Boundless Management

Organizational Behavior

Job Design and Motivation

Defining Job Design

Job design is the systematic and purposeful allocation of tasks to individuals and groups within an organization.

Learning Objectives

Compare and contrast the multitude of job-design approaches and perspectives available in the organizational field

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The key inputs for a strong job design are a task, motivation, resource allocation and a compensation system.
  • Taylorism, or scientific management, is the original job-design theory. It stresses standardization of tasks and proper training of workers to administer the tasks for which they are responsible.
  • The Socio-Technical Systems Approach is a theory that maps the evolution from individual work to work groups. The organization itself is structured to encourage group autonomy and productivity.
  • The Core Characteristics Model connects job characteristics to the psychological states that the worker brings to the job. It emphasizes designing jobs so that they lead to desired outcomes.
  • Taking into account these various theoretical models, job design is best described as specifying a task with enough context to communicate clearly and concisely what is expected of a given employee.

Key Terms

  • empower: To give people more confidence or strength to do something, often by enabling them to increase their control over their own life or situation.

Job Design Overview

Job design is the allocation of specific work tasks to individuals and groups. Allocating jobs and tasks means specifying the contents, method, and relationships of jobs to satisfy technological and organizational requirements, as well as the personal needs of jobholders.


Dick and Carey Systems Approach Model (Instructional Design): The figure shows how an instructional system is designed. It represents a model of a job design with a specific application (instruction).

Key Elements of Job Design

To understand job design, it is helpful to identify some key elements and their relationship with job design processes.

  • A task can be best defined as a piece of assigned work expected to be performed within a certain time. Job designers must strictly and thoroughly identify tasks that need completion.
  • Motivation describes forces within the individual that account for the level, direction, and persistence of effort expended at work. Individuals need to be compelled, excited, and passionate to do their work. Managers should design jobs that motivate employees.
  • Resource allocation occurs when an organization decides to appropriate or allocate certain resources to specific jobs, tasks, or dilemmas facing the organization. In job design, it is necessary to identify and structure jobs in a way that uses the company's resources efficiently. Appropriate resource allocation allows large organizations to foster and develop innovation in their workforce and underscores strategy through distribution.
  • Reward systems also play a role in job design. Reward systems include compensation, bonuses, raises, job security, benefits, and various other reward methods for employees. An outline or description of reward packages should be established when constructing jobs.

Theoretical Models of Job Design

Organizations may employ various theoretical approaches for job design. These include Taylorism, Socio-Technical Systems Approach, Core Characteristics Model, and Psychological Empowerment Theory. Each approach emphasizes different aspects to be considered in effective job design.


Taylorism, also known as scientific management, is a foundation for systematic job design. Frederick Taylor developed this theory in an effort to develop a "science" for every job within an organization according to the following principles:

  • Create a standard method for each job.
  • Successfully select and hire proper workers.
  • Effectively train these workers.
  • Support these workers.

The Socio-Technical Systems Approach

The Socio-Technical Systems Approach is based on the evolution from individual work to work groups. This approach has the following guiding principles:

  • The design of the organization must fit its goals.
  • Employees must be actively involved in designing the structure of the organization.
  • Control of variances in production or service must be undertaken as close to their source as possible.
  • Subsystems must be designed around relatively self-contained and recognizable units of work.
  • Support systems must fit in with the design of the organization.
  • The design should allow for a high-quality working life.
  • Changes should continue to be made as necessary to meet changing environmental pressures.

Core Characteristics Model

Another modern job design theory is the Core Characteristics Model, which maintains five important job elements that motivate workers and performance:

  • Skill variety
  • Task identity
  • Task significance
  • Autonomy
  • Job feedback

The individual elements are then proposed to lead to positive outcomes through three psychological states:

  • Experienced meaningfulness
  • Experienced responsibility
  • Knowledge of results

Psychological Empowerment Theory

Psychological Empowerment Theory posits that there is a distinction between empowering practices and cognitive motivational states. When individuals are aware of the impact they have, they benefit more than if they cannot attribute positive impact to any of their actions.

Overall Trend

Many more iterations of job design theory have evolved, but general trends can be identified among them: job design is moving towards autonomous work teams and placing added emphasis on the importance of meaning derived from the individual.

