Job design

Application of principles

An approach is advocated in which each situation is considered in relation to certain guiding principles.

Unique solutions are identified, tailored to the needs of both the organization and the individuals concerned, both managers and workers.

Consideration is given to the particular context in which the work is to be undertaken. Economic factors as well as social factors have to be considered. Existing management/ union agreements, custom and practice, the aspirations and motivation of the workers as well as their skills and potential will affect the solutions proposed.

The job design process

In this section we will consider ways in which the design criteria proposed in the previous sections can be employed in the design process.

Attention will be given specifically to the psychological needs of workers and how they may be met. The technical aspects of design in which the normal techniques of industrial engineering and organization and methods are employed will not be considered here.

First Step

The first step in the design process is to specify the design principles to be applied in the particular situation. This first step requires those responsible for the design to form a view about the

  • skills,
  • abilities,
  • needs and
  • motivation of job incumbents.

The simple questionnaire Characteristics of the Typical Employee PDF (available in the PDF version,) can be used to elicit the views held by the members of the design team and help in formulating an acceptable model of human behavior.

The particular results shown could be collected from a project group charged with designing/ redesigning a new/ existing facility in a company. The team could comprise members of management and supervision. At the design stage no operatives had been recruited.

Considerable initial differences will be apparent in the opinions held by members of the team and considerable time will need to be spent in elaboration and debate.

Second Step

The next stage involved completing the questionnaire Ideal Job Characteristics of the Typical Employee (contained in the PDF version of this article.) The result, should be, agreement over the principles to be applied in the design of jobs and work organization in a particular situation.

Earlier we introduced the concept of minimum critical specification of jobs to tasks in the design of group activity. This approach enables the group to make decisions about the methods and organization of work.

Along with this there should be an examination of sources of performance variation in the work system and a questioning of who should be responsible for monitoring and regulating the system.

A process defects analysis can assist in this process. In carrying out this analysis the stages in the process have to be identified initially. Then sources of variances are listed relating to each stage. The relationships of sources of possible variances to problems at later stages in the process can be shown in the matrix form. (Suggested pro forma is contained in the PDF version of this article.)

Process defects analysis can identify the problems introduced in one stage of a work process flow can have an impact on the operations at later stages. Those involved in compiling the analysis chart considerably improve their understanding of the total process. This, however, would be a secondary benefit of the chart.

The main benefit came about through rethinking the allocation of responsibilities and the steps taken to make the process/ system more responsive, thereby reducing losses.

In the design process we have now looked at means for deciding the criteria to be adopted in designing jobs and work organization. We have also seen a method for identifying key decisions in the operation of the work system.

Final Step

Finally, a means for comparing alternative job and work organization designs is presented. This is in the form of a checklist which covers the areas of work content,

  • work organization,
  • working conditions,
  • social opportunities and
  • career opportunities.

The method is illustrated in the Analysis of Job Design and Work Structure proforma, (contained in the PDF version of this article) where an example of an analysis of clerical work is presented. If the work in this section of this organization is expected to change, then the job design / work organization project team would use the analysis proforma.

This would then form the basis of a discussion document for the project team and for consideration of feasible alternatives.

An analysis of the proposed jobs, or those to be redesigned can be carried out, so as to form a basis for discussion with the project team and later consideration of feasible alternatives.

In the Job Profile Design Summary for an invoice clerk ( contained in the PDF version of this article ) career opportunities and work organization were assessed particularly poorly. The work content also scored below average. Jobs being replaced by the new systems could be engineered to offer greater opportunities for job holders in this position.

The design team now has a method for looking at broader aspects of the job beyond those normally considered in financial appraisals. They are in a better position to consider the implications on and for employee motivation of the proposed changes as well as considering other options.

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