job design and redesign

job design and redesign

the process or outcome of grouping together work tasks to form individual JOBS. Jobs may comprise a single or small number of tasks (for example repetitive production work on an assembly line) or a considerable range (for example the job of a manager). Some jobs involve substantial decision-making whilst others require very little.

Job design is often said to have two main dimensions – SPECIALIZATION and discretion. The key questions facing the job designer are: how specialized a set of tasks should the individual perform? and how far should the individual decide which tasks are to be undertaken at a given moment and in what way? As regards the latter, it has been suggested that jobs could be categorized according to a TIME SPAN OF DISCRETION: the length of time that passes before a worker's task performance is checked and assessed by a superior.

Job design has an important effect on JOB SATISFACTION. Those jobs which are highly specialized and which involve little discretion often give rise to dissatisfaction, which may find expression in CONFLICT, INDUSTRIAL DISPUTES, ABSENTEEISM and LABOUR TURNOVER. Although specialization can be viewed as an efficient approach to job design these side-effects can lead to low levels of PRODUCTIVITY. To enhance job satisfaction and productivity some analysts have advocated job redesign. Most notable is the Quality of Working Life (QWL) movement, a loose-knit body of academics, managers and trade unionists, which from the 1970s onwards advocated sweeping changes to prevailing patterns of job design.

The changes recommended include:

  1. job enlargement, where additional tasks are given to the worker so as to provide more variety. In other words it is the horizontal expansion of the tasks;
  2. job enrichment, where workers are given greater scope in deciding how the tasks should be performed. Here the range of tasks is extended vertically, to enrich the quality of the job for the worker;
  3. job rotation, where workers rotate around the jobs in their department on a regular basis, on the grounds that greater variety will lead to greater job satisfaction.

As can be seen, these changes involve modification to the key dimensions of specialization and discretion. A more radical approach still is the creation of semi-autonomous work groups. Here workers are allowed to decide amongst themselves how to distribute and execute work tasks. This could involve replacing assembly-line working, where each individual performs an allotted task in a pre-planned series of tasks, by group working where who does what could be decided on a day-to-day basis. See FORDISM, SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT, WORK ORGANIZATION, AUTONOMOUS WORK TEAMS.

Collins Dictionary of Business, 3rd ed. © 2002, 2005 C Pass, B Lowes, A Pendleton, L Chadwick, D O’Reilly and M Afferson