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What Is Functional Job Analysis?

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  • Written By: Dale Marshall
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 21 August 2016
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A functional job analysis (FJA) is a system devised by the US Department of Labor in the 1940s to determine all a job’s elements and evaluate them, ranking their importance to the job. It measures the time spent and the nature of interactions with things, with data and with people. A good functional job analysis also measures the quality of instruction and supervision necessary, as well as the amount of training required to perform a job adequately.

The comprehensiveness of the functional job analysis makes it applicable to any job in an organization. For example, the FJA of a production worker in a factory would note the time spent setting up machinery and operating it. An FJA of a shipping clerk’s position, on the other hand, would concentrate on time spent moving and handling items for shipping. The average amounts of time devoted to ongoing training and in routine interaction with supervisors are also measured. Some FJAs can be very exacting, with monitors using stopwatches to determine the exact amount of time necessary to perform certain tasks.

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Human resources professionals conduct FJAs and use the results in making a wide range of decisions, from staffing levels to compensation. FJAs also are invaluable when making other management decisions, such as reorganizations and consolidations. It’s important to keep in mind that a functional job analysis evaluates the job itself, and not the person in the job. A good functional job analysis, however, is an invaluable aid in evaluating an employee’s performance, under the theory that one must know what a job entails to before one can determine how well an employee has performed it.

Functional job analyses are used by many organizations as the first step in preparing their job descriptions. A thorough functional job analysis includes scales that measure the actual functions of a job as well as the mental processes that accompany them, such as reasoning and language. These aren’t the only elements of a job, though. An FJA also measures the human interactions included in the job’s performance and the training necessary to perform the job well. The collection of all this data is very useful in recruiting new talent.

The duties and responsibilities associated with many jobs may change over time, even if the job titles remain the same. For example, many traditional office jobs changed dramatically in the latter half of the 20th century because of office automation culminating in computerization. The analyses describing these jobs would show the changes they’ve undergone in many areas and would enhance the employer’s ability to manage them. FJAs, therefore, should periodically be examined and updated.

Many jobs involve technical or professional skills and abilities. Thus, if the position isn’t vacant, the actual examination and evaluation of any particular job is best done by the incumbent and supervisory staff. Human resources professionals’ involvement in this phase of the FJA process is often limited to oversight and guidance.

The actual analysis is the phase in the process where some assumptions are challenged, especially with respect to credit or academic requirements. This is also the phase in which management must consider the possibility of disabled persons performing the job. It's legal in the US to deny job applicants on the grounds of disability, but employers who do so should be able to document that such a denial reflects the candidate's lack of a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Without such documentation, employers may face significant legal challenges.

Prior to computerization, many office workers’ main skill-set was the operation of a typewriter, a tool which, when compared with modern computers, had limited benefits. The same keyboarding skills are still necessary to operate computers, but the underlying knowledge base necessary to turn out meaningful work product has expanded significantly. An FJA quantifies the amount of time a worker spends on a computer, differentiating among such tasks as word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and other functions. Knowing this information is critical to successful recruitment.

Changes in the workflow on a factory floor likewise can have a significant impact on production workers’ jobs. Modifications in the way incoming raw materials are packaged, for instance, may increase or decrease the amount of time getting those raw materials into the workstream. If such modifications save time, good managers will frequently allocate the time elsewhere. Managers who keep on top of their departments’ workflow by means of FJAs and interim observations will generally manage them more efficiently.

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