Job Enrichment

By Peter Mione


"You know that retaining experienced employees is a key factor in our continued success, yet I see us losing more and more of our long-standing account managers. Our survey shows they are bored with their jobs. I want a quick motivational training program for all employees starting in a week. Let's make sure this doesn't continue to happen!"

"We want to make sure we hang on to our top performing service representatives. I want you to put together an hour presentation showing them the options for advancement in our company. We can't afford to lose these people to the competition."

As with so many similar requests, analysis will most likely show that a training solution would not be very effective for either of the above scenarios. If the root causes of the scenarios are truly related to boredom and lack of preparation for advancement, job enrichment could be an excellent non-training intervention.

Job enrichment is a type of job redesign intended to reverse the effects of tasks that are repetitive requiring little autonomy. Some of these effects are boredom, lack of flexibility, and employee dissatisfaction (Leach & Wall, 2004). The underlying principle is to expand the scope of the job with a greater variety of tasks, vertical in nature, that require self-sufficiency. Since the goal is to give the individual exposure to tasks normally reserved for differently focused or higher positions, merely adding more of the same responsibilities related to an employee's current position is not considered job enrichment.

The basis for job enrichment practices is the work done by Frederick Herzberg in the 1950's and 60's, which was further refined in 1975 by Hackman and Oldham using what they called the Job Characteristics Model. This model assumes that if five core job characteristics are present, three psychological states critical to motivation are produced, resulting in positive outcomes (Kotila, 2001). Figure 1 illustrates this model.

Job enrichment can only be truly successful if planning includes support for all phases of the initiative. Ohio State University Extension began a job enrichment program in 1992 and surveyed the participants five years later. The results, broken down into 3 sub-buckets of data beyond the main grouping of advantages/disadvantages as shown in Table 1, indicate the University had not fully considered the planning and administrative aspects of the program (Fourman and Jones, 1997). While the benefits are seemingly obvious, programs fail not


because of a lack of benefits, but rather due to implementation problems. These problems can include a perception of too great a cost, lack of long-term commitment of resources, and potential job classification changes (Cunningham and Eberle, 1990).

In order for a job enrichment program to produce positive results, worker needs and organizational needs must be analyzed and acted upon. According to Cunningham and Eberle (1990), before an enrichment program is begun, the following questions should be asked:

  1. Do employees need jobs that involve responsibility, variety, feedback, challenge, accountability, significance, and opportunities to learn?
  2. What techniques can be implemented without changing the job classification plan?
  3. What techniques would require changes in the job classification plan? (p.3)

When asked about the successes of a Training Generalist job enrichment program begun in 2002, Karen Keenan, Learning Manager with Bank of America, stated the accomplishments were, "greater than expected". The Training Generalist program has resulted in three successful participants to date. According to Ms. Keenan, positive results can be directly tied to a program that addressed the strategic goal of greater resource flexibility without adding to staff, as well as to proper planning, guidance, and feedback for the participants. Having a voluntary program contributed as well, attracting a high caliber of individuals eager to expand their skills and be positioned for advancement. To date, all three Training Generalists have experienced promotions and additional recognition while affording Ms. Keenan's team financial results and workload flexibility it could not have otherwise achieved.

A job enrichment program can be a very effective intervention in some situations where a Performance Technician is faced with a request for motivational training. Ralph Brown (2004) summed it up very nicely:

Job enrichment doesn't work for everyone. Some people are very resistant to more responsibility or to opportunities for personal growth, but…researchers report that some people they expected to resist, seized the opportunity. Enriching jobs is a particularly effective way to develop employees provided the jobs are truly enriched, not just more work for them to do.

References

Brown, R. (n.d.). Design Jobs that motivate and develop people. Retrieved February 14, 2004, from http://www.media-associates.co.nz/fjobdesign.html.

Cunningham, J. B., & Eberle, T. (1990). A guide to job enrichment and redesign. Retrieved February 10, 2004, from http://faculty.washington.edu/~janegf/jeguide.pdf.

Drez, J.(1999). Chapter seven motivation through needs, job design, and satisfaction, slide
20. Retrieved February 14, 2004, from
http://www.siu.edu/departments/cola/psych/psyc323/chat07/index.htm.

Fourman, L.S. & Jones, J. (1997, October). Job enrichment in extension. Journal of Extension, 35, Number 5. Retrieved from http://www.joe.org/joe/1997october/iw1.html.

Kotila, O. (2001). Job enrichment. Retrieved February 8, 2004 from http://academic.emporia.edu/smithwil/001fmg456/eja/kotila456.html.

Leach, D. & Wall, T. (n.d.). What is? Job design. Retrieved February 10, 2004 from http://www.shef.ac.uk/~iwp/publications/whatis/job_design.pdf.

Author Note

 

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