Job design

Selection criteria

In the previous sections we have examined alternative approaches to designing jobs and work organization. We have identified limitations in these approaches.

However, we have also seen the principles underlying the several approaches.

This section brings together principles which seem to have relevance in the design of any job and work organization. This will be followed by suggestions as to how these principles may be applied in the design process.

Suitable jobs

Attributes of jobs which contribute to the motivation of employees and can be translated into principles for the design of jobs as follows: an optimum level of variety;

  • an appropriate degree of repetitiveness;
  • an appropriate degree of attention with accompanying mental absorption;
  • an optimum level of responsibility for decisions and degree of discretion present;
  • employee's control over their own job;
  • the presence of goals and achievement feedback;
  • perceived contribution to a socially useful product or service;
  • opportunities for developing friendships;
  • where dependent upon others for task achievement some influence over the way the work is carried out;
  • perceived skill utilization.

Focus on Work Groups

The preceding criteria can be used to assess any individual job; however, as we saw earlier, it may be more appropriate to focus attention on the design of the work group and its activities rather than the design of each individual job. Membership of the work group can have certain positive benefits for the individual. These extend beyond the obvious aspect of social opportunities to include the mutual help and support which is available, and the wider range of skills and responsibilities which are often demanded of all members.

In designing the work group activity one of the basic principles is that of 'minimum critical specification' of the tasks and the 'minimum critical specification of tasks to jobs. Specification of objectives remains essential but the means for obtaining them in many instances can be decided by the task performer.

This approach should result in a greater degree of flexibility for individual job holders within the work system and allow for their personal development through increased involvement in decision-making relating to the control and regulation of the work system.

Suggested guiding principles for the design of work group activity include:

  • Primary work groups should have between four and twenty members.
  • The primary work group should have a designated leader who is accountable for the group's performance.
  • The group should be assigned tasks which make up a complete unit of work.
  • Wherever possible the group members should have responsibility for planning their own work.
  • Group members should then be involved in evaluating their performance in relation to the plans.

In designing the work system it will often be the case that some overriding factor limits the application of all these principles. Nevertheless they can form the basis for questioning the assumptions being made in the design process and lead to discussion about the possible consequences of ignoring them.

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