Job Design

By Roberto Encarnación


Introduction

Organization is the strength of any business. The more organized and efficient the different components in the business are, the better it functions and produces. Breaking down tasks associated with each component in the system has led to the concept of job design. Job design came about with rapid technological advancements at the turn of the 20th century when mass production and assembly line operations emerged. As jobs continue to become more sophisticated and specialized, the need for an educated and motivated workforce has become indispensable.

Job Design

The main purpose of job design (or re-design) is to increase both employee motivation and productivity (Rush, 1971). Increased productivity can manifest itself in various forms. For example, the focus can be that of improving quality and quantity of goods and services, reduce operation costs, and/or reduce turnover and training costs.

On the other hand, increasing employees' motivation can be achieved through increased job satisfaction. To this end, the Two-Hygiene Theory by Herzberg (1971, as cited in Rush) describes two sets of factors, satisfying and dissatisfying, that affect an employee's self-esteem and opportunity for self-actualization in the workplace (See Table 1).

Herzberg (1966) made a critical distinction between these factors in that a person does not move in a continuum from being dissatisfied to becoming satisfied or vice versa. Rush (1971, p. 7) tries to explain Herzberg's point by stating that, "the opposite of satisfaction is not dissatisfaction, but no satisfaction; and that the opposite of dissatisfaction is not satisfaction but no dissatisfaction". In a practical sense, this means that dissatisfying factors help support and maintain the structure of the job, while the satisfying factors help the employee reach self-actualization and can increase motivation to continue to do the job.

Methods of Job Design

The performance technologist has at his or her disposal four methods of job design. The first, job enlargement, can be used to increase motivation by giving employee's more and varied tasks. Tasks that reduce the amount of specialization required by the employee, as well as, extending the length of time he or she has to complete them. The second, job rotation, allows an employee to work in different departments or jobs in an organization to gain better insight into operations. This, in itself, does not modify or redesigns the employee's job, but allows the opportunity to increase his/her skills and knowledge about other jobs.

Job enrichment, the third method, allows the employee to take on some responsibilities normally delegated to management. The risk here is that the employee would be transferred too much responsibility and autonomy in the planning and control aspects of the job. Done right, however, the newfound control would invigorate the employee to work more effectively. Lastly, work simplification is the analysis of a job's most basic components to restructure or redesign them to make the job more efficient.

Robertson and Smith (1985) recommend the following strategy for analyzing existing jobs:

Step one: Review the literature and other extant data (training manual, old job descriptions, etc.),

Step two: Ask immediate managers about responsibilities and tasks required to do the job well,

Step three: Ask similar questions to the current employee doing the job,

Step Four: Observe an employee who does the job well,

Step Five: Try to do the job yourself, careful to not attempt jobs that are very dangerous and that are done by employees with prolonged experience, and

Step Six: Write a job description detailing all your findings.

Additional aspects to consider when analyzing and (re)designing a job are the policies, incentives, and feedback that inevitably affect the efficiency and motivation of the employee responsible to the job.

In The Field

Brock Allen, Ph D., director for the Center of Teaching and Learning at San Diego State University (SDSU), places job-design analysis in an educational context. If the analysis is done to better understand the responsibilities of professors as teachers (and not as researchers, for example), he suggests asking questions such as: How do professors 1) understand their job description? 2) manage a course? and 3) become and are held accountable for student learning?

The first question, steps one and three in Robertson and Smith's list, seeks to understand if there is alignment between the job description and what professors are actually doing. Question two, steps two and three, can be addressed to both managers and professors to determine the different methodologies and strategies that are used to teach effectively. The last question, steps one and two, is asked to try and compare how the extant literature, in this case-teaching standards, and the managers help identify indicators of effective teaching.

From the K-12 perspective, David Honda, Math Administrator at Marshall Middle School in the San Diego City Schools (SDSU) district, discusses how incentives play a role in teacher motivation. For example, the district awards teachers at the end of the year for having perfect attendance with a bonus, which does not seem to be tied to awarding teachers for their effectiveness or quality of teaching. Another incentive, one that does tie into teacher effectiveness, is that of offering courses for teachers to learn new teaching strategies, as well as, earn credit to be used toward moving up on the pay scale. Overall, he agrees, most teachers enter the profession for idealistic reasons and tend to be highly motivated to do exceptionally well once they are in the classroom.

Conclusion

Job design serves to improve performance and motivation. Job-design analysis starts by looking at a job with a broad perspective and swiftly moves toward identifying the specific activities required to do the job. This is done for the purpose of identifying and correcting any deficiencies that affect performance and motivation.

References

Herzberg, F. (1966). Work and the nature of man. Cleveland: World Publishing Co.

Robertson, I. & Smith, M. (1985). Motivation and job design: Theory, research, and practice. St. Paul: West Publishing Co.

Rush, H. (1971). Job design for motivation: Experiments in job enlargement and job enrichment. New York: The Conference Board.

Author Note

 

Back to top | Back to Menu