7.2 Job Design Characteristics

Characteristics of job design have been briefly described in relation to their fundamentals of scope, depth and specialization. A deeper look into the characteristics of job design and how to apply its function within the learning organization will be discussed.

Job Simplification

Job simplification is the first level of job characteristics, given its narrow scope in relation to job design. Job simplification is the standardizing of work procedures and employing people in well-defined and highly specialized tasks. Automation could be an example of this, as the different forms of automation within organizations can make work easier, but does not expand on workers’ levels to engage in the job. When it comes to the learning organization, automation has helped, in many ways, to enhance how individuals learn and obtain new knowledge.  However, this can lead to boredom and alienation, especially when working in a team. Boredom and alienation can be detrimental to the institution, causing a higher level of absenteeism and turnover[3].

Job Rotation

The second level of job design characteristics have more involvement from both managers and subordinates. Job rotation is the increase in task variety by periodically shifting workers between jobs. When individuals are moved to different areas within the organization, they develop new skills, keep work fresh, and gain a more robust understanding of how everything works as a whole. In a university, it is uncommon for teachers to instruct different classes outside of the ones they have taught for a long time. In many ways, having members of a faculty (i.e. political science) switch between different classes, instructors can get a feel of a learner’s different philosophies and inspirations. For example, types and styles of learners change when moving from an “Introduction to Canadian Politics” class to a “Foreign Policy of the United States” class, not to mention, it develops a professor’s own robust educational leadership style when teaching different learners.

Job Enlargement

This next step uses condensing for the sake of growing. Job enlargement is the increase of task variety by combining two or more tasks that were previously assigned to different workers. Within a learning organization, this can be explained as one person working on research about internationalization, and another working on the admission rates of international students within the university. An administrator, or the two individuals, might combine their work as their research is closely related. This is a good way to bring in a level of rotation and collaboration within the jobs presented.  However, it is important that the jobs are related.  If unrelated, it can cause confusion and stagnation in the completion of goals.

Job Enrichment

The fourth and final level looks deeply at the job design. Job enrichment is the practice of expanding job content through job depth to create more opportunities for satisfaction. Job enrichment follows the Herzberg two-factor theory presented in chapter six; when there is enrichment, workers look inwards toward the job, and find the factors that make the job appealing (satisfier factors), and what may make the job unappealing (hygiene factors). When relating this to a learning organization, leaders, who foster learning, want to gain an even deeper learning from their subordinates. Some of the focuses might be on:

  • The reason or philosophy behind the learning activity
  • Specified learning outcomes
  • Individual moderator variables (correlation between continuous interaction[4])

These levels all relate to how a leader or a manager attempts to improve job characteristics. Have it be through simplification or enrichment, the goal for a leader is to increase productivity, lower turnover, and have subordinates ready and willing to work. Hackman and Oldham developed a model that finds a balance between the characteristics to improve job performance[5].

Measuring Motivation in a Learning Organization

How do we measure motivation within a learning organization? One way to start is to understand all of the factors that go into your organizaiton, for example, using measurable factors such as employee contribution, ability of the service product, and economic factors. Osteraker outlines a dynamic triangle of motivation creating an identity through a social, physical, and mental dimension, and that these dimensions work in concert to involve members of the organization in day-to-day processes[6]. When we think of the dimensions, here are some factors that come to mind when measuring motivation.

Ideation and Integrated Dynamics

We first understand measuring motivation through the understandings of ideation-in-motivation. Bergendahl, Magnusson, and Bjork conclude that employee preferences lean towards collaboration and competition to generate useful ideas[7]. This opens up a context on embracing integrated dynamics of placing high-performing individuals in self-directed, self-regulated atmospheres with a commitment to sharing knowledge and conversations[8]. This introduces a sense of autonomy with members inside of a learning organization to self-direct and self-regulate their own ideas and build upon those ideas.

Goal Setting

With any organization, ideas or integration cant go anywhere without the ability to develop clear and concise goals. Embracing naturally occurring interventions between members within a learning organization, field experiments find a relationship between motivation and goal setting[9]. If an organization is able to set goals through a natural process of development, theoretically, this leads toward desired outcomes.


What is the role of self-efficacy in motivation relating to the learning organization? Vancouver and Kendall use their research to conclude that self-efficacy has a negative effect on organizational motivation, however, related to goal-orientation, self-efficacy has a positive effect on motivation and organizational performance[10]. Although a heightened self-belief in your own capabilities, paired with like-minded members can lead to group think and coercive power, when tasked with a specific goal, and members on board with a clear vision, self-efficacy working within the parameters of a goal can be very beneficial.

Review Questions:

  1. What are the differences between positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement?
  2. Describe the characteristics of job simplification, rotation, enlargement, and enrichment?


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Leadership and Management in Learning Organizations Copyright © by Clayton Smith; Carson Babich; and Mark Lubrick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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