Job Design: A Practical Guide

You’re looking for a practical guide on job design to drive business decisions or improve your skills, right?

Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Effective job design offers exciting opportunities.

In fact, the introduction of effective job design is crucial for organizational success as companies face new businesses challenges, risks, new ways of working, new personnel, and new opportunities. And, developing your job design skills will help you advance into a wide range of areas.

As a result, it’s no surprise that the demand for job design skills is expected to increase in the years to come.

In simple terms, when you develop your skills to effectively structure jobs, along with your understanding of how companies define jobs, your skills will be in more demand. Whether it is within your existing department, your current organization, a new position, or indeed a new job opportunity in a different company the rewards are endless.

In this post we will explore:

What is job design?

Job design is how a company defines and structures jobs.

In simple terms, job design is the process of structuring jobs to enable a company to both achieve its goals and to introduce jobs that also motivate its employees.

In the past, job design has been viewed as the remit of Human Resources (HR) professionals. However, in more recent years, companies have recognized the considerable value of instructing all categories of staff on how to leverage fundamental job design skills to meet business objectives.

Needless to say, job design is about people, not paperwork.

We’ve put this practical guide together to capture everything just for you.

Explore what you need and extract all the practical tips that you’ll need. Then focus on what matters to you — building an excellent organization and developing your own skills.

What are the advantages of effective job design?

Don’t start from scratch.

Often companies get involved in job design with little real specific awareness of the benefits that can be achieved by the company.

We’re here to share that effective job design achieves very specific advantages. To illustrate:

  • Better job person-fit: Whether you are new to job design, interested in learning about human resource functions, or need to establish more robust job structures, within effective job design employees are allocated job activities based on individual competencies and realistic job requirements. This ensures greater organizational success and a more motivated workforce.
  • Increased performance: Imagine having greater performance, for a lifetime, by simply improving how you approach the structure of jobs! Well, that is exactly what happens when employees and jobs are matched to maximize the resources of the organization.
  • Better use of internal resources: When internal resources are allocated in the most efficient and effective manner they will generate the maximum return for capital investment for the organization.
  • Greater job satisfaction: Whether you are in a management position, HR, or simply new to job design then you will most likely already appreciate that when employees understand and are fully aware of, how their job contributes to the overall objectives of the organization then their work becomes more meaningful to them. And, as a result, the job itself becomes motivating in terms of becoming intrinsically rewarding to the post-holder.
  • Reduced absenteeism and turnover: All up-and-coming professionals, experienced managers, and HR professionals need to be always conscious of and be able to counteract the negative impact of employee absenteeism and turnover. Effective job design targets this area head-on as and employees will be less likely to be absent due to stress or strain-related symptoms. Turnover will also be reduced as employees are allocated to jobs that best suit their skills and competencies.

The four main approaches to job design

Job design isn’t a new business concept and these are four main approaches to job design:

  1. Scientific management.
  2. Job enlargement.
  3. Job enrichment.
  4. Job characteristics theory.

1. Scientific Management

Scientific management is associated with the pioneering work of Fredrick Taylor and emphasizes the productivity of the individual worker. In simple terms, scientific management can be viewed as the search for the most appropriate and standardized method of performing a task within a company.

The key developments in scientific management are:

  1. Introduction of standardized procedures including task completion times.
  2. Introduction of financial incentives to motivate staff.
  3. Ensure full control of employees by supervisors and managers.
  4. Scientific or systematic compilation of information regarding the work tasks to be performed.
  5. Removal of employees’ discretion or control over their own activities.
  6. Task simplification where appropriate.

The advantages of Scientific Management are:

  • Highlighted the need to concentrate on employee performance and production.
  • Introduction of standardized procedures.
  • Job specialization and mass production.

The disadvantages of Scientific Management are:

  • Dehumanization of the workplace environment.
  • Potential for the negative exploitation of employees.
  • Morale and performance can decrease over time.

Job simplification is perhaps the most well-known feature of the scientific management approach.

Think about it. Being able to simplify a job and prevent confusion, anxiety and duplication unlocks considerable opportunities, frees up resources, and is a powerful contributory factor to organizational success.

In fact, job simplification remains an incredibly powerful approach, and lots of companies in the world still utilize variations of this approach in their processes!

Let’s delve a little deeper into some specific examples of job simplication.

