Job Design

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Contributed by: Munadil Shafat

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Job Characteristic Model (Hackman, Oldman)

What is Job Design? Meaning.

In Human Resource Management, Job Design (JD) is the process or activity of specifying the contents, methods and relationship of jobs in order to satisfy the technological and organizational requirements as well as the social and personal requirements of the job holder (the employee).

History and Background of Job Design

Its principles are geared towards how the nature of a person's job affects their attitudes and behavior at work, particularly relating to certain characteristics including skill variety and autonomy. In other words, the aims of JD are to improve job satisfaction, through-put and quality and to reduce employee problems (e.g., grievances, absenteeism). It is also referred to as "Work Design" or "Task Design".

In 1980, organizational psychologists Hackman and Oldham, in their book "Work redesign" proposed a "Job Characteristics Model". According to them, "JD has an effect on motivation, work performance, and job satisfaction".

5 Job Characteristics

Their model identified 5 core job characteristics that trigger 3 psychological states which in turn help achieve those positive outcomes. In short the 5 core job characteristics are as follows:

  1. SKILL VARIETY: The degree to which the job requires an employee use different skill set.
  2. TASK IDENTITY: The degree to which the job contribute to complete a whole process / produce a product or identifiable pieces of a product/service.
  3. TASK SIGNIFICANCE: The degree to which one's job has substantial impact on the life/work of others.
  4. AUTONOMY: The degree to which job gives freedom to take independent decision about time schedule, work procedure etc.
  5. FEEDBACK: The degree to which one gets timely information about the quantity and quality of his work being done.

3 Critical Psychological States

An enriched job with the above 5 characteristics will prompt the following 3 psychological states:

  1. Experience Meaningfulness of the Work: The degree to which the job is meaningful, valuable and worthwhile. (Resulted from the combination of Skill variety, Task identity and Task significance)
  2. Experience Responsibility of the Outcomes of the Work: The degree to which an employee feels accountable for the end results of his/her work. (Resulted from Autonomy)
  3. Knowledge of the Actual Results: The degree to which an employee knows how effectively he/she is performing the job. (Resulted from Feedback)

The model postulates that an individual experiences positive affect to the extent that he learns (knowledge of results) that he personally (experienced responsibility) has performed well on a task that he cares about (experienced meaningfulness)

3 Moderators

According to job characteristics theory, the higher a job scores in these 5 job characteristics, the more likely the job holder will experience the 3 psychological states mentioned. But individual differences moderates the level of impact of the job characteristics over the psychological states. In essence, they identified 3 moderators i.e.

  1. Knowledge and Skills (Knowledge, Skills, Abilities)
  2. Growth Need Strength (Growth Mindset), and
  3. Context Satisfaction (The overall working conditions comprised with supervisor, subordinates, peers, but also objective matters such as compensation, company policy, job security etc.) that regulates the behavior of the model.

Motivating Potential Score (MPS)

The model was tested using data obtained from 658 employees working on 62 different jobs in seven organizations. It can also be used to assess the Motivating Potential Score (MPS) of particular jobs. MPS is an index based on the following formula:

MPS = {(Skill variety + Task identity + Task significance) / 3 } * Autonomy * Feedback

Jobs that score low on MPS should be redesigned and the jobs with high MPS are expected to give the following positive outcomes for the employees concerned:

  • High motivation
  • High performance
  • High satisfaction

Sources: Hackman, J.Richard; Oldham, Greg R. (1976), "Motivation through the design of work: test of a theory", Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 16(2): pp. 250279.

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