Job Design

The Hawthorne Studies conducted from 1924 onwards, showed that productivity is not only influenced by asset of methods and procedures that specify a set of tasks but also by employees feelings about their jobs. This is actually one of the major determinants of productivity. For many years, Job Design has also been involved with the physical environment of the job. This often means specifying the allowable levels of noise, dirt, temperature, and the layout of facilities. Job Design also takes into account all factors which affect the work and organizes the content of the tasks .Job Design refers to the way that a set of tasks or an entire job is organized within the social and psychological environment of the organization. Job Design helps to determine:

  • What tasks are done
  • How the tasks are done
  • How many tasks are done
  • In what order the tasks are done

Humans have certain physiological, psychological and sociological characteristics. In performing work, human functions at three different levels:

  • They receive information through the sense organs,
  • Process the information received and the information stored in the memory for decision making
  • Take action based on these decisions. The decision may be automatic based on learned responses, as with a highly repetitive jobs, or may involve extensive reasoning and the results may be complex.

These characteristics define their capabilities and limitations in the work situation. There is variation in these characteristics among individuals. In addition, there are socio-psychological and socio-technical factors that determine behavior. Such factors include not only how a job is done, but the employee feels about the job. It takes into account how easily or quickly a person may perform a job and how she or he will react emotionally to that job and the environment in which it is performed.

Job Design, as it is seen today, has expanded to include social and psychological environment by considering what are called socio-psychological factors related to a job and socio-technical considerations- the social and technical make-up of the individual

Socio- technical Factors: Based on different levels of human functioning the socio-technical theory believes that machines and humans at one level have the general structure of a closed loop automated system. However, machines and humans are alike in certain important respects. Both have sensors, stored information, comparators, decision makers, effectors and feedback loops. The difference between the two is that unlike machines—which are specialized in the kind of ranges of tasks they can perform—humans have tremendous range of capabilities, and limitations which are imposed by their physiological and sociological characteristics. Machines perform tasks as faithful servants reacting mainly to physical factors. Humans, however, react to their psychological and sociological environments as well as to the physical environment.

Socio-technical theory believes that humans operate on socio-technical systems. In their job environment, they optimize both social and technological considerations. Every socio- technical system is defined by the social aspects, reflected by the environment that consists of culture and its values and by a set of generally accepted practices. The environment provides certain roles for organizations, groups and people while technology imposes constraints that limit the possible arrangements of processes and jobs and thereby impact job satisfaction and social system needs. According to socio-technical principles, Job Design is the application of the concept of their joint optimization between technology and the values of the social systems.

Socio-psychological factors: Humans have certain physiological, psychological and sociological characteristics that define their capacities and limitations in the work situation. They can be related to empirical evidence that suggests that workers prefer tasks of a substantial degree of wholeness, in which the individual has control over the materials and the process involved and which integrates the employee into the fabric of organization.

Keeping these observations and empirical evidence in mind, jobs should be designed such that there are an optimal variety of tasks within each job. The optimal level is one that allows the employee to rest from the high level of attention or effort while working on another task or, conversely to stretch after a period of routine activity. There is research that suggests employees derive satisfaction from using a number of skilled levels. There are some points that must be considered for Job Design:

The jobs should be challenging for each skill category

  • It is important that the group or individual undertaking the job should be able to exercise some control over their work.
  • Area of discretion and decision making should be available to them.
  • Ideally, employees should have some responsibility for setting their own standards of quantity and quality.
  • There should be clarity in the sets of tasks. Wherever possible, a group or individual employee should have responsibility for a set of tasks that is clearly defined, visible and meaningful.
  • As people have sociological needs, they require feedback. Workers should know when they have achieved their targets and how they are doing relative to others.

Performance and Job Design: Achieving good Job Design involves administrative practices that determine what the employee does, for how long, where and when as well as giving the employees choices wherever possible. In Job Design, you may choose to examine the various tasks of an individual job or design of a group of jobs. Job Design principles can address problems such as:

  • Work overload
  • Work under load
  • Repetitiveness
  • Limited control over work
  • Isolation
  • Shift work
  • Delay in filling vacant positions
  • Excessive working hours
  • Limited understanding of the whole job process

However, one has to look beyond these limitations. Job Design is more rewarding if we understand the psychological and sociological of employees. In determining whether a job is designed for high performance, we require to look at four basic spans of the job— control, accountability, influence and support. The span of control is reflected in each employee wanting to know the answer to four basic questions:

  • “What resources do I control to accomplish my task?”
  • “What means will be used to evaluate my performance?”
  • “Who do I need to interact with and influence to achieve my goals?”
  • “How much support can I expect when I reach out to others for help?”

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