Job Design: Definition, Approaches, Techniques

Job DesignJob design means to decide the contents of a job. It fixes the duties and responsibilities of the job, the methods of doing the job and the relationships between the job holder (manager) and his superiors, subordinates, and colleagues.

In simpler term, it refers to what, how much, how many and the order of the tasks for a job.

Job design follows job analysis i.e. it is the next step after job analysis.

It aims at outlining and organizing tasks, duties, and responsibilities into a single unit of work for the achievement of certain objectives. It also outlines the methods and relationships that are essential for the success of a certain job.

Definition of Job Design

Job design refers to the way that a set of tasks, or an entire job, is organized. Job design helps to determine:

  • what tasks are done,
  • how the tasks are done,
  • how many tasks are done and
  • In what order the tasks are done.

Through job design, organizations try to raise productivity levels by offering non­monetary rewards such as greater satisfaction from a sense of personal achievement in meeting the increased challenge and responsibility of one’s work.

The process of putting together various elements to form a job, bearing in mind organizational and individual worker requirements, as well as considerations of health, safety, and ergonomics.

The scientific management approach of F. W. Taylor viewed job design as purely mechanistic, but the later human relations movement rediscovered the importance of workers’ relationship to their work and stressed the importance of job satisfaction.

How can job design help with the organization of work?

Job design principles can address problems such as;

  • work overload,
  • work under load,
  • repetitiveness,
  • limited control over work,
  • isolation,
  • shift work,
  • delays in filling vacant positions,
  • excessive working hours, and
  • limited understanding of the whole job process.

Job design is sometimes considered as a way to help deal with stress in the workplace.

Features of Good Job Design

Good job design accommodates employees’ mental and physical characteristics by paying attention to:

  • muscular energy such as work/rest schedules or pace of work, and
  • mental energy such as boring versus extremely difficult tasks.

Good job design:

  • allows for employee input. Employees should have the option to vary activities according to personal needs, work habits, and the circumstances in the workplace.
  • gives an employee a sense of accomplishment.
  • includes training so the employee knows what tasks to do and how to do them properly.
  • provides good work/rest schedule.
  • allows for an adjustment period for physically demanding jobs.
  • provides feedback to the employees about their performance.
  • minimizes energy expenditure and force requirements.
  • balances static and dynamic work.

Job design is an ongoing process. The goal is to make adjustments as conditions or tasks change within the workplace.

Factors Affecting Job Design

A well-defined job will make the job interesting and satisfying for the employee.

The result is increased performance and productivity. If a job fails to appear compelling or interesting and leads to employee dissatisfaction, it means the job has to be redesigned based upon the feedback from the employees.

Broadly speaking the various factors that affect a job design can be classified under three heads.

They are:

Factors Affecting Job Design

  1. Organizational Factors.
  2. Environmental Factors.
  3. Behavioral Factors.

1. Organizational Factors

Organizational factors that affect job design can be work nature or characteristics, workflow, organizational practices, and ergonomics.

  • Work Nature: There are various elements of a job and job design is required to classify various tasks into a job or a coherent set of jobs. The various tasks may be planning, executing, monitoring, controlling, etc and all these are to be taken into consideration while designing a job.
  • Ergonomics: Ergonomics aims at designing jobs in such a way that the physical abilities and individual traits of employees are taken into consideration so as to ensure efficiency and productivity.
  • Workflow: Product and service type often determines the sequence of a workflow. A balance is required between the various product or service processes and a job design ensures this.
  • Culture: Organizational culture determines the way tasks are carried out at the workplaces. Practices are methods or standards laid out for carrying out a certain task. These practices often affect the job design especially when the practices are not aligned to the interests of the unions.

2. Environmental Factors

Environmental factors affect job design to a considerable extent. These factors include both the internal as well as external factors.

They include factors like employee skills and abilities, their availability, and their socio-economic and cultural prospects.

  • Employee availability and abilities: Employee skills, abilities and time of availability play a crucial role while designing the jobs. The above-mentioned factors of employees who will actually perform the job are taken into consideration. Designing a job that is more demanding and above their skill set will lead to decreased productivity and employee satisfaction.
  • Socioeconomic and cultural expectations: Jobs are nowadays becoming more employee-centered rather than process centered. They are therefore designed keeping the employees into consideration. In addition, the literacy level among the employees is also on the rise. They now demand jobs that are to their liking and competency and which they can perform the best.

3. Behavioral Factors

Behavioral factors or human factors are those that pertain to the human need and that need to be satisfied for ensuring productivity at the workplace.

They include elements like autonomy, diversity, feedback, etc. A brief explanation of them is given below:

  • Autonomy: Employees should work in an open environment rather than one that contains fear. It promotes creativity, independence and leads to increased efficiency.
  • Feedback: Feedback should be an integral part of the work. Each employee should receive proper feedback about his work performance.
  • Diversity: Repetitive jobs often make work monotonous which leads to boredom. A job should carry sufficient diversity and variety so that it remains as interesting with every passing day. Job variety/diversity should be given due importance while designing a job.
  • Use of Skills and abilities: Jobs should be an employee rather than a process centered. Though due emphasis needs to be given to the latter but jobs should be designed in a manner such that an employee is able to make full use of his abilities and perform the job effectively.

