Job Design

Job Design

Job design pertains to the specification of contents, methods and relationship of jobs in order to satisfy technological and organizational requirements as well as the social and personal requirements of the job holder. Through job design, organizations can raise productivity levels of employees and employee satisfaction. Although job analysis, as just described, is important for an understanding of existing jobs, organizations must also adapt to changes in workflow and organizational demands and consider whether jobs need to be redesigned. When an organization is changing or expanding, human resource professionals must also help plan for new jobs and shape them accordingly.

These situations call for job design and business process reengineering (BPE / BPR), the process of defining the way work will be performed and the tasks that a given job requires. Job redesign is a similar process that involves changing an existing job design. To design jobs effectively, a person must thoroughly understand the job itself (through job analysis) and its place in the larger work unit’s work flow process. Having a detailed knowledge of the tasks performed in the work unit and in the job gives the manager many alternative ways to design a job.

Designing Efficient Jobs: Job Characteristics Model

The job characteristics model is one of the most influential attempts to design jobs with increased motivational properties (Hackman & Oldham, 1975). The model describes five core job characteristics leading to critical psychological states, resulting in work-related outcomes.

Factors affecting job motivation
Reference : HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT Sandra L. Steeh University of Regina, Raymond A. Nog Ohio State University, John R. Hollenbeck Michigan State University, Barry Gerhart University of Wisconsin-Madison, Patrick M. Wright Cornel/ University

Skill Variety refers to the extent to which the job requires a person to utilize multiple skills. A car wash employee whose job consists of directing customers into the automated car wash demonstrates low levels of skill variety, whereas a car wash employee who acts as a cashier, maintains car wash equipment, and manages the inventory of chemicals demonstrates high skill variety.

Task Identity refers to the degree to which a person is in charge of completing an identifiable piece of work from start to finish. A web designer who designs parts of a website will have low task identity, because the work blends in with other Web designers’ work; in the end it will be hard for any one person to claim responsibility for the final output. The webmaster who designs an entire web site will have high task identity.

Task Significance refers to whether a person’s job substantially affects other people’s work, health, or well-being. A janitor who cleans the floors at an office building may find the job low in significance, thinking it is not a very important job. However, janitors cleaning the floors at a hospital may see their role as essential in helping patients get better. When they feel that their tasks are significant, employees tend to feel that they have an impact on their environment, and their feelings of self-worth are boosted (Grant, 2008).

Autonomy is the degree to which a person has the freedom to decide how to perform his or her tasks. For example, an instructor who is required to follow a predetermined textbook, covering a given list of topics using a specified list of classroom activities, has low autonomy. On the other hand, an instructor who is free to choose the textbook, design the course content, and use any relevant materials when delivering lectures has higher levels of autonomy. Autonomy increases motivation at work, and it also has other benefits. Giving employees autonomy at work is a key to individual and company success, because autonomous employees are free to choose how to do their jobs and therefore can be more effective. They are also less likely to adopt a “this is not my job” approach to their work environment and instead be proactive (do what needs to be done without waiting to be told what to do) and creative (Morgeson, Delaney-Klinger, & Hemingway, 2005). The consequence of this resourcefulness can be higher company performance.

Feedback refers to the degree to which people learn how effective they are being at work. Feedback at work may come from other people, such as supervisors, peers, subordinates, and customers, or it may come from the job itself. A salesperson who gives presentations to potential clients but is not informed of the clients’ decisions, has low feedback at work. If this person receives notification that a sale was made based on the presentation, feedback will be high. The relationship between feedback and job performance is more controversial. In other words, the mere presence of feedback is not sufficient for employees to feel motivated to perform better. In fact, a review of this literature shows that in about one-third of the cases, feedback was detrimental to performance (Kluger & DeNisi, 1996). In addition to whether feedback is present, the sign of feedback (positive or negative), whether the person is ready to receive the feedback, and the manner in which feedback is given will all determine whether employees feel motivated or demotivated as a result of feedback.

