New Developments in Job Design

By Baytos, Kimberly; Kleiner, Brian H. | Business Credit, February 1995 | Go to article overview

New Developments in Job Design


Baytos, Kimberly, Kleiner, Brian H., Business Credit


As advanced manufacturing technology continues to reshape the environment in which manufacturing takes place, job design becomes increasingly critical as current jobs become modified or with the creation of new jobs. Previously, specialization and routinization of jobs were perceived as essential for efficiency and productivity. However, with the advent of integrated manufacturing and the job characteristics model, this approach is viewed as unnecessary and possibly counter-productive. The emphasis is now on job satisfaction and the resulting productivity increases. It was found that job design plays a crucial part in the successful implementation of advanced manufacturing technology, and a complete development plan needs to integrate the components of technology and job design to the benefit of the employee and the company.

One of the major challenges currently facing the workplace is the introduction of new computer-based technologies and the impact of this technology on the existing job design. IBM installed a CAD system in 1986 and reported a 4:1 improvement in new drawings and a 12:1 improvement in engineering change capability [cited in 1]. However appealing these increases in productivity may be, it may be impossible for companies to successfully implement advanced manufacturing technologies without changes in job design [4]. The impact of these new technologies on the organizational and psychological aspects of the company need to be analyzed to find the best combination. The job design must be reshaped to accommodate the new technology, resulting in the best implementation possible.

Job Design

Job design theory encompasses many ideologies. Current approaches to job design include the job characteristics model, job enrichment, quality of work life, and the Japanese style of management [3]. These approaches strive to improve job performance, coordination, and overall quality of work by changing various elements of the job, which leads to increased job satisfaction and work motivation. An effective job design will satisfy the requirements of the task as well as the psychological and social needs of the individual.

Job Characteristics Model

Current research in job design has focused on the job characteristics model set forth by Hackman & Oldham [5]. This model identifies five dimensions of job content: task variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and job-based feedback. Task variety is the number of different talents and skills required by the job. Task identity is the individual's connection with the completed product. Task significance is the impact of one's work on others. Autonomy is the individual's freedom and control in doing the job. Feedback is the clear and direct information concerning one's job. These dimensions affect the work outcome through their influence on three psychological states: experienced meaningfulness, responsibility, and knowledge of results. When these states are activated, work motivation, job satisfaction, and work performance should improve, especially for those individuals with high growth needs. The model states that an employee's perception of positive changes in the five dimensions will lead to increased intrinsic motivation, which will induce the desired behavioral changes. It is hypothesized that this change is even greater for individuals with high growth needs since they will perceive a connection between work performance and need satisfaction. According to expectancy theory these individuals should therefore be highly motivated to perform. This model seeks to organize work so that it can be accomplished efficiently while being personally satisfying and intrinsically rewarding.

There have been mixed reviews of the job characteristics model in recent research. Some differences may be attributed to the difference in field and laboratory studies. Higher correlations are usually found in the field rather than in the laboratory [7]. …

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