Designing Work – Job characteristics theory
People value both extrinsic and intrinsic rewards. Extrinsic rewards are those that are separate from the task, such as pay, security and promotion. Intrinsic rewards are those that people receive as they do the task itself – using skills, sensing achievement, doing satisfying work. Experts analysed how people did the job and identified the most efficient method, usually breaking the job into many small parts. Such work provided few, if any, intrinsic rewards – and Taylor’s system concentrated on providing clear extrinsic rewards.
Fragmented work is boring to many people, who become dissatisfied, careless and frequently absent. The ideas from Maslow, Herzberg, and McGregor prompted attempts to enable people to satisfy higher-level needs at work, on the assumption that they would work more productively if they could experience intrinsic rewards (motivators in Herzberg’s terms) as well as extrinsic ones (Herzberg’s hygiene factors). Many refer to this as ‘job enrichment.
Extrinsic rewards are valued outcomes or benefits provided by others, such as promotion, a pay increase or a bigger car.
Intrinsic rewards are valued outcomes or benefits that come from the individual, such as feelings of satisfaction, achievement and competence.
Job characteristics theory
Job characteristics theory predicts that the design of a job will affect internal motivation and work outcomes, with the effects being mediated by individual and contextual factors.
Hackman and Oldham (1980) built on these ideas to develop and test empirically an approach to the design of work that focused on characteristics of employees’ jobs. Their aim was to build into jobs the attributes that offer intrinsic motivation, and so encourage effort. Job characteristics theory predicts that the design of a job will affect internal motivation and work outcomes, with the effects being mediated by individual and contextual factors.
The model identifies three psychological states that must be present to achieve high motivation
- Experienced meaningfulness: the degree to which employees perceive their work as valuable and worthwhile. If workers regard a job as trivial and pointless, their motivation will be low. Individuals have to feel that, when they are working, they are doing something meaningful. They feel that their work, in and of itself, is meaningful. This means that they have to feel that what they are doing is generally worthwhile or of value. It should also hold some importance or significance, especially with respect to a system or a set of values that the individual, on a personal level, believes in or accepts.
- Experienced responsibility: how responsible people feel for the quantity and quality of work performed. We are not talking here of just about any type of responsibility. In the context of the JCM, we are speaking of personal responsibility. The individual has to feel personally accountable for the outcomes or results of his work, or the tasks that he is doing.
- Knowledge of results: the number of feedback employees receives about how well they are doing. Those who do not receive feedback will care less about the quality of their performance. It is a given that knowing the results or outcomes of your job will help you track or monitor your effectiveness in your job. It will also help you evaluate your job performance better.
These psychological states are influenced by five job characteristics:
- Skill variety: the extent to which a job uses a range of skills and experience.This refers to the “degree to which a job requires a variety of different activities in carrying out the work, involving the use of a number of different skills and talents of a person”. Therefore, it follows that the individual will be required to develop a variety of talents and skills.This area asks the number of skills and talents that the job requires of the person that will be working on it. A quick giveaway would be to assess whether the job is monotonous and repetitive or if it asks the worker to do a number of different tasks or actions.Compare two individuals working two different jobs. Job A is pretty much elementary, with the tasks being performed in a routine and repetitive manner. It does not demand much skill or ability. Job B, on the other hand, is quite complex, requiring that the worker be in possession of several skills or abilities. Who, between the two workers, will have greater chances of experiencing meaningfulness in their jobs?That’s correct. It’s the one working on Job B, since it requires variety in skills.
- Task identity: whether a job involves a complete operation, with a clear beginning and end.This is the “degree to which the job requires completion of a whole, identifiable piece of work; that is, doing a job from beginning to end with visible outcome”. This involves being able to work on an entire work process, rather than just on bits and pieces of it. Therefore, it is important to assess whether the job or task has a clearly defined beginning, middle and end.Workers tend to find more meaning in their jobs when they can identify a complete and visible outcome at the end of the day, or of a work cycle. Let us say, for example, that two workers are involved in the same work process. Worker A is responsible for only a small part of the work, probably in the first phase. Worker B, on the other hand, is involved throughout the entire process.Between the two, Worker B is more likely to find his job meaningful, because he can see a visible outcome, and he feels more involved in the completion of the process. For him, a job that he is able to complete, from beginning to end, seems more worthwhile, than simply working on Phase 1, then not having a hand on the rest of the process. In fact, he may not even be aware whether the process has been completed or not, because he is focused on his assigned phase of the process.
- Task significance: how much the job matters to colleagues and/or the wider society.ask significance is said to be the “degree to which the job has a substantial impact on the lives of other people, whether those people are in the immediate organization or in the world at large”. The task – and the job – is significant if it can affect other people’s lives. And it should not just be the people within the organization, but even those outside.For many, a job holds more meaning if it can help improve the well-being of other people (not just himself), whether physically, psychologically, or emotionally. Knowing that their job, and their performance thereof, has the capacity to have a positive impact on others will motivate them further to do better.Individuals who put great stock on task significance are very keen on finding out whether the job that they are doing actually matters to other people. For them, meaning comes in the form of recognition by other people.
- Autonomy: how much freedom a person has in deciding how to do the work.This pertains to the “degree to which the job provides substantial freedom, independence, and discretion to the individual in scheduling the work and in determining the procedure to be used in carrying it out”.Autonomy is often seen in positions with managerial, supervisorial and ministerial functions. Examples of jobs with high levels of autonomy are managers, team leaders, supervising officers, division and department heads, and senior management. These jobs tend to become more meaningful to the ones performing them because they feel greater personal responsibility for their own actions on the job.But it’s not just limited to people in managerial positions. Even workers have a strong sense of personal responsibility if they are left to perform their tasks using their own efforts and initiatives, and they are allowed to make the decisions and call the shots.They will definitely feel less of this autonomy if they are made to meekly follow the instructions of a supervisor, or adhere strictly to what a job procedures manual provides. This will not help them feel responsible for their actions at all.
- Feedback: the extent to which a person receives feedback. As much as possible, workers would like to be kept in the loop on their performance of the job. Not only will this keep them apprised of their progress as workers, it is also one way for them to boost their self-esteem. If they are told by their supervisors or managers that they are going a good job, they are likely to feel motivated to continue with how they are doing so far. In contrast, if they are told that they are not performing as expected, then they will respond accordingly and improve their performance.
The extent to which a job contains these elements can be calculated using a tested instrument, and then the scores used to calculate the motivating potential score. The model also shows how to increase the motivating potential of a job, by using one or more of five ‘implementing concepts’:
- Combine tasks: Rather than divide work, staff can combine tasks to use their skills and complete more of the whole task. An order clerk could receive orders from a customer and arrange transport and invoicing instead of other people doing this.
- Form natural workgroups: Instead of a product passing down an assembly line with each worker performing one operation, a group may share the tasks to assemble the whole product.
- Establish customer relations: Instead of doing part of the job for all customers, staff look after all the requirements of some customers, with whom they build closer relationships.
- Vertical loading: Operators could take responsibility for checking the quantity and quality of incoming materials and reporting any problems.
- Open feedback channels: Staff could attend meetings at which customers explain their requirements, and how earlier work has, or has not, met these.
Finally, the Hackman–Oldham model specifies three moderating influences:
- Knowledge and skill – a person’s ability to do the work.
- Growth-need strength – the extent to which an individual desires personal challenges, accomplishment and learning on the job.
- ‘Context’ satisfaction – pay and other conditions.
- Management an Introduction By David Boddy (Publication – Pearson, 7th Edition)