Job Characteristics Theory

The Job Characteristics Theory is a framework for identifying how job characteristics affect job outcomes.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the core characteristics, psychological states, and work outcomes in the Job Characteristics Theory, as identified by Hackman and Oldham

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Job Characteristics Theory (JCT), developed by Hackman and Oldham, is widely used as a framework to study how particular job characteristics affect job outcomes, including job satisfaction.
  • The five job characteristics are skill variety, task variety, task significance, autonomy, and feedback.
  • Three different psychological states determine how an employee reacts to job characteristics: experienced meaningfulness, experienced responsibility for outcomes, and knowledge of the actual results.
  • Job outcomes, such as satisfaction and motivation, are the synthesis of core characteristics and psychological states.

Key Terms

  • characteristic: A distinguishable feature of a person or thing.
  • job analysis: The formal process of identifying the content of a position within an organization in terms of activities involved and attributes needed to perform the work, as well as major job requirements.

Core Characteristics

The Job Characteristics Theory (JCT), also referred to as Core Characteristics Model and developed by Hackman and Oldham, is widely used as a framework to study how particular job characteristics impact job outcomes, including job satisfaction. The theory states that there are five core job characteristics:

  1. Skill variety
  2. Task identity
  3. Task significance
  4. Autonomy
  5. Feedback

Each job has these characteristics to a greater or lesser extent. No one combination of characteristics makes for the ideal job; rather, it is the purpose of job design to adjust the levels of each characteristic to attune the overall job with the worker performing it. This alignment is important because the worker brings psychological states to bear upon the job that affect job outcomes when combined with the core characteristics.


Motivating potential score: The Job Characteristics Theory uses this equation to estimate the overall motivation inherent in a job design based upon the five core characteristics.

Psychological States

The core characteristics affect three critical psychological states of the workers doing the job:

  1. Experienced meaningfulness
  2. Experienced responsibility for outcomes
  3. Knowledge of the actual results

The job characteristics directly derive the three states. Indeed, the first three characteristics (skill variety, task variety and task significance) pertain to the meaningfulness of the work. Autonomy directly correlates to responsibility for outcomes, and knowledge of the actual results relates to feedback. Pictured as a process flow, the characteristics and psychological states operate in continuous feedback loop that allows employees to continue to be motivated by thoroughly owning and understanding the work in which they are involved.

Work Outcomes

The combination of core characteristics with psychological states influences work outcomes such as:

  • Job satisfaction
  • Absenteeism
  • Work motivation

Therefore, the goal should be to design the job in such a way that the core characteristics complement the psychological states of the worker and lead to positive outcomes. The five core job characteristics can be combined to form a motivating potential score for a job that can be used as an index of how likely a job is to affect an employee's attitudes and behaviors. Analyses of studies of the model provide some support for the validity of the Job Characteristics Theory.

Tactics for Improving Fit

Ways of improving job fit include assessing employee activities through various tools to increase employee satisfaction and efficiency.

Learning Objectives

Describe ways in which management and supervisors can improve job design to fit employee and organizational needs

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The flexibility to tailor job design more precisely for both organizational effectiveness and employee job satisfaction is a significant, ongoing part of the job design process.
  • If a job is well designed, then its required competencies and responsibilities are explicit and clear.
  • Training is meant to develop in the employee the skills required to improve job fit as the individual enters the workforce.
  • Analyzing the outcomes of a given job within the organization, both from the task perspective and the employee perspective, can assist in improving fit.
  • Supervisors can use interviews, surveys, observations, questionnaires, and checklists to observe efficacy of job design and improve fit for each employee.

Key Terms

  • job fit: Correlation between a given position's roles, responsibilities, and objectives and the skills and competencies of the individual holding that position.

The Job Fit Template

The basis for improving fit between the employee and the job is striking a balance between job design and individual—crafting the job in such a way that it complements the employee's individual skills, aspirations, personality, and attributes. Job design is usually completed prior to hiring the individual who then performs the identified duties. As a result, flexibility to tailor the job design for both organizational effectiveness and employee job satisfaction is a significant, ongoing part of the job design process.

If a job is well designed, then the competencies it requires and responsibilities it involves are explicit and clear. This design becomes the foundation for the job description, which is a more exact picture of the job's nