Job design (also referred to as work design or task design) is the specification of contents, methods and relationship of jobs in order to satisfy technological and organizational requirements as well as the social and personal requirements of the job holder. Its principles are geared towards how the nature of a person’s job affects their attitudes and behavior at work, particularly relating to characteristics such as skill variety and autonomy. The aim of a job design is to improve job satisfaction, to improve through-put, to improve quality and to reduce employee problems (e.g., grievances, absenteeism).
JOB CHARACTERISTIC THEORY
The job characteristic theory proposed by Hackman & Oldham (1976) stated that work should be designed to have five core job characteristics, which engender three critical psychological states in individuals—experiencing meaning, feeling responsible for outcomes, and understanding the results of their efforts. In turn, these psychological states were proposed to enhance employees’ intrinsic motivation, job satisfaction, quality of work and performance, while reducing turnover.
Core Job Dimensions
Skill variety – This refers to the range of skills and activities necessary to complete the job. The more a person is required to use a wide variety of skills, the more satisfying the job is likely to be.
Task identity – This dimension measures the degree to which the job requires completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work. Employees who are involved in an activity from start to finish are usually more satisfied.
Task significance – This looks at the impact and influence of a job. Jobs are more satisfying if people believe that they make a difference, and are adding real value to colleagues, the organization, or the larger community.
Autonomy – This describes the amount of individual choice and discretion involved in a job. More autonomy leads to more satisfaction. For instance, a job is likely to be more satisfying if people are involved in making decisions, instead of simply being told what to do.
Feedback – This dimension measures the amount of information an employee receives about his or her performance, and the extent to which he or she can see the impact of the work. The more people are told about their performance, the more interested they will be in doing a good job. So, sharing production figures, customer satisfaction scores etc. can increase the feedback levels.
TECHNIQUES OF JOB DESIGN
a) Job Rotation
Job rotation is a job design method which is able to enhance motivation, develop workers’ outlook, increase productivity, improve the organization’s performance on various levels by its multi-skilled workers, and provides new opportunities to improve the attitude, thought, capabilities and skills of workers. Job rotation is also process by which employees laterally mobilize and serve their tasks in different organizational levels; when an individual experiences different posts and responsibilities in an organization, ability increases to evaluate his capabilities in the organization.
b) Job Enlargement
Hulin and Blood (1968) define Job enlargement as the process of allowing individual workers to determine their own pace (within limits), to serve as their own inspectors by giving them responsibility for quality control, to repair their own mistakes, to be responsible for their own machine set-up and repair, and to attain choice of method. Frederick Herzberg referred to the addition of interrelated tasks as ‘horizontal job loading’.
c) Job Enrichment
Job enrichment increases the employees’ autonomy over the planning and execution of their own work. Job enrichment has the same motivational advantages of job enlargement, however it has the added benefit of granting workers autonomy. Frederick Herzberg viewed job enrichment as ‘vertical job loading’ because it also includes tasks formerly performed by someone at a higher level where planning and control are involved.
d) Scientific Management
Under scientific management people would be directed by reason and the problems of industrial unrest would be appropriately (i.e., scientifically) addressed. This philosophy is oriented toward the maximum gains possible to employees. Managers would guarantee that their subordinates would have access to the maximum of economic gains by means of rationalized processes. Organizations were portrayed as rationalized sites, designed and managed according to a rule of rationality imported from the world of technique.
e) Human Relations School
The Human Relations School takes the view that businesses are social systems in which psychological and emotional factors have a significant influence on productivity. The common elements in human relations theory are the beliefs that
Performance can be improved by good human relations
Managers should consult employees in matters that affect staff
Leaders should be democratic rather than authoritarian
Employees are motivated by social and psychological rewards and are not just “economic animals”
The work group plays an important part in influencing performance
f) Socio-technical Systems
Socio-technical systems aims on jointly optimizing the operation of the social and technical system; the good or service would then be efficiently produced and psychological needs of the workers fulfilled. Embedded in Socio-technical Systems are motivational assumptions, such as intrinsic and extrinsic rewards.
g) Work Reform
Work reform states about the workplace relation and the changes made which are more suitable to management and employee to encourage increased workforce participation.
h) Motivational Work Design
The psychological literature on employee motivation contains considerable evidence that job design can influence satisfaction, motivation and job performance. It influences them primarily because it affects the relationship between the employee’s expectancy that increased performance will lead to rewards and the preference of different rewards for the individual.
Hackman and Oldman developed the theory that a workplace can be redesigned to greater improve their core job characteristics. Their overall concept consists of:
Making larger work units by combining smaller, more specialized tasks.
Mandating worker(s) to be responsible via having direct contact with clients.
Having employee evaluations done frequently in order to provide feedback for learning.
Allowing workers to be responsible for their job by giving them authority and control.