  • Mechanical pacing: Great examples of this approach are automated assembly lines that monitor and effectively deliver products.
  • Part product concentration: In this model, a product is broken down into specific parts. Line staff are  then allocated to only produce parts of the overall product.
  • Repetitive work processes: Regardless of your current role whether that be manager, HR professional or line staff, it makes no difference, you will be aware of situations where repetitive tasks have been structured into the design and even the title of jobs.
  • Limited social interaction: A trend in job simplication emphasized the job and in many cases led to employees being discouraged to interact.
  • Low skill requirements: Minimal training is required as a result of job simplication and the decomposition of the task into constituent parts. These tasks are then divided amongst staff.
  • Pre-set tools and techniques: The truth is job simplication can lead to the precise allocation of tools and techniques to facilitate the accomplishment of the task.

2. Job Enlargement

Job enlargement is one of the most well-known ways to increase variety within a job.

Job enlargement involves adding additional activities or tasks within the same level to an existing role. As a result, the person will be required to do additional tasks within an employee’s existing job activity. These additional tasks tend to be similar to those already performed by the employee. For example, an employee may be required to manage her own quality checks that were formerly done by their supervisor.

Job enlargement is also referred to as horizontal job loading given that activities are broadened in a horizontal fashion.

Job enlargement offers some disctinct advantages. These are:

  • Offers new skills and a career paths for employees.
  • Provides more autonomy, authority and responsibility for employees.
  • Can offer more pay and benefits.
  • Reduces boredom by exposing the employee to new activities and skills.

3. Hertzberg’s Principles of Job Enrichment

Job enrichment is a management and business concept that involves redesigning jobs so that they create less repetitive work and are more challenging to the employee. The concept was introduced in 1968 Harvard Business Review article by psychologist Frederick Herzberg called One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?

In the article, Herzberg suggested that job enrichment will improve employee motivation and opportunities for growth. To illustrate, job enrichment will:

  • Remove controls while retaining accountability.
  • Increase individual’s accountability for their own work.
  • Provide employees with a complete unit of work (division, area, task).
  • Provide additional authority to an employee in their work – greater worker freedom.
  • Provide the worker with progress reports rather than through the supervisor, .
  • Develop experts by assigning specific tasks to individuals.
  • Introduce new and more difficult tasks not previously handled to ‘raise the bar’ on performance.

Job enrichment is also referred to as veritical job loading given that activities are broadened in a vertical way. To illustrate, an employee is given additional tasks and variety to their existing job activity. This provides more challenging and responsible work tasks and often additional decision-making authority.

Another example of vertical job loading is in the area of autonomous work groups but where additional tasks and variety are allocated to the group’s job activities rather than the individual employee. This, in turn, ultimately can lead to self-regulating teams that require minimum supervision.

4. Job Characteristics Theory

Job Characteristics Theory (JCT) was developed by Hackman and Oldham proposes that there are five core job characteristics (skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback) which impact three critical psychological states (experienced meaningfulness, experienced responsibility for outcomes, and knowledge of the actual results). The theory continues by suggesting that these states affect job outcomes, including job satisfaction and motivation.

The five core job characteristics are:

  • Skill variety: The extent to which the job requires a range of skills. To many skills can cause overload whereas to few skills can cause boredom and frustration.
  • Task identity: The extent to which the job enables an employee to complete a whole piece of work versus a part of it.
  • Task significance: The extent to which the job has a resultant impact on the lives or activities of other individuals either inside or outside the organization
  • Autonomy: The extent to which the job permits the job holder to exercise choice and discretion in their work activity.
  • Employee Feedback: The extent to which the job itself can provide feedback to the employee on how they are performing. Feedback from other sources (e.g., supervisors, colleagues) will not replace this core job characteristic.

The three critical psychological states are

  • Experienced meaningfulness of the work: Employees perceive the work that they perform as being meaningful and worthwhile.
  • Experienced responsibility for the work outcomes: Personal accountability and responsibility from the employee for the results of their work effort.
  • Knowledge of results of work activity: Employees understand how effectively they perform their job and how this contributes to the overall performance of the organization.

Job design and new working arrangements

Simply put, new work arrangements are fashioned to move away from traditional working day and week schedules. These arrangements are introduced to meet both the needs of the employees and to maximize the needs of the organization.