Benefits of Job Design

The following are the benefits of good job design:

Employee Input

A good job design enables good job feedback. Employees have the option to various tasks as per their personal and social needs, habits and circumstances in the workplace.

Employee Training

Training is an integral part of job design. Contrary to the philosophy of “leave them alone’ job design lies due emphasis on training people so that are well aware of what their job demands and how it is to be done.

Work / Rest Schedules

Job design offers good work and rest schedule by clearly defining the number of hours an individual has to spend in his/her job.

Adjustments

A good job design allows for adjustments for physically demanding jobs by minimizing the energy spent doing the job and by aligning the manpower requirements for the same.

Job design is a continuous and ever-evolving process that is aimed at helping employees make adjustments with the changes in the workplace. The end goal is reducing dissatisfaction, enhancing motivation and employee engagement at the workplace.

Techniques of Job Design (Describe job design as an organizational tool)

Job enlargement, job enrichment, job rotation, and job simplification are the various techniques used in a job design exercise. A well-designed job will encourage a variety of ’good’ body positions, have reasonable strength requirements, require a reasonable amount of mental activity, and help foster feelings of achievement and self-esteem.

Achieving good job design involves administrative practices that determine what the employee does, for how long, where, and when as well as giving the employees a choice where ever possible.

Techniques of Job Design

  1. Job Simplification.
  2. Job Rotation.
  3. Job Enlargement.
  4. Job Enrichment.
  5. Job Reengineering.

1. Job Simplification

Job is simplified or specialized. The job is broken down into small parts and each part is assigned to an individual.

To be more specific, work simplification is mechanical pacing of work, repetitive work processes, working only on one part of a product, predetermining tools and techniques, restricting interaction amongst employees, few skills requirements.

Work simplification is used when jobs are not specialized.

2. Job Rotation

Job rotation means systematically moving workers from one job to another.

When incumbents become bored with routine jobs, job rotation is an answer to it. Here jobs remain unchanged, but the incumbents shift from one job to another.

On the positive side, it increases the intrinsic reward potential of a job because of the different skills and abilities needed to perform it. Workers become more competent in several jobs, know a variety of jobs and improve the self-image, personal growth.

Further, the worker becomes more valuable to the organization. On the negative side, it may not be much enthusiastic or efficiency may not be more.

Besides jobs may not improve the relationships between task, while activities and objectives remain unchanged. Further training costs also rise and it can also de-motivate intelligent and ambitious trainees who seek specific responsibilities in their chosen specialties.

3. Job Enlargement

Job enlargement means assigning workers additional same-level activities. Job enlargement changes the jobs to include more and/or different tasks. It means expanding the number of tasks or duties assigned to a given job. Job enlargement is naturally opposite to work simplification.

Adding more tasks or duties to a job does not mean that new skills and abilities are needed. There is only horizontal expansion.

It is with the same skills taking additional responsibilities like extending working hours etc. Job enlargement may involve breaking up the existing work system and redesigning a new work system.

4. Job Enrichment

Job enrichment is improvisation of both tasks 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, more autonomy (vertical enrichment), and more variety of tasks (horizontal enrichment) and more growth opportunities. The employee does more planning and controlling with less supervision but more self-evaluation.

5. Job Reengineering

Reengineering means redesigning a business process so that small multidisciplinary self-managing teams get the task done together, all at once. Reengineering identifies the desired outcome of a system or subsystem and restructures jobs and even departments to radically increase performance.

Often this is done by eliminating unneeded steps and clustering related responsibilities into one job or team organized around the process.

Approaches to Job Design

Job design is the next step after job analysis that aims at outlining, and organizing tasks and responsibilities associated with a certain job. It integrates job responsibilities and qualifications or skills that are required to perform the same.

There are various methods or approaches to doing this.

Approaches to Job Design

  1. Human Approach.
  2. Engineering Approach.
  3. Job Characteristics Approach.

The important ones are discussed below;

Human Approach

The human approach of job design laid emphasis on designing a job around the people or employees and not around the organizational processes.

In other words, it recognizes the need for designing jobs that are rewarding (financially and otherwise) and interesting at the same time.

According to this approach, jobs should gratify an individual’s need for recognition, respect, growth, and responsibility. Job enrichment as popularized by Herzberg’s research is one of the ways in the human approach of job design.

Herzberg classified these factors into two categories – the hygiene factors and the motivators.

Engineering Approach

The engineering approach was devised by FW Taylors et al. They introduced the idea of the task that gained prominence in due course of time.

According to this approach, the work or task of each employee is planned by the management a day in advance.

The instructions for the same are sent to each employee describing the tasks to be undertaken in detail. The details include things like what, how and when of the task along with the time deadlines. The approach is based on the application of scientific principles to job design.

Job Characteristics Approach

The job characteristics approach was popularized by Hackman and Oldham. According to this approach, there is a direct relationship between job satisfaction and rewards.