We can say that the that assembly-line workers are fairly highly involved in the work, even through they have little autonomy….Thomas M. Lodah
There are two basics ways in which work is organized. The first related to the flow of authority and is known as organization structure or merely organization. The second relates to flow of work itself from one operation to another and is known as procedure. Synonyms are method, system, and work flow. Alert managers usually recognize the behavioural aspects of organization structure because of the superior-subordinate relationship which it establishes, but more often than not they ignore or overlook the behavioural aspects of work flow. The reason that work flow and the lay out over which it flows are engineering factors, which are to be distinguished from human factors. In the usual case however, work flow has many behavioural aspects because it sent people interaction as they perform their work.
One of management’s most fundamental idea is systems and method improvement, by which it seeks to make optimum use of division of labour, and specialization and to achieve order and balance in the performance of work. However, as indicated in the quotation, workers do not lie to be “engineered” in methods improvement. They perceive that improvement is measure in technical terms and that the human dissatisfaction caused by the “improvement” are generally overlooked. The goal of methods improvement is greater productivity, but sometimes it brings human compilations which reduce effectiveness and offset the technical advantages gained.
This part discusses different aspects of work methods. Emphasis is upon the flow of work among people, rather than the personal work methods of an isolated individual.
EFFECTS OF WORK FLOW ON PEOPLE
a) Initiation of Action. One important aspect of work flow is that it determines who will “initiate” an activity and who will “receive” it. At each point in the flow of work one person gives material to the next person who will work on it. Along the way, staff experts give ideas and instruction. This process of sending work to another is an initiation of action on another person. When an initiation results from work flow, it is called a procedural initiation to distinguish it from an authority initiation, which comes from formal authority of an informal organization. The receiver of any initiation is psychological secondary, but the receiver of a procedural initiation is especially so because he may receive from a worker who is neither his supervisor nor an informal leader – from someone who “just shouldn’t be pushing him around.”
When procedural initiation comes from someone of distinctly less skill, someone much younger, or someone inferior by any measure of status, human problems can become serious. These problems tend to be compounded if any relationship involves pressure on the receiver, as in the following example from Whyte’s study of restaurants.
Large restaurants sometimes use young boys as runners to communicate the needs of the serving pantry to the kitchen. This place the runner in the position of “telling” the cooks to prepare and send particular types of food. The result is that a young boy imitates action on high-status cooks. In essence, he is telling them what to do. Whyte found that this relationship was typically a trouble spot in the restaurants he studied. Cooks resented the control exercised on them by young boys of inferior status.
Practical solutions included,
using a mechanical voice system which eliminated face-to-face contact, and
changing the initiator to someone of more status.
Further problems tend to arise when a procedural initiation affects “sensitive” areas such as how much work a man does (e.g., time study) and his conclusion that procedural initiations which are from low-status to high-status person, place heavy pressures on the receiver, or affect sensitive parts of the receiver’s work tend to be trouble spots. Management’s responsibility is to discover these situations in its work processes and, if they cannot be avoided to plan them carefully.
Procedural, authority, and informal initiation of action come from person however, not all work imitations are identifiable as coming directly from some wherein people respond t cues implicit in the operation situation. For example, a ceramic glaze has finished its baking cycle and the operator acts to remove it from the furnace, or the cellophane ribbon creases on cellophane machines and men act as a team to correct it. In this instance, one cannot determine who initiates an event because it arises from the work itself. This kind of initiation not identifiable with persons is called a situational interactions. There is some evidence that persons get satisfaction from working in harmony with situational initiations and that teams have better moral when their teamwork primarily involves situational initiations instead of personal ones. The reasons appears to be what workers are less likely to resent and feel subordinate the impersonal requirements of the work itself.
b) Systems Design for better Teamwork. Another important aspect of work procedure is that it should permit people to work together as a team whenever the work flow requires it. Teamwork can be engineered out of a work situation by means of layouts and job assignments which separate people so that it is impractical for them to work together, even though the work flow requirement teamwork. In one instance two operators, functionally interdependent, was unnecessarily on separate shifts, which prevented the operator fed parts to two spiral lines which were in competition, and each line regularly claimed that is favored the other. In another situation the operator of a continuous bottle forming machine was so far separated from the first inspection station on this line that he could never be sure whether his machine was producing satisfactory quality. The problem was met by continuously reporting inspection result from the inspector to an information panel in front of the operator.
The evidence is clear that work systems and layout have a substantial effect on human behaviour. They do this by:
Determining who initiates procedural action on whom, and some of the conditions in which the initiations occurs.
Influencing the degree to which employees performing interdependent functionscan work together as a team.
Affecting the communication patterns of employees.
