What is Functional Job Analysis?

functional job analysis

Functional Job Analysis is the practice of examining either a job’s requirements and assigning the right candidate for that job or examining the candidate’s qualifications and skills and assigning the right job to that candidate. It also functions in reverse by not matching the wrong candidate to a job or vice versa. An obvious example would be not hiring someone with no arms to do any job requiring lifting things. In a small business with only a couple of job types, this is not a difficult proposition. In a major company with thousands of people doing hundreds of different jobs, it can become a Gordian Knot. It’s up to the functional job analyst to be Alexander with the sword.

Functional job analysis (FJA) is a method used by human resources and industrial-organizational (I/O) psychologists to assess occupational roles within an organization. This method is characterized by a detailed examination of an individual’s abilities and overall qualification compared to the demands and expectations of their specific position within a larger structure. This type of job analysis is used in both private and public sectors to ensure that applicants or current employees are able to fill their occupational roles and responsibilities in a safe, productive manner.

The Purpose of Functional Analysis

Employees are typically the most valuable and important resource in any company. Successful business leaders know that placing the right people in jobs that are suited to them is critical to long-term success. Ultimately, the purpose of any kind of job analysis is to ensure that employers invest in workers that can provide overall value to their organization. This includes a thorough investigation of an individual’s ability to perform their job as well as the ways their performance could impact the work of other team members.

Emphasis on Qualitative Assessment

Functional job analysis is considered to be a qualitative form of assessment, which means it focuses on the unique combination of abilities and limitations of the individual employee. This makes it an effective way for employers to evaluate how each position in their organization impacts their overall operations. Conducting assessments from this perspective allows companies and organizations to scrutinize virtually every aspect of a job and how an individual’s unique set of physical, mental, and social abilities impact their performance in that capacity.

The Scales of Workplace Role Definition

There are many ways to conduct a functional occupational analysis, but all of them measure workplace roles through established scales. These scales are typically divided into seven categories: data, people, things, instruction, reasoning, math, and language. Some of these scales, like reasoning and language skills, evaluate the personal intellectual demands placed on a worker. Others, like data and instruction, focus more on the resources that the employer supplies to employees to help them do their job. Physical fitness, technical skills, and other specific qualifications may also be measured depending on the demands of the position. All of these scales define and influence an individual’s ability to fill a specific role within their organization.

Practical Applications for FJA

Functional Job Analysis

Companies and organizations often employ FJA methodology in order to create accurate job descriptions and when evaluating applicants. It allows them to define mandatory skills or abilities, like minimum strength for physically demanding work, compared to preferred or optional qualities. Functional analysis can also be used when injured employees are returning to work to coordinate the transition with the worker’s healthcare providers, according to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.

Advanced analytical techniques have become increasingly important to employers as technology continues to transform traditional workplace roles. Many modern occupations require a combination of many skills, abilities, and qualities that are difficult to define without comprehensive assessment. This makes functional job analysis an essential process for hiring managers, human resources professionals and business leaders who want to optimize overall performance throughout their organization.

How FJA Workshops are Conducted

The concept of FJA is one that requires cooperation between the management of a company and its workers. A typical workshop will include at least six people and may feature some employees who are highly verbal and communicative and other employees who are quieter and likely to let others take the lead during the workshop. Occasionally, FJA meetings are held with just two people that include the FJA representative or expert and one employee. Management team members aren’t usually included in the workshops or individual meetings, but they are consulted during the overall process.

Some of the common questions that may appear on questionnaires used during FJA workshops include those asking about income, requisite knowledge for the job, and required skills for the job. Other questions may request further specifics about the job’s required tasks, as well as the accepted performance standards used by management to grade the output of an employee. In addition to FJA workshops, there is also an extensive number of industry-accepted questionnaires available to employers.

Different Classification Systems for FJA

What is Functional Job Analysis

Created in 1972, the Position Analysis Questionnaire is a standardized list of questions used during FJA. There are 195 different elements that cover common human work behaviors. The Position Analysis Questionnaire is designed to be used for many different jobs. Another classification system is the Common Metric Questionnaire (CMQ), which is much newer than the Position Analysis Questionnaire. There are five overall sections in the CMQ that include background, work setting, physical activities, person-to-person contact, and decision making.

Developed in the early 1990s, the Fleishman Job Analysis Survey is an additional job analysis method that asks questions about the sensory, cognitive, psychomotor, and physical requirements of a job. The Fleishman Job Analysis Survey is mostly used as a way to rate the functioning requirements of jobs through the use of rating scales. The functional job analysis process may also use the Occupational Analysis Inventory (OAI) tool, which asks 617 questions about the work elements of a particular job. Like other questionnaires, the OAI covers several categories like information received, work goals, and mental activities.

Some employers use the Work Profiling System (WPS), which was designed to aid the human resources departments of modern companies. Traditional responsibilities of HR departments include functions like employee selection, employee development, and job descriptions. Companies who use the WPS may use one of three types of questionnaires for managerial occupations, service employment, or technical jobs. The questionnaire includes questions that measure facets like verbal skills, personality, team role, and hearing skills.

Job Descriptions Resulting from FJA

The primary result of a job analysis session is a new job description, which is designed to simplify the functions within the HR department, as well as help employees understand their responsibilities and what is required of them to secure a good performance evaluation. Job descriptions from FJA will always contain action words and the normal or daily duties that are required of an employee in a particular role. Duty statements should encompass no more than about three sentences and offer options to employees for performing a duty in multiple ways according to the employee’s preference.

There are seven categories of information regarding both jobs and prospective candidates for those jobs:

  • Things
  • Data
  • Worker instructions
  • Reasoning
  • People
  • Maths
  • Language

Things are tools. Functional job analysts, for example, use computers to collect and collate data and then draw conclusions therefrom. Construction workers use hammers, saws, wheelbarrows, and other physical tools to accomplish building tasks. In this context, “things” are uniformly physical. The tools must be as up-to-date as possible, and the candidates for positions using those tools must be as well-trained as possible for success.

Collectively, data is information about tools, processes, and other items relevant to the company. It even applies to employees. There are categories of data, such as job performance, effectiveness of policies and procedures, and tool efficiency. People who work with data “crunch the numbers” to determine if anything needs changing, and they recommend to management different ways to implement the necessary changes.

Worker instructions form the basis of the processes and procedures of the company. Each process is “what needs to be done,” and each procedure is “how each process gets done.” An analyst’s job is to determine if the instructions achieve the desired result. The analyst must also figure out if the instructions, processes, and procedures “work for the workers.” Workers’ mental health is important, and having clear expectations and instructions together is a key to providing a stable workplace.

Workers are not automatons, however, and their ability to reason is important for both process development and procedural improvement. Encouraging workers to think critically empowers them to be part of the company’s functional job analysis. The analyst must evaluate the workers’ thought processes, determine the efficacy of the suggested improvements, and if the analyst finds the suggestion worthy, liaise with management and bring the improvements to them for implementation.

The category of “people” involves the matching of candidates’ abilities and skills to the jobs that best allow them to use those abilities and skills. The analyst must also observe and record data about worker interaction with both other workers and with management. The person must be a “fit” not only for the job but also for the company.

Mathematics, or “maths,” encompasses forecasting, keeping financial records, auditing such records, and controlling all of the company’s accounts payable and receivable. The analyst sifts through candidates for those who are strong mathematically and who can operate alone without regular supervision.

Language is communication. Whether it’s written or oral, language must be easily understood. Analysts test workers for reading comprehension, ability to convey ideas in writing, and the ability to speak coherently and deliver information or instruction effectively. They must also make sure the data being communicated is equally clear and easily understood.

The functional job analyst is an integral part of any company. It’s actually somewhat comical that a company uses functional job analysts to vet possible candidates who wish to become new functional job analysts! In any event, their work is crucial to a company’s success.

Other factors that must be discussed during the creation of a job description include a list of equipment used, the environmental conditions of the job space, the mental requirements, and the communication required with other employees and non-company personnel. The physical demand of the job is also an important facet of the job description and requires considerations of the strength required during the performance of regular job functions and the movement required during the job. Other considerations include the auditory and visual demands of the job, as well as whether there are any requirements for taste and smell.

Each job factor examined during FJA may be defined in different ways, as well as be expressed at different levels. For example, in defining the movement requirements of the job, the description will need to explain whether there is any climbing, stooping, crouching, or reaching requirements of the job. Also under consideration will be the physical strength demands of the job, which may be defined as sedentary, light, medium, heavy, and very heavy. For the environmental conditions of the job, the description may include details on whether the employee will be exposed to any cold, hot, humid, or other extreme atmospheric conditions.

Related Resource: What are Psychomotor Skills?

Employment for Those Trained in FJA

Functional Job Analysis Duties

In most companies, functional job analysis is completed by the human resources department of the business and may be the responsibility of a job analyst or consultant hired by the organization. Some of the jobs that might be offered to individuals who are trained in FJA or who have experience in human resources include jobs like HR coordinator, human resources generalist, and human resources analyst. FJA experts may also work as managers in human resource departments, as assistant directors, or as consultants who are hired on a temporary or contract basis.

Some of the highest-paying jobs relating to FJA may be offered for contract or temporary positions. The route to becoming an HR trained in FJA will usually begin with time spent in college in an associate or bachelor’s degree program. Employment at the management level in HR may require a graduate degree, and jobs featuring FJA will often require additional training in a specialty program or in a college degree program that has an FJA concentration or minor.

Employees within HR departments that work with FJA may work as human resources specialists and earn approximately $61,920 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Individuals who advance in their careers to human resources managers may receive much higher pay with median incomes reaching approximately $116,720 per year, according to further data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS expects faster than average growth of jobs within the nation’s human resources departments, which means learning about FJA may benefit an HR employee who wants to advance his or her career.

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