According to the job characteristics model, the presence of these five core job dimensions leads employees to experience three psychological states: They view their work as meaningful, they feel responsible for the outcomes, and they acquire knowledge of results. These three psychological states in turn are related to positive outcomes such as overall job satisfaction, internal motivation, higher performance, and lower absenteeism and turnover (Humphrey, Nahrgang, & Morgeson, 2007; Johns, Xie, & Fang, 1992).

Note that the five job characteristics are not objective features of a job. Two employees working in the same job may have very different perceptions regarding how much skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, or feedback the job affords. In other words, motivating potential is in the eye of the beholder. This is both good and bad news. The bad news is that even though a manager may design a job that is supposed to motivate employees, some employees may not find the job to be motivational. The good news is that sometimes it is possible to increase employee motivation by helping employees change their perspectives about the job. For example, employees laying bricks at a construction site may feel their jobs are low in significance, but by pointing out that they are building a home for others, their perceptions about their job may be changed.

Approaches to Job Design

Engineering Approach

If workers perform tasks as efficiently as possible, not only does the organization benefit from lower costs and greater output per worker, but workers should be less fatigued, physically and mentally. This point of view has for years formed the basis of classical industrial engineering, which looks for the simplest way to structure work in order to maximize efficiency. Typically, applying industrial engineering to a job reduces the complexity of the work, making it so simple that almost anyone can be trained quickly and easily to perform the job. Such jobs tend to be highly specialized and repetitive.

In practice, the scientific method traditionally seeks the “one best way” to perform a job by performing time-and-motion studies to identify the most efficient movements for workers to make. Once the engineers have identified the most efficient sequence of motions, the organization should select workers based on their ability to do the job, then train them in the details of the “one best way” to perform that job. The company should also offer pay structures to motivate workers to do their best.


Despite the logical benefits of industrial engineering, a focus on efficiency alone can create jobs that are so simple and repetitive that workers get bored. Workers performing these jobs may feel their work is meaningless. Hence, most organizations combine industrial engineering with other approaches to job design.

Job Enlargement

Job enlargement is a job design approach in which the scope of a job is increased through extending and enhancing the range of its job duties and responsibilities. It involves combining various activities at the same level in the organization and adding them to the existing job.

Job enlargement, also called the horizontal expansion of job activities, can be explained with the help of the following example. If Mr. A is working as an executive with a company and is currently performing three activities in his job, and after job enlargement or through job enlargement we add four more activities to the existing job, so now Mr. A performs seven activities on the job.

It must be noted that the new activities which have been added should belong to the same hierarchy level in the organization. By job enlargement we provide a greater variety of activities to the individual so that we are in a position to increase the interest of the job and make maximum use of an employee’s skills. Setting the stage for considering the next level of job design – job enrichment.

There is some evidence that job enlargement is beneficial, because it is positively related to employee satisfaction and higher quality customer services, and it increases the chances of catching mistakes (Campion & McClelland, 1991). At the same time, the effects of job enlargement may depend on the type of enlargement. For example, job enlargement consisting of adding tasks that are very simple in nature had negative consequences on employee satisfaction with the job and resulted in fewer errors being caught. Alternatively, giving employees more tasks that require them to be knowledgeable in different areas seemed to have more positive effects (Campion & McClelland, 1993).

Job Enrichment

Job enrichment is a job design approach aimed at making work more interesting and challenging for the employees. It mainly consists of giving more responsibility and opportunities for impact than what originally applied to the job, creating opportunities for professional growth and recognition.

As an alternative to job specialization, companies using job enrichment may experience positive outcomes, such as reduced turnover, increased productivity, and reduced absences (McEvoy & Cascio, 1985; Locke, Sirota, & Wolfson, 1976). This may be because employees who have the authority and responsibility over their work can be more efficient, eliminate unnecessary tasks, take shortcuts, and increase their overall performance. At the same time, there is evidence that job enrichment may sometimes cause dissatisfaction among certain employees (Locke, Sirota, & Wolfson, 1976). The reason may be that employees who are given additional autonomy and responsibility may expect greater levels of pay or other types of compensation, and if this expectation is not met they may feel frustrated. One more thing to remember is that job enrichment is not suitable for everyone (Cherrington & Lynn, 1980; Hulin & Blood, 1968). Not all employees desire to have control over how they work, and if they do not have this desire, they may become frustrated with an enriched job.