Below, we explore the advantages and disadvantages of five examples of new work arrangements.

  1. Compressed working weeks
  2. Job-sharing
  3. Flexible working hours
  4. Telecommuting
  5. Career breaks

Compressed working week
In this situation, employees work a full working week in fewer days than the traditional five days

The advantages of a compressed working week are:

  • Increased pperational hours for the organization.
  • Greater scheduling flexibility.
  • Cross training benefits – variety, experience, and succession planning.

The primary disadvantage of a compressed working week is that it may cause increased fatigue due to long hours over a shorter time frame.

Here, two or more part-time employees share one job full-time

The advantages of job sharing are:

  • Facilitates employees who for personal reasons may wish to work only part-time.
  • Demonstrates that the organization recognizes and respects work-life balance issues.

The disadvantages of job sharing are:

  • Part-time arrangements may not guarantee continued performance.
  • Administratively difficult to arrange times that match all employees involved.
  • May cause the perception that these positions will be made redundant in the future.

Flexible working hours
Flexible working hours are an arrangement where employees work a full day but they can choose to vary their working hours. As a result, employees are given more control over the hours that they work each day. And, each workday is divided into:

  • Core Time – All employees must be working.
  • Flexible Time – Employees can choose whether they work during this time so long as their total working time matches that contracted with the organization.

The advantages of flexible working hours are:

  • Greater flexibility.
  • Increased variety.
  • More employee ownership for scheduling work tasks.

The disadvantages of flexible working hours are:

  • Employees not always present and available.
  • Can be open to abuse if not properly managed.

This is a work arrangement in which employees spend part of their time working off-site including a home arrangement.

The advantages of telecommuting are:

  • Increased productivity.
  • Reduced absenteeism and turnover.
  • Reduced stress.
  • Lower costs to the employee e.g., commute time and expenses.

The advantages of telecommuting are:

  • ‘Out-of-sight, out-of-mind’ mentality develops.
  • Employee may feel isolated from the organization and their work-group.
  • Initial set-up costs.

Career Breaks
Career breaks are arrangements where employees take a break from a job for a specific time frame. And, employment at the same level or grade is guaranteed on their return.

The advantages of career breaks are:

  • Retention of skilled employees who may just need to take a short break for personal reasons.
  • Reduced stress and absenteeism levels.
  • Lower recruitment and selection costs for replacing employees who would have left the organization without the scheme.

The disadvantages of career breaks are:

  • Communication channels need to be formalized during the career break to ensure that the employee is kept informed of any organizational changes.
  • High training may be required to ensure that the employee can still perform the job following a long break.

How to introduce alternative working arrangements

Alternative working arrangements are arguably one of the best-known ways to offer innovation in job design for a company. In this final section, we introduce four key steps that you can use to introduce these arrangements.

  1. Develop a pilot program to test the introduction of the program.
  2. Determine how long the pilot will be in operation.
  3. Set clear criteria on how the success of the program will be measured.
  4. Should the arrangement be considered a success, determine whether it will be continued in the same way or to what modifications will be required.

Who needs effective job design skills?

  • Senior management that wants to strengthen their relationships with staff.
  • Managers, supervisors, and team leaders need job design skills to lead, manage and motivate their teams.
  • Administrative, support staff, and line staff that need job design skills to maximize their engagement and participation within the organization.
  • HR professionals need job design skills to meet the needs of the departments that they support.
  • Project managers need job design skills to create more engagement and collaboration with their teams.
  • Organizational development professionals need job design skills to secure relationships and participation from all functions within the organization.
  • Consultants and independent contractors who are being asked to play a role in organizational initiatives.

Get training material to deliver your own training courses on job design skills

You can download and use this off-the-shelf and customizable training material to instruct your learners on job design.

This training will instruct your learners on the basic principles and uses of job design within the workplace. By examining fundamental principles, key terminology, and current methods for completing a job design, learners will learn the role of job design to deliver increased value to both customers and staff inside an organization. Learners will also discover the major approaches to job design and the main advantages and disadvantages of each approach.

What You Get

  • A 61 Page Participant Manual
  • 85 Customizable PowerPoint Slides
  • Training Games And Training Icebreakers
  • A Course Advertorial
  • Eight Pre-written Expert Training Guides
  • Customizable Exercises And Tests
  • Further Reading Lists

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