What is a job function? Sounds obvious…or is it? How is job function different than job family, job title, or job role. Let’s dig in.

What is job function?

The purpose of a job function in a job posting is to give a complete description of the primary responsibilities the employee will perform. We define “job function” as a detailed list of an employee’s actions and duties as part of their role. Job functions create clarity and understanding of a position. 

A well-written job function will help the best candidates for a job to apply. This helps candidates know if the job function fits their skill set and preferences.

So what are job functions? Job functions might vary from position to position, but a list of job function examples might read:

  • Supervise and manage department team
  • Provide support and training to team members
  • Develop and implement protocols for increased team efficiency 
  • Maintain a working document of best practices
  • Report to directors and executive staff

A job function list should be clear and concise. Lists might also be organized into job function categories for better readability if the position has multiple work functions.

Here’s an example from a Social and Digital Content Design Lead for the NBA:

candidates job function

Grouping is a great way to ensure your job function list is as clear as possible, especially if the position has several complex functions.


Synonyms for job functions

Some industries use different terms for a “job function,” but they still mean the same thing. Here are 3 examples:

  • Work functions
  • Essential functions of a job
  • Employment functions

Good to know — a “work functions” definition, “employment function,” and “essential job functions” examples are all the same as “job functions.” 

Below are some essential function examples that might also help to define “work function.”

This job posting from the University of Maryland uses “Essential Functions” as a heading for the list of job functions for their Laboratory Helper position:

work function meaning example

This job posting for a role in healthcare uses “Essential Job Functions” as their header to list job functions:

work function meaning


Job function vs job title

A job function is usually a list of responsibilities and tasks undertaken by an employee in a role. But a job title is usually just a few words that concisely label a position. Job titles are used externally to help people outside of the company understand what your job is. Job titles are what candidates search for when they are looking for a new role.

Fun Fact: Ongig has a Job Titles Guide that lists the most-searched titles in various industries. Check it out if you need some job title inspiration!

In contrast to a job title, a job function is more important internally. Job functions help employees to know what each position entails and is responsible for. 

Below you can see the job title is “Remote Full Time Data Entry Representative” or “Data Entry Representative,” and the essential functions or job functions are in a bulleted list that follows:

candidates job function


Job function vs role

What’s the difference between job role vs function?

The easiest way to separate them is that the job role refers to what the employee will do in a company and their relationships with other employees.

The job function is a larger list of responsibilities and tasks that are routinely completed to meet the requirements of that role.


What is the difference between job function and job family?

Here are 2 definitions that help explain the difference between job function and job family:

Job Function:

“A broad category of jobs (e.g. Finance or General Administration or Faculty & Student Services) which includes multiple job families. The job function may also be referred to as a profession.”

Job Family:

“A group of jobs having the same nature of work (e.g. Accountant or HR Generalist) but requiring different levels of skill, responsibility, or working conditions (e.g. entry-level versus senior level). The job family may also be referred to as a specialty area.”

source: Harvard University

Importance of Defining Job Functions

When it comes to understanding what a job function is, you must clearly define the specific role and responsibilities that come with it. 

Firstly, having a clear understanding of job functions is essential for HR and hiring managers. When they’re looking to fill a position, they need to know exactly what they’re looking for in a candidate. So, by defining the job functions upfront, they can create targeted job listings that attract potential candidates who have the skills and experience necessary to excel in the role.

But it’s not just about finding the right person for the job. Defining job functions also plays a critical role in ensuring compliance with federal laws and regulations, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines. Therefore, by clearly outlining the essential functions of the job, employers can make reasonable accommodations for individuals with disabilities without compromising the integrity of the position.

Moreover, having well-defined job functions helps current employees understand their roles and responsibilities within the organization. So, whether it’s during performance reviews or day-to-day tasks, employees need to know what is expected of them. Also, they need to know how their work contributes to the overall success of the business.

Additionally, clearly defined job functions can serve as a guideline for creating effective job descriptions. So, when crafting a job listing, hiring managers can refer to the defined job functions to ensure they accurately represent the position and attract the right candidates.

Furthermore, job functions can be used as a basis for setting performance standards and evaluating employee performance. By clearly outlining the responsibilities of the role, managers can assess whether employees are meeting expectations and address any areas for improvement.