The general conclusion for management is that relationships among workers in a system can be just as important as relationships of the work in that system. In the design of any system it is folly to spend all time planning work relationships but ignoring worker relationships
c) Control of Red Tape. One aspect of procedure which is universally known as respected for its effect on people is red tape. It is the unnecessary procedure which delays and harasses people everywhere. The term originated from real red tape used to tie official government documents, many of which having long been challenged as unnecessary by those who prepare them. No doubt some of the work in government and in business as well is true red tape, but some is in reality “fictions red tape.” It exists when those who perform the procedure do not know why they are doing it. They, consequently, think it is red tape, but from a broader viewpoint the work is both necessary and worthwhile. The remedy for fictitious red tape is improved communication and development of a broader perspective among those who perform the work.
Genuine red tape arises primarily because (1) managers are afraid to delegate and consequently set up all sorts of unnecessary approvals and checks, and (2) procedures, even through once useful, tend to persist long after their usefulness has passed. The first reason can be eliminated through good leadership and second reason deserves further attention at this point.
One cause of the “stickiness” of red tape is normal resistance to change. A procedure tends to become a habit, and people resist changing it. Since it as, in a sense, set up to eliminate thinking by giving its followers a routine to use without having to decide each step, they-seldom think about changing it. They get “stuck in a rut.” Another cause of useless procedure is that it is often determined by a higher authority who does not understand work problems, but his personnel hesitate to challenge the procedure because they did not participate in establishing it. In other cases, people do not know why they are performing a procedure; consequently they cannot know whether it is useless or not, and they do not date to expose their “ignorance” by questioning a procedure with their boss may be able to prove essential beyond a shadow of a doubt. People do not like to get caught not knowing something about their work.
Another reason for useless procedures is that most of them cross lines of authority, jumping from one chain of command else worry about. “they know about this procedure, too – and it originates with them – so let them change it.” An additional reason why procedures tend to outlive their usefulness is that the persons who created them are often supervisors all out of proportion to their real significance. Very often he focuses extremes attention on one or two of them. They become an obsession with him and this condition is known as obsessive thinking.
Where conditions permit obsessive thinking and the conditions cannot be changed, employee effectiveness is increased through the use of activities which occupy the mind and crowd out obsessive thinking. The more a worker’s mind is kept busy, the less should be his obsessive thinking. This is one reason management provides music in routine and monotonous situations. For this same reason management permits – even encourages – talking across the aisle or workbench. Contests and recreational programs are other activities which occupy the mind, drive out obsessive thinking, and provide additional group solidarity.
In order to escape some of the human effects of poorly designed systems more companies are insisting that their systems experts and industrial engineers have human relations training. Where the stakes are high, even more stringent requirements may be set. One company which employed many persons with advanced degrees in its offices and in small lot of production established the policy of having all job design and systems work performed by a team of two men. On each team one person was an industrial engineer concerned with technical requirements, and the other was a human relations specialist dealing with human aspects of the work.
DIFFERENT WORK SYSTEMS
The way in which work is organized leads to different work systems. The following systems will be discussed because of their significant influence on employee behaviour: produced and functional work systems, labor pools, and assembly lines.
From the social point of view, we need to design systems which are as appropriate for people as possible, considering economic and other factors the situation. Regardless of what kind of system is developed, workers and their supervisors will try to adjust to it. In nearly all cases they will adjust reasonable well, because people have a remarkable sense of adaptability. Following is a example of employee adaptability.
An air-conditioning manufacturer required his three final assembly departments to complete a specific daily quota of air conditioners. Supervisors soon learned that the ordinary uncertainties of production caused them to produce over their quota on some days and under their quota on other days. However, management was quite insistent that they must meet the quota every day that shipping schedules could be met. In response to this system established by management, each of the supervisors began his own, “system.” Each started keeping a store of ten to fifty “almost-finished” air conditioners under starpaulin in his department. When he saw that he was running short for the day, he took from this store a nearly finished air conditioner and ran it through final assembly steps in order to meet his standard of 7 air conditioners for each eight hours day. Then, when he produced over the standard on another day, he worked some of his production back into the store.
If a supervisor had a series of bad days, the other supervisors lent to him from their stores, if necessary, or they lent him a man from their group to help him catch up. In this way, management’s needs for a standard output were met and supervisors’ needs for acceptance by management were met.
a) Product and Functional Work Systems. Two somewhat opposing work systems are product and functional organization of work. Manufacturing affords an interesting example. The product system is organized around a complete product to be made. The functional system is organized on the basis of specialized work activities rather than products.
b) Labour Pools : Labour pools (central labour pool of skilled, versatile men to be sent to other departments to replace persons absent) are also a special way of organizing work. Depending upon their objectives and manner of organization, different relationships develop.
c) Assembly Lines : Assembly lines are a type of product work system, because work is organized and simplified in terms of the product manufactured. An assembly line is based on the following concepts: (1) standardization (2) inter changeability of parts, (3) breakdown of jobs into simple motions, (4) an orderly progression of the product through a series of operations, and (5) mechanical movement of the product to and from workers.