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Approaches to Job Design

Four popular approaches to job design are job rotation, job engineering, job enlargement and job enrichment.

Job design approaches has two dimensions: impact and complexity. The impact dimension, on the vertical axis, is the degree to which a job design approach is linked with factors beyond the immediate job, such as reward systems, performance appraisal methods, leadership, customer needs, organization design, working conditions, and team composition and norms. The complexity dimension, on the horizontal axis, is the degree to which a job design approach requires: (i) the involvement of individuals with diverse competencies at various organizational levels; and (ii) high level of decision-making competency for successful implementation.

Job Rotation

Job rotation refers to moving employees from job to job to add variety and reduce boredom by allowing them to perform a variety of tasks. When an activity is no longer challenging, the employee would be to another job at the same level that has similar skill requirements. It reduces boredom and disinterest through diversifying the employee’s activities. Employees with a wider range of skills give the management more flexibility in scheduling work, adapting to changes and filling vacancies.

Job rotation also has its drawbacks. Training costs are increased. Work is disrupted as rotated employees take time to adjust to a new set-up, and it can demotivate intelligent and ambitious trainees who seek specific responsibilities in their chosen specialty. According to Herzberg, job rotation is merely “substituting one zero for another zero”.

Job Engineering

Job engineering focuses on the tasks to be performed, methods to be used, workflows among employees, layout of the workers, performance standards, and interdependence among people and machines. Experts often examine these job design factors by means of time-and-motion studies, determining the time required to do each task and the movements needed to perform it efficiently.

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Specialization of labor is the hallmark of job engineering. High level of specialization is intended to (a) allow employees to team a task rapidly; ( b) permit short work cycles so that performance can be almost automatic and involve little or no mental effort; (c) make hiring easier because low-skilled people can be easily trained and paid relatively low wages; and (d) reduce the need for supervision, using simplified jobs and standardization.

Although job engineering can also create boring jobs, it remains an important job design approach because the resulting cost savings can be measured immediately and easily.

This approach continues to be successfully used, particularly when it is combined with a concern for the social context in which the jobs are performed. Job engineering may be used with success, subject to the following golden rules of work design being ensured:

• The end product/output of the work is clearly defined and fully understood by the employees.

• The steps/tasks to be performed to achieve the required end product/output are clearly defined in the appropriate sequence.

• The employees know and understand where their responsibility starts and finishes in the work process.

• The tools, facilities and information needed to perform the work are readily available and fully understood by the employees.

• There is a process whereby the employees can suggest possible improvements in the work design and exercise initiative in implementing them.

• The employees are involved in the work design process.

Job Enlargement

Job enlargement refers to the expansion of the number of different tasks performed by an employee in a single job. For example, and auto mechanic undergoes job enlargement when he switches from only changing oil to changing oil, greasing and changing transmission fluid. Job enlargement attempts to add somewhat similar tasks to the existing job so that it has more variety and be more interesting.

The job enlargement approach to job design has been criticized as well as appreciated.
An enlarged job can motivate an individual for five reasons:

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(a) Task Variety: Highly fragmented jobs requiring a limited number of unchanging responses tend to be extremely monotonous. Increasing the number of tasks to be performed can reduce the level of boredom.

(b) Meaningful Work Modules: Frequently, jobs are enlarged so that one worker completes a whole unit of work, or at least a major portion of it. This tends to increase satisfaction by allowing workers to appreciate their contribution to the entire project or product.

(c) Ability Utilization: Workers derive greater satisfaction from jobs that utilize their physical and mental skills and abilities better. Enlarged jobs tend to fulfill this condition. However, management must be careful not to enlarge jobs too much, because jobs that require more skills and ability than the worker possesses lead to frustration and present obstacles to task accomplishment. Enlarged jobs with optimal levels of complexity, on the other hand, create tasks that are challenging but attainable.

(d) Worker-paced Control: Job enlargement schemes often move a worker from a machine-paced production line to a job in which the worker paces himself/herself. Workers feel less fatigued and are likely to enjoy their work more if they can vary the rhythm and work at their own pace.

(e) Performance Feedback: Workers performing narrow jobs with short performance cycles repeat the same set of motions endlessly, without a meaningful end point. As a result, it is difficult to count the number of completed performance cycles. Even if they are counted the feedback tends to be meaningless. Enlarged jobs allow for more meaningful feedback and can be particularly motivating if they are linked to evaluation and organizational rewards.

Job Enrichment

First coined by Herzberg in his famous research with motivators and maintenance factors, job enrichment has become a popular concept. It simply means adding a few more motivators to a job to make it more rewarding. To be specific, a job is enriched when the nature of the job is exciting, challenging and creative, or gives the job holder more decision-making, planning and controlling power

According to Herzberg, an enriched job has eight characteristics.

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(a) Direct Feedback: Employees should be able to get immediate knowledge of the results they are achieving. The evaluation of performance can be built into the job or provided by a supervisor.

(b) Client Relationship: An employee who serves a client or customer directly has an enriched job. The client can be outside the firm (such as a mechanic dealing with a car owner) or inside (such as a computer operator executing a job for another department).

(c) New Learning: An enriched job allows its incumbent to feel that he is growing intellectually. An assistant who clips relevant newspaper articles for his or her boss is, therefore, doing an enriched job.

(d) Scheduling own Work: Freedom to schedule one’s own work contributes to enrichment. Deciding when to tackle which assignment is an example of self-scheduling. Employees who perform creative work have more opportunity to schedule their assignments than those who perform routine jobs.

(e) Unique Experience: An enriched job has some unique qualities or features, such as a quality controller visiting a supplier.

(f) Control Over Resources: One approach to job enrichment is for each employee to have control over his or her resources and expenses.

(g) Direct Communication Authority: An enriched job allows the worker to communicate directly with people who use his or her output, such as a quality assurance manager handling a customer’s complaints about quality.

(h) Personal Accountability: An enriched job holds the incumbent responsible for the results. He or she receives praise for good work and blame for poor work.

Job enrichment seeks to improve both task efficiency and human satisfaction by building into people’s jobs, quite specifically, greater scope for personal achievement and recognition, more challenging and responsible work, and more opportunity for individual advancement and growth.

An enriched job will have more responsibility and autonomy (vertical enrichment), more variety of tasks (horizontal enrichment), and more growth opportunities. The employee does more planning and controlling with less supervision but more self-evaluation. In other words, what the supervisor has been doing till now (planning, instructing, controlling and supervising) will now be done by the worker.

About Sonia Kukreja

I am a mother of a lovely kid, and an avid fan technology, computing and management related topics. I hold a degree in MBA from well known management college in India. After completing my post graduation I thought to start a website where I can share management related concepts with rest of the people.