Contemporary Issues in Job Design

In this section we look at certain trends that have emerged in the design of jobs in organizations. These trends are:

  1. Telecommuting
  2. Team-based work
  3. Flexible working hours
  4. Alternative work patterns
  5. Artificial intelligence


Almost overnight, the COVID-19 pandemic has made telecommuting, or working from home, the normal way of working. While the concept of a virtual office was slowly becoming more and more popular in the years before this crisis, there was still much resistance from organizations and workers because of the perceived lack of control and supervision that this mode of work entails. However, this resistance has now mostly disappeared and organizations will now consider telecommuting as a normal alternative for many jobs. In the near future, the rise of telecommuting will have enormous effects on organizations and society in general.

Team-Based Work

Due to the complexity of tasks, the need to integrate multiple perspectives and disciplines into work products and services, or the sheer volume of work, organizations are increasingly structuring work around teams. Teamwork involves a set of tasks and activities performed by individuals who collaborate with each other to achieve a common objective. That objective can be creating a product, delivering a service, writing a report, or making a decision. Teamwork differs from individual work in that it involves shared responsibility for a final outcome. Effective teamwork requires certain conditions to be in place that will increase the likelihood that each member’s contributions—and the effort of the group as a whole—will lead to success. Effective teams share five characteristics:

  • Shared values: a common set of beliefs and principles about how and why the team members will work together
  • Mutual trust: confidence between team members that each puts the best interest of the team ahead of individual priorities
  • Inspiring vision: a clear direction that motivates commitment to a collective effort
  • Skill/talent: the combined abilities and expertise to accomplish the required tasks and work productively with others
  • Rewards: recognition of achievement toward objectives and reinforcement of behaviour that supports the team’s work

Effective teamwork requires that people work as a cohesive unit. These five characteristics can help individuals collaborate with others by focusing their efforts in a common direction and achieving an outcome that can only be reached by working together.  There are many enabling collaborative technologies that support and enhance team-based work models – regardless of the physical locations of team members..

Flexible Working Hours

The adjustment of working hours based on work demands or employee preferences is an important factor in designing work. There are many ways in which working hours can be structured. In a compressed workweek, the typical five-day work week is compressed within a four-day workweek in which employees work four ten-hour days. A daily flexible schedule (or flextime) enables employees to come to work early and go home early or arrive late and stay late or take extra time at lunch that is made up. In this schedule, employers may require that employees work core hours, for example, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. In some cases companies are allowing employees to work on their own schedule provided they meet the deadlines for work to be completed.

Artificial Intelligence  (AI)

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is having major implications in how work is performed. Just like the advent of robotics has allowed for the replacement of physical tasks by machines, AI can be used to support or even replace mental tasks. For instance, a call center employee could get instant intelligence about what the caller needs in order to do their work faster and better. Voice prompted questions of the caller and corresponding answers can be analyzed to determine the reason for the call, selection of the appropriate service area and representative, including synthesized data converted to text, and made available to the service representative. AI can easily perform the heavy lifting of these reports – and associated steps – could be generated in a fraction of the time, allowing the accountants to focus on more value-added tasks such as client management and validation.

You can hear Kai-Fu Lee, CEO of Sinovation Ventures, describe how AI will influence jobs in the future. According to him, “accountants, factory workers, truckers, paralegals, and radiologists — just to name a few — will be confronted by a disruption akin to that faced by farmers during the Industrial Revolution”. “As research suggests, the pace in which AI will replace jobs will only accelerate, impacting the highly trained and poorly educated alike.”



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