The CPP Levels of Work: their relationship with actual job complexity

By Maretha Prinsloo on January 16, 2017

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In a recent Technical Report by Dr Paul Barrett, we explored the relationship between estimated Stratified Systems Theory (SST) levels of work assessed using Cognadev’s Contextualised Competency Mapping (CCM) job-analysis tool, and the SST levels assessed from performance on Cognadev’s Cognitive Process Profile (CPP).

A perfect match between people and jobs is not expected as employees are not always carefully matched or suited to their positions. However, an overall comparison of job levels and people capabilities is useful given the impact of natural selection processes on job promotion – especially at managerial and executive levels.

The CPP and CCM measure 5 levels of work complexity whereas the SST specifies 7 levels. The CPP and CCM Level 5 include the requirements and capabilities associated with the SST Level 5, 6 and 7.

In terms of the CCM and CPP’s Level of Work designations:

  • Pure Operational: individuals who show less interest in intellectual complexity, vagueness and cognitive challenge.
  • Diagnostic: can be quite analytical, but still show a need for structure in the form of technical guidelines and/or previous experience.
  • Tactical Strategy: no longer rely on linear processing, but prefer viewing issues in terms of tangible systems and the interaction between observable system elements.
  • Parallel Processing: those with the capacity to accommodate novelty, vagueness, dissonance and fragmentation, all of which require the cognitive skills of integration and innovation.
  • Pure Strategic: functioning is characterised by a strong Intuitive and Holistic “big picture” inclination.

The CPP estimates a current and potential level of work.

In this study, the jobs in question were largely analysed by HR practitioners in terms of a number of criteria linked to the Stratified Systems Theory (SST) which describes the complexity of work. These criteria are provided systematically by the Contextualised Competency Mapping (CCM) job analysis tool, which was provided to the companies involved.

A Caveat

However, in the majority of cases, not all the positions were analysed in detail by using the CCM, but the SST levels of certain positions were merely indicated by professionally trained and CCM-accredited practitioners. For reporting convenience, job levels are indicated in this study as CCM levels whereas the complexity levels of the people involved, are indicated as CPP levels. The SST levels of the positions as indicated by some in this sample may therefore lack accuracy.

The Samples

In the samples analysed as part of this study, employees from the mining, manufacturing and retail industries from 3 organisations were included. A large number of roles were involved which primarily span Pure Operational to Parallel Processing work complexity. A fair proportion of the roles from the manufacturing and mining industries in particular represent managerial and executive functioning. A total of 1157 cases comprised the aggregate sample, although each constituent sample was analysed separately because results did show some organizational specificity, possibly as a result of the differing use of the formal CCM job analysis estimation vs subjective assignment of the job SST level.

The Results

Given the SST levels are defined as simple rank-orders (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) rather than precise quantities (such as a measure of length or weight), the most appropriate assessment of the relationship between the CCM and CPP-assigned SST levels is the Goodman & Kruskal gamma correlation coefficient as it is most suited for these kinds of situation where the range of observation magnitudes is small. The coefficient varies between -1 and +1, with 0 indicating no relationship at all, and +1 indicating a perfect relationship between the CCM and CPP SST levels.

CPP Current Level of Work

In the aggregate data sample, the correlation between the CCM and CPP Current Level of Work SST assignments is 0.52, with constituent sample values ranging between 0.44 and 0.98.

CPP Potential Level of Work

For the CPP Potential level of work, the aggregate sample correlation was 0.46, with constituent sample values ranging between 0.42 and 0.71.

In Summary

  • It was found that in the managerial and executive roles of the samples from the mining and manufacturing industries, which primarily represented SST Level 3 and Level 3 for 4 complexity, the job-incumbents largely showed current capability for SST Level 2, 3 and 4 and potential for Levels 3 and 4 as measured by the CPP. In the Retail sector where both operational and managerial positions were analysed, the work primarily entailed SST Level 1 and 2 operational involvement and the job incumbents mostly obtained Level 1 and 2 with potential for Level 3 complexity on the CPP.
  • The gamma correlations between CPP and CCM levels ranged from .42 to .98.
  • The majority of job incumbents who showed operational inclinations were thus employed in operational roles, whereas the majority of those who showed strategic orientations, were involved in strategic roles.
  • It should, however, be kept in mind that a large proportion of the employees in the samples analysed, were not necessarily employed at the most suitable levels of complexity due to age- and experience-related, socio-political and educational factors. Selection and placement practices in general are also not necessarily ideal.
  • This study thus indicates a significant overlap between the SST job levels of positions and the CPP levels of job incumbents – especially at managerial and executive levels.
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