They said that employees will be their productive best and committed when they are rewarded appropriately for their work. They laid down five core dimensions that can be used to describe any job – skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback.

  • Skill variety: The employees must be able to utilize all their skills and develop new skills while dealing with a job.
  • Task Identity: The extent to which an identifiable task or piece of work is required to be done for the completion of the job.
  • Task Significance: How important is the job to the other people, what impact does it create on their lives?
  • Autonomy: Does the job offer freedom and independence to the individual performing the same.
  • Feedback: Is feedback necessary for improving performance.

These are different approaches but all of them point to more or less the same factors that need to be taken into consideration like interest, efficiency, productivity, motivation, etc. All these are crucial to effective job design.

Issues in Job Design

As we know, job design is a systematic organization of job-related tasks, responsibilities, functions, and duties.

It is a continuous process of integration of content related to a job in order to achieve certain objectives. The process plays a vital role as it affects the productivity of employees and organizations.

However, there are a number of existing issues emerged recently while designing jobs in organizations.

Issues in Job Design

  1. Telecommuting / Work from Home.
  2. Job Sharing.
  3. Flexi-Working Hours.
  4. Alternative Work-Patterns.
  5. Techno-stress.
  6. Task Revision.

These are alternative work patterns that are equally effective in handling an organization’s functions.

Telecommuting / Work from Home

Telecommuting or work from home is considered as the best alternative of working from the actual office. The concept of a virtual office is gaining more and more popularity because of the ease and convenience associated with it.

By using computer networks, fax machines, telephones, and an internet connection, employees can communicate and perform the job from home. It eliminates the need of coming to an office every day and offers employees the convenience to work at the comfort of their home.

Though there are lots of advantages associated with this working style it suffers from many limitations.

It allows employees to stay at home and manage their job tasks and functions without actually being present in the office but it doesn’t allow them to communicate with other employees and establishing relationships with them. They only deal with machines the whole day, thus lose creativity.

Moreover, it is a great hindrance in their way as it does not allow skill up gradation.

Job Sharing

It is the second most preferable alternative of traditional working styles where two or more individuals share the responsibilities of a full-time job. They divide the tasks, responsibilities, and compensation according to their mutual consent.

This option is generally used by women who are on maternity leave or have family and kids to look after but want to continue their job. These days, organizations are open to this kind of working style where two or more individuals can share a job.

Flexi-Working Hours

These days, organizations allow their employees to work according to the timings that suit them best. There are 3-4 working schedules and individuals can choose any one of them depending upon their availability. Employees can work in early hours as well as night hours.

This is good for those individuals who have colleges or some other engagements during the day or specific hours of the day. The best part is that unlike telecommuting, flexible timings give them a chance to communicate with other employees too.

Alternative Work-Patterns

Companies these days allow their employees to work on alternate months or seasons. The concept is not that common in India but can be seen in the European and American world of work.

They also have the option of working two to three full days and can relax after that.

According to the latest concept, employees can work for a fixed number of hours and they can attend to their personal needs during the left days.

Techno-stress

Techno-stress is the latest technology to keep a check on employees’ performance even when they choose to work from home. Because of the introduction of new machines, their performance can be electronically monitored even when they are not aware of it.

Task Revision

Task revision is nothing but a modification of existing work design by reducing or adding the new job duties and responsibilities to a specific job.

Considerations to be Made in Job Designing.

Job design involves conscious effects to organize task, duties, and responsibilities into a unit of work to achieve certain objectives. Job design follows job analyses. It is a fundamental organizational process with many implications for human resources management.

Job design is the complex flow of events that established the responsibilities assigned to each member of the organization and the physical circumstances in which each employee carries out those responsibilities.

There are two major components of the responsibilities established through job design.

  1. Job content.
  2. 2) Organization responsibilities.

Job content

job content is the set of activities to be performed on the job, including the duties, tasks and job responsibilities to be carried out; the equipment, machines and the tools to be used and the required interactions with others.

Richard Hackman and Greg & Oldham suggest that job content can be viewed in terms of five core job characteristics:

  • Skill variety: the degree to which a job requires a variety of different activities in carrying out the work, involving the use of a member of different skills and talents of the person.
  • Task identity: the degree to which a job requires completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work that is doing a job from beginning to end with a visible outcome.
  • Task significance: the degree to which the job has a substantial impact on the lives of other people.
  • Autonomy: the degree to which the job provides substantial freedom independence and discretion of the individual in scheduling the work and in determining the procedures to be used.
  • Job feedback: the degree to which carrying out the work activities required by the job provides the individual with direct and clear information about the effectiveness of his or her performance.

Organizational responsibilities

organization responsibilities attached to the job that is the responsibilities relating to the overall organization that each employee is expected to carry out such as complying with rules and work schedules.

Examples are filling out timesheet following safety procedures and adhering to the established schedule of the workday. Physical working condition surrounding the job is important.

Examples of working conditions are the extent to which there is comfortable temperature versus extremes of hot or cold, excellent lighting versus poor lighting or safe condition versus hazardous conditions such working conditions are part of the design of the job.