What Is Job Design? (With Key Components and Strategies)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 28 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Some common issues professionals may encounter during their careers include burnout, low morale and boredom in the workplace due to repetitive tasks or a high workload. To remedy these situations, many organisations task their leaders with redesigning job roles to stimulate employees and increase passion and motivation for their work, potentially increasing organisational efficiency. Learning more about these strategies can help you design new positions that may add value to a company while improving employee satisfaction. In this article, we define job designing, explain the key components of this concept and discuss the basic strategies you use to design engaging jobs.

What is job design?

Job design, also known as work design, is a process of establishing roles and responsibilities for an organisation's employees to promote staff satisfaction and maximise their performance. People can create entirely new jobs to fill a need in an organisation or redesign existing positions to optimise a team's operations. Typically, managers lead initiatives related to designing new jobs since they're familiar with the organisation's goals and can consider them when devising roles.

In addition to increasing employee satisfaction and efficiency, other considerations when planning jobs include how to best provide rewards or incentives and create a sense of purpose for staff through their roles and duties. Well-designed jobs can also mitigate other common human resources issues, such as high employee absence and turnover rates.

Key components of job design

Greg Hackman and Richard Oldman first established the key components of work design in their job characteristics theory. Many managers use their ideas as a framework to design meaningful roles for employees. These components are:

Skill variety

Depending on the responsibilities related to each position, a role might require a diverse and unique array of skills. For example, even if they're working in the same company, a marketing consultant and an accountant both utilise different skill sets to accomplish their tasks. Jobs that use more skills or complex proficiencies also tend to be more challenging, requiring a higher level of competence. Thus, it's a good idea to list the prerequisite skills for a job when designing it.

As you progress in the designing process, you might refer to and adjust this list of skills until you've perfected the parameters of the role. You may adjust the skills for a role as you develop the full scope of the position, but having an idea of the key skills can help you guide the rest of the job description. Ensure that you consider hard and soft skills since employees generally require a good mix of both to excel in their duties.

Related: Hard Skills vs Soft Skills: Definitions and Examples

Task identity

Task identity considers the extent of an individual's contribution to a project. In general, jobs that involve deep involvement from the beginning to the end of a project offer greater satisfaction for team members. For example, an interior design company can benefit from allowing its employees to work on the design and construction of a complete house instead of only certain components. Working on the whole project in this manner enables employees to easily identify their efforts and visualise the finished product. This may lead to an increased sense of responsibility for the project.

Related: Tips on How to Find Your Passion in Your Profession

Task significance

Task significance is how a company's employees perceive their contributions as positively impacting others. It can also correspond to an employee's role having a meaningful, long-term impact. For example, a position as an emergency room nurse might have high task significance, as these professionals regularly care for people with serious injuries and have a direct impact on their wellbeing. Task significance can also refer to employees perceiving their work as an important contribution to the overall efforts of an organisation.

Recognising the significance of their role can give employees a sense of purpose regarding their duties, which is a great stimulus and motivator for excellent work.

Related: What Is Employee Experience? (With Benefits and Tips)

Autonomy

Autonomy refers to how much freedom employees have when performing their duties. A high level of autonomy might allow them to make decisions without consulting their peers or superiors, which may boost their creativity. It can also relate to the pace at which they complete a task or project and the order in which they accomplish their duties. Granting employees a high level of autonomy can show the employer trusts them to perform at their best, which may in turn increase their willingness to do so. They might also feel a greater sense of responsibility for their duties.

Related: What Is a Micromanager? (With Advantages and Disadvantages)

Feedback

The last characteristic is the feedback that employees receive about their performance. A professional can gain input directly from the tasks they're involved in. For instance, a mechanic attains positive feedback when the repaired car operates without any trouble. Feedback can also come from external sources, such as customers, peers and superiors. For example, the mechanic might receive a compliment from a satisfied customer. Alternatively, the mechanic's supervisor might give him an appraisal. Employees typically benefit the most when they get feedback from work, as it can affirm their knowledge and competency.

Related: 5 Constructive Feedback Examples for Colleagues (Plus Tips)

Job design strategies

Here are four job design strategies you can implement when designing roles:

1. Job rotation

Job rotation involves regularly varying the tasks you assign to employees. Employers can also practise this strategy by rotating their staff to different departments. In addition to helping them develop new skills and creating opportunities for career advancement, introducing some variety in the workplace can also increase motivation, alleviate boredom and prevent burnout. Many employees appreciate the challenges a new position can provide, while their employers get a chance to observe their adaptability.

As an example, consider a sports complex with a gym, swimming pool and dance studio. Previously, the employees of the sports complex specialised in operating only one of the three facilities. Their employer can apply the job rotation strategy by assigning them to different facilities to diversify their knowledge and skills. An immediate benefit in this situation is that it's easier to find a substitute if an employee is absent from work because all the staff can work in any of the facilities.

2. Job enlargement

Job enlargement includes expanding the list of duties that an employee performs. This strategy differs from job rotation in that employees usually remain in the same role but have extra functions that are from a similar level in the job hierarchy added to their usual tasks. For example, the principal of a music school might enlarge the job scope of their guitar teachers by allowing them to also teach other stringed instruments, such as bass, banjo and ukulele. Being in the same category as the guitar, the teachers have only to make minimal adjustments to their teaching methods.

Job enlargement can increase an employee's skill variety and task identity, as they develop their current skills and perceive an increase in their contributions to the organisation and its clients. Job enlargement can also give employees a wider range of responsibilities and accountability, thereby reducing the possibility they may experience monotony in their work.

3. Job enrichment

This strategy aims to provide more motivation to employees through adding certain tasks, initiatives and opportunities. As such, many view job enlargement as a component of job enrichment. A common example of job enrichment includes creating avenues for employees to obtain frequent feedback on their performance, including showing them how to do better to receive more positive feedback. Fostering client relationships and allowing more flexibility in daily operations can also provide increased motivation to employees.

Related: How to Motivate Employees: 12 Effective Ways to Boost Morale

4. Job simplification

Lastly, job simplification differs from the previous strategies in that it recommends removing tasks and responsibilities, particularly ones that distract employees from their main functions. Job simplification can especially benefit organisations suffering from job creep, a situation where employers continually increase the workload of their employees. In many cases, this is an effective method for increasing the quality of performance and preventing the buildup of an unmanageable workload. Streamlining an employee's tasks can help create more focus and boost efficiency.

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