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Using repertory grids in job analysis

Job analysis is a procedure for establishing the constituent responsibilities of an employee’s job. Conventional approaches tend to obtain descriptions of key job characteristics through relatively informal interview procedures; or by compiling and assessing lists of incidents of successful and unsuccessful job performance (Flanagan, 1954). These have been criticised because they result in job descriptions that are insufficiently behaviourally precise (e.g. ‘good leader’; ‘team player’) while ignoring the need for flexible change in job performance (Townsend, 1985); or for being inapplicable to the competencies required in supervisory and managerial jobs (Summers, 1994).

The repertory grid alternative involves the use of elements carefully chosen to sample job characteristics, a qualifying phrase that summarises the particular performance focus required, and a single supplied construct that summarises the focus and permits the isolation of those constructs most relevance to desired performance. That is to say:

Elements are elicited to describe 8 to 12 key types of activity (Please give me an activity that is time-consuming in doing this job; an activity that is particularly important to get right in doing this job; an activity that is particularly difficult to get right’ together with their converses, i.e. ‘quickly done’, ‘not particularly important’, ‘easy to get right’). Alternatively, job incumbents known to the respondent are used, suitably anonymised (‘Please let me have two people who are particularly good at this job; two who are not very good at this job; and four in between.’)
Constructs are elicited triadically, with the qualifying phrase ‘which two of these are alike, and different from the third, in terms of what it is about them that makes for effective job perfomance as opposed to ineffective job performance’ in the first instance, and with the qualifying phrase ‘which two of these are alike, and different from the third, in terms of what they actually do that makes them more, or less, effective’ in the second instance.
The supplied construct would typically be ‘Overall, related more to effective job performance - Overall, related more to ineffective job performance’, or words to that effect.

Analysis of the ratings, (see Honey, 1979), designed to identify those constructs most closely related to the ‘Overall Effectiveness - Ineffectiveness’ construct, would typically require around 300 constructs to capture the chief attributes of the job; since a one-hour grid interview based on this technique typically produces 8 - 12 distinct constructs, a total of around 30 respondents is required. These might usefully be a mixture of job incumbents, their colleagues, and their supervisors.


  • Flanagan, J.C. (1954) The critical incident technique. Psychological Bulletin 51, 237-258.
  • Honey, P. (1979) The repertory grid in action. Industrial and Commercial Training 11, 11, 452-459.
  • Summers, A. (1994) Setting standards of competence for management training. British Journal of Administrative Management Oct/Nov, 18-19.
  • Townsend, R. (1985) Further up the Organisation. New York: Coronet Books, pp. 115-116.

Devi Jankowicz

Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004