The present paper uses a large representative data set for Germany to analyze the effect of an enriched job design, which is characterized by a high degree of autonomy and multitasking, on job satisfaction. In our empirical approach we take job satisfaction as a proxy variable for workers' utility following the approach suggested in Clark/Oswald (1996). We present clear evidence that modern job design increases job satisfaction independent of worker characteristics and variations in the definition of enriched job design. We find some tentative evidence for the impact of the job design/employee-match on job satisfaction. In particular, workers whose observable characteristics match the requirements of enriched workplaces report higher job satisfaction than workers who were mis-matched to enriched workplaces.
Key words: Human Resource Management practices, job satisfaction, job design, SOEP, autonomy, multitasking (JEL: J2, J28, M5, M54)
Back in 2001 an OECD report emphasizes the fact that the increasing adoption of new technologies at the workplace goes along with the introduction of new workplace practices such as teamwork, job rotation schemes, employee involvement and flatter management (OECD, 2001). The statement was supported by a graph, showing that the countries with the highest expenditures for information and computer technology (ICT) as a percent of GDP in 1 996 like Sweden, United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark, have the highest incidence of new work practices (OECD, 2001, figure 6). Since then the share of ICT intensive occupations on total employment stabilized on a level of about 20 percent in Europe, the United States, Canada and Australia (OECD 2010). While ICT adoption should lead to the productivity enhancement of the workplace and Human Resource Management (HRM) practices are meant to facilitate this process the question arises whether the introduction of new workplace practices do have a direct productivity effect. In this spirit, Richard Peccei describes the link between Human Resource Management (HRM) and the value development of a company as the Holy Grail of the Human Resource Management research. Within that research, Peccei identifies the investigation of the influence of HRM practices on the satisfaction of the worker as a strongly neglected aspect (Peccei, 2004: 2).
While high job satisfaction is associated with higher job performance (Judge et al., 2001), low job satisfaction correlates with a higher probability of quitting (Clark et al., 1998), higher absenteeism (Drago & Wooden, 1992) and lower productivity (Mangione & Quinn 1975).
The impact of modern workplace practices on job satisfaction is antithetic even from the seminal literature on the topic. It is one of the basic assumptions of the Job Characteristics Model of Work Motivation QCM) by Hackman and Oldham (1976, 1980), Kelly (1982) and Poliert (1991) that there are different reasons that employees could prefer classic organized jobs with a low degree of autonomy and a more tayloristic job design.
In the present paper we examine the effect of two important HRM practices on the job satisfaction of workers: the extension of a workplace in the vertical dimension with a higher degree of autonomy and the enhancement of a workplace in the horizontal dimension with a higher degree of multitasking. The presence of both characteristics on a workplace is designated as an enriched job design in comparison with the classic job design, where both characteristics are not given. The analysis of the effects of an enriched job design on the job satisfaction follows the economic approach of Clark and Oswald (1996) where job satisfaction is modeled as a proxy variable for workers' utility. By focusing on job satisfaction as an outcome variable we complement other approaches which relate job enrichment to other employee outcomes (Berlinger et al., 1988).
Despite the broad literature on empirical job design research surveyed in Parker and Wall (1998) and Guest (2002) there are only few studies which have explored the relation between modern workplace practices and job satisfaction with larger multifirm data sets. …