenges are not uncommon, especially in active programs. Fortunately, there is a straightforward solution.

One effective approach to address these questions is through a Job Task Analysis/Validation (JTA/V). This management process helps clarify the connections between real-world job requirements, measurable staff performances and outcomes, and the level of importance (criticality) of each task. Ultimately, a JTA/V enables managers to align the tools, training, coaching, guidance, and support provided to staff with the genuine program requirements.

Staff roles can evolve over time. Essentially, a JTA/V offers a way for managers to document role-specific tasks and the necessary staff competencies for each task. These tasks are ranked based on their relative importance to the role and how frequently they are performed. The JTA/V also establishes a standard to measure staff performances against. The results of a JTA/V are often used to identify new training needs, update job descriptions and classifications, and inform personnel decisions such as promotions and performance evaluations. While it may sound complex, a JTA/V doesn’t need to be overly complicated. Let’s explore further.

Consider Program X, which has been operational for more than a year. Recent changes to the program’s scope and schedule led to more complex data collection requirements and tighter reporting deadlines. Initially, it was assumed that field staff would only need minor adjustments to their practices. However, it became evident that this assumption was incorrect. Field staff now struggle to meet the new demands promptly and with the expected quality. It’s clear that these evolving program changes necessitate additional staff support.

Working closely with headquarters and field staff, the Chief of Party initiated a JTA/V to address these questions:

  • What are the most critical, moderately important, and least important job tasks for the position?
  • How frequently are these tasks performed – often, moderately, or infrequently – and why?
  • What tasks are staff best equipped to perform, moderately equipped to perform, and least equipped to perform – and why?
  • Which tasks are no longer relevant and therefore not being performed?
  • Which tasks require new training, refresher training, or advanced training?
  • Are there any overlooked job tasks that should be considered?
  • How do these findings vary across different geographic areas?

In a short period, various methods were used to gather input from stakeholders:

  • Anonymous surveys distributed to both supervisors and field staff
  • Thorough review of historical training records and performance metrics
  • Interviews with subject matter experts (SMEs)
  • Consultations with stakeholders knowledgeable about the job (including client representatives)

Within weeks, the information collected was analyzed and evaluated. Working collaboratively with stakeholders, decisions were made to update the training curriculum for field staff, revise job tasks, standards, and conditions, streamline support logistics, and enhance work stream policies and procedures. These changes significantly impacted the program. Roles were clarified, and staff were once again empowered to perform at their best.

The need for a JTA/V often arises due to policy or program shifts, declining staff performance metrics, or even feedback from staff (“Complaints Box”). These steps are commonly taken when there are management changes, such as the appointment of a new Chief of Party or other managers. As a valuable management tool, a JTA/V helps redefine expectations and ensures that team members have the right tools, training, leadership, coaching, guidance, and support to succeed.