Key Components of a Job Function

Title and Role: 

Every job function starts with a title that reflects the specific role within the organization. Whether it’s a marketing manager, financial analyst, or administrative assistant, the title gives a glimpse into the nature of the job.


Next up are the responsibilities associated with the job. So, these are the specific tasks and duties that the person in that role is expected to perform. For example, a customer service representative might be responsible for answering inquiries, resolving issues, and ensuring customer satisfaction.

Essential Functions: 

These are the core tasks that are fundamental to the job. They are the must-haves, the non-negotiables. So, for a law enforcement officer, essential functions might include patrolling assigned areas, enforcing laws, and responding to emergencies.


Just like a recipe calls for certain ingredients, a job function requires specific qualifications. So, this could include educational background, experience, skills, or certifications. For instance, a position in business development might require a bachelor’s degree in marketing and three years of relevant experience.

Performance Standards: 

Every job function comes with performance standards that outline expectations for the quality and quantity of work. Thus, these standards serve as a benchmark for evaluating performance during performance reviews.

Compliance with Laws and Policies: 

Job functions must also align with federal laws and company policies. This ensures that all employees are treated fairly and equally. So, job functions should not discriminate against individuals based on factors such as race, gender, or disability.

Environmental Factors and Physical Demands: 

Some job functions may require employees to work in specific environments or handle physical tasks. Therefore, a job function in law enforcement may involve working outdoors in various weather conditions, while a job function in healthcare may require lifting and moving patients.

Clear Communication: 

Effective job functions are communicated clearly through written job descriptions and position descriptions. So, this helps both current employees and potential candidates understand what the job entails.

How Job Functions Impact Organizational Structure

Have you ever wondered how a job function can shape the way an organization operates? Let’s take a closer look at how job functions impact organizational structure.

Clarity in Roles: 

Job functions provide clarity in defining specific roles within the organization. So, this helps employees understand their responsibilities and how they contribute to the overall goals of the company. For example, in a large corporation, different departments may have distinct job functions, such as finance, marketing, or human resources.

Efficiency in Workflow: 

By clearly delineating job functions, organizations can streamline workflow processes. Each employee knows their specific tasks and can focus on completing them efficiently. So, this reduces duplication of efforts and ensures that work is completed in a timely manner.

Effective Communication: 

Job functions facilitate effective communication within the organization. When everyone knows their role, it becomes easier to collaborate and coordinate tasks. So, if a marketing manager needs input from the sales team for a new campaign, they can reach out directly to the relevant individuals.

Adaptability to Change: 

As organizations evolve and grow, job functions may need to adapt to new challenges and opportunities. For example, the rise of digital technology has led to the creation of new job functions related to information systems and data analysis.

Compliance with Regulations: 

Job functions also play a role in ensuring compliance with federal laws and regulations. Therefore, job functions must align with laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines to prevent discrimination and provide reasonable accommodations.

Hierarchical Structure: 

Job functions contribute to the hierarchical structure of an organization. Thus, each position has its own set of responsibilities, with higher-level positions overseeing those below them. So, a general manager may have oversight over multiple departments with their own specific job functions.

Support for Strategic Goals: 

Job functions are aligned with the strategic goals of the organization. For instance, if the company’s goal is to expand internationally, job functions may be created specifically to support this initiative, such as roles in international program development.

Employee Development: 

Understanding job functions helps in employee development and career advancement. Employees can identify areas for growth and development within their current job function or aspire to roles with different responsibilities.

Creating Effective Job Functions: Best Practices

Crafting effective job functions requires attention to detail, a clear vision, and the right tools. So, let’s explore some best practices for creating job functions that set your organization up for success.

Start with Clear Objectives: 

Before diving into the specifics, it’s essential to understand the purpose of the job function. What goals does it need to achieve? What problem is it solving? So, starting with clear objectives helps guide the rest of the process.

Conduct Thorough Job Analysis: 

Take the time to analyze the job thoroughly. So, this means identifying the specific tasks, responsibilities, and qualifications required for the role. Also, job analysis ensures that you have a comprehensive understanding of what the job entails.

Use Clear and Concise Language: 

When writing job functions, use language that is easy to understand and free of jargon. So, avoid using overly technical terms or industry-specific acronyms that may confuse potential candidates.

Focus on Essential Functions: 

Highlight the essential functions of the job – those tasks and duties that are critical to its success. So, these should be the primary focus of the job function and clearly outlined for candidates and current employees.

Consider Reasonable Accommodations: 

Keep in mind the need for reasonable accommodations, especially for individuals with disabilities. So, ensure that job functions are flexible enough to accommodate diverse needs while still maintaining the integrity of the role.

Align with Federal Laws and Regulations: 

Ensure that job functions comply with federal laws and regulations. This helps prevent discrimination and ensures fair treatment of all employees.

Include Required Qualifications: 

Clearly specify the qualifications required for the job, including educational background, experience, skills, and certifications. So, this helps attract suitable candidates and ensures they meet the necessary criteria.

Review and Revise Regularly: 

Regularly review and revise job functions to ensure they remain relevant and aligned with the organization’s evolving needs. So, this could include updating responsibilities, qualifications, or expectations based on feedback and changing circumstances.

Seek Input from Stakeholders: 

Involve relevant stakeholders, such as hiring managers,HR, and current employees, in the creation process. Their insights and perspectives can help ensure that job functions accurately reflect the needs of the organization.

Test for Clarity and Understanding: 

Before finalizing job functions, test them for clarity and understanding. So, ask colleagues or potential candidates to review them and provide feedback. This ensures that job functions effectively communicate the expectations of the role.

Aligning Job Functions with Business Objectives

Ever heard the saying, “All roads lead to Rome”? Well, in the world of business, all job functions should lead to one destination: achieving the organization’s objectives. Let’s explore how aligning job functions with business objectives is like connecting the dots for success.

Understanding the Big Picture

Before diving into the specifics of job functions, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of the organization’s objectives. What are the goals? What is the company striving to achieve? By understanding the big picture, you can ensure that job functions are aligned with these overarching goals.

Identifying Key Priorities

Once you know the business objectives, identify the key priorities that will help achieve them. So, these priorities should guide the creation of job functions, ensuring that each role contributes directly to advancing the organization’s mission.

Mapping Responsibilities

Next, map out the responsibilities of each job function to see how they align with the business objectives. Are there any gaps or redundancies? Aligning responsibilities with strategic priorities helps maximize efficiency and effectiveness.

Setting Clear Expectations

Job functions should clearly communicate the expectations for each role in relation to the business objectives. Employees should understand how their specific tasks contribute to the overall success of the organization. This clarity motivates employees and fosters a sense of purpose in their work.

Fostering Collaboration

Aligning job functions with business objectives encourages collaboration among team members. So, when everyone understands the common goals they’re working towards, they can support each other and work together more effectively.

Measuring Success

Once job functions are aligned with business objectives, it’s essential to establish metrics for success. How will you measure progress towards achieving the goals? So, set clear performance indicators to track the impact of each job function on the organization’s success.

Adapting to Change

As business objectives evolve, job functions may need to adapt accordingly. Stay agile and flexible, revisiting job functions regularly to ensure they remain aligned with the changing needs of the organization.

Encouraging Innovation

Job functions aligned with business objectives create a fertile ground for innovation. Employees are empowered to think creatively and suggest new ideas that contribute to achieving the organization’s goals.

Supporting Growth and Development

When job functions are aligned with business objectives, employees see a clear path for growth and development within the organization. They understand how advancing their skills and expertise contributes to the overall success of the company.

Celebrating Achievements

Finally, celebrate the achievements that result from aligning job functions with business objectives. So, recognize and reward employees who go above and beyond to contribute to the organization’s success. This also helps to reinforce the importance of alignment.

Why I Wrote This? 

Ongig loves anything related to job descriptions, including the all-important “job function.” Check out our Text Analyzer software if you need help creating clear, consistent JDs (that are bias-free).



  1. What Does Job Function Mean? (by Indeed Editorial Team)
  2. Differences Between Job Function & Job Title (by Neil Kokemuller)
  3. What Does Job Function Mean? (by Devra Gartenstein)
  4. Harvard University Job Functions and Families

by in Job Description Management