How to Design a New Job
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After the job analysis now comes the next step, the job design. You may already have a good idea about the kind of tasks a new position would handle. That’s a great start.
You have to step back, however, and view the tasks from a broader business context. You may see gaps or extra duties that were not obvious at first. This will provide you with additional insight into the role and help you craft a stronger job design.
At the end of the day, a brief look at the big picture can impact your business’ productivity, efficiency, and output. It can help you create job designs that support the greater good of your employees – and that’s always a win.
Different Approaches to Job Design
In years past, job design mostly focused on better productivity and greater efficiency. Times have changed.
In the 21st century, organizations now work hard to create and motivate a more diverse workforce. For many companies, the focus has shifted to creating and supporting self-managed teams.
This priority shift has caused the ideal job design to evolve beyond its earlier focus. In business, there are three general approaches to job design: Engineering, human, and task. Each design is unique and has its own pros and cons. Your line of business will play a key role in which of the three designs works best for you.
The Engineering Approach to Job Design
Frederick Taylor, a 20th century management theorist, developed the engineering approach to job design. Taylor was one of the first people to study the work process from a scientific perspective. He was a management consultant, author, and champion of industrial efficiency.
In a nutshell, Taylor’s theory focused on pre-planning. He believed that tasks should be pre-planned a day in advance by management. Once a plan had been created, task instructions and deadlines would be given to employees the next day.
During pre-planning, each task is scientifically analyzed and broken into sub-tasks. Each sub-task is then arranged in a logical sequence to maximize efficiency.
And maximize efficiency it did. Due to its focus on defining and refining specific tasks, Taylor’s theory proved revolutionary.
The Human Approach to Job Design
The human approach to job design is employee-centric, not focused on tasks or processes. In practice, this approach allows job design to be influenced by what motivates and enriches employees.
This approach borrows from ideas put forward by Frederick Herzberg. Herzberg was a 20th century psychologist who believed that two factors motivate employees: needs and desires. This “two-factor theory” underpins the human approach to job design.
In this approach, job satisfaction and “bringing out the best” in employees is key. To achieve this, “motivational” and “hygiene” factors are emphasized.
Motivational factors include the nature of a job, its learning curve, and the given amount of responsibility. Additional factors include assistance, achievement, and opportunities for growth.
Hygiene factors are not intrinsic to the work itself, and can include work conditions, salary, supervision and company policy. Workplace relationships also play a role in two-factor analysis.
The Job Characteristics Approach to Job Design
In 1980, Richard Hackman and Greg Oldham presented a new approach to job design. Their belief was that challenging jobs increase motivation, while monotonous jobs suppress it. Hackman and Oldham called their model “the job characteristics theory.”
This approach is built on the idea that the task itself is key to making employees care about their work. A task – and its components – are what influence job satisfaction, absenteeism, and so on.
With this approach, every job has five characteristics:
- 1 – Variety: Doing the same tasks over and over again creates boredom and dissatisfaction. Too much variety can be conflicting, demanding and stressful. Winning at variety means finding a sweet spot.
- 2 – Task Identity: It is more satisfying to identify with a whole and complete work at hand than a small part of it. Employees can take pride in seeing the end results of a project that they helped complete.
- 3 – Task Significance: Tasks viewed as meaningful offer the highest level of satisfaction to employees. These types of tasks are those which impact people, or society as whole, on a positive level. In contrast, tasks that seem meaningless or “faceless” are less satisfying. To make inroads on task significance, make sure employees know the meaning behind their contributions.
- 4 – Autonomy: The ability to make meaningful work related decisions impacts employee performance. Empowered employees often feel a greater sense of responsibility and ownership. This “greater sense” can in turn create a strong motivation to demonstrate skills, creativity, and potential. It also has a positive impact on employee performance.
- 5 – Feedback: Feedback is a win-win for both employees and management. Constructive feedback and guidance from management helps employees learn and improve. Employee feedback can help management understand satisfaction levels and pain-points. These insights can help control turnover and create a more engaged workforce.
Each of these five characteristics, when triggered, impact an individual in three different psychological areas: Experienced meaningfulness, experienced responsibility for outcomes, and knowledge of the results. Careful management of these areas reduces absenteeism and heightens overall satisfaction among employees.
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