Five Ways To Identify Essential Job Functions

Five Ways To Identify Essential Job Functions
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There are some job functions that are very necessary to an organization or business. Without these jobs, the business could very well

founder. The question is, what are the strategies that can be used when identifying essential job functions in an organization?

Some of the strategies are common sense. For example, a dental practice would obviously need a dentist, and a lawyer’s practice would need a

lawyer, and their functions would be specific to serve someone who needs dental work or legal representation. However, bigger organizations may not find this process quite as simple: The organizational structure may have several tiers of employees with different job functions that may or may not be very important to the lifeblood of the organization. Here are a few ways to identify job functions that are essential:

1. Job Analysis and Job Descriptions

Every good job description is prepared after a thorough job analysis in which the actual functions of a job and the knowledge, skills and abilities that are needed for the job are analyzed. This job analysis is the backbone to crafting a job description; the job description is generally used before advertising for a job to ascertain the critical areas that are needed for recruiting persons with a particular skill set.

The job description is also used while interviewing applicants for a job to see if they are the perfect fit. Additionally, it is the same job description that outlines the duties to be performed on the job; usually a good job description will outline the essential parts of the job first, so that the worker can follow the order of importance. Hence, the written job description is one of the foremost instruments that an employer will use to determine the essential functions of a job.

2. Specific Job Functions

The requirements of a job may be fairly straightforward. The employer may simply need someone to lay bricks or mix mortar. Similarly, a hotel or guest house may require that housekeepers thoroughly clean 20 rooms per day. That job function would be very essential to having a good hospitality business and would not require any in-depth analysis about its necessity.

3. Work Experience

There is nobody better to determine essential job functions than the person who actually performs the job, and that is why the work experience of previous and current employees in similar positions can provide practical evidence of actual duties performed. The employer can then do a thorough analysis of the job functions while he or she observes the worker’s operations. This observation can be done in conjunction with consultations and interviews. Similarly, a 360 degree evaluation would be beneficial in identifying essential job functions as employers would be able to determine the key areas in a job from a thorough evaluation.

4. Time Spent Performing a Specific Function

This point has been debated among human resource practitioners. The question is, does time spent doing a particular job mean that the job function is essential? The answer is simple; if the job function is intricately linked to the company’s objectives or goals then it is fairly safe to say that it is essential. For example, a customer-oriented business would need customer service representatives to liaise with customers exclusively. This job function would tie in with the overall objectives of the company, and the function is a necessity for that particular job and to the company on a whole.

The fallout from not performing these functions can be critical. An example that comes to mind is an airline pilot; this person spends only a few moments landing a plane. However, landing the plane is an essential function of the job and could prove deadly if a pilot did not perform this specific job function.

5. Organizational Structure

Looking at the roles and responsibilities of various persons via the organizational structure can reveal the jobs that are essential. There are some duplicate job functions that can be avoided by reworking the structure of the organization. A good example of this is a coffee shop, where the cook does some waitressing even though there are waiters who are there to perform that particular function. While serving customers is important to the business, there is clearly an overlap of job functions. Waiting tables is not an essential function of the cook’s job.

Choose One Method or a Combination

Identifying essential job functions can take several routes; however, a good job analysis and the resultant job description are the backbones to determining the necessity of any position. Additionally, there are times when the essential nature of a position is pretty clear and straightforward, and a full scale analysis may not be necessary.

Please be sure to check out the other tips and strategies found in Bright Hub’s HR Guide for Recruiting and Retaining Employees.


Dibble, Suzanne. Keeping your Valuable Employees: Retention Strategies for Your Organization’s Most Important Resource. John Wiley and Sons, 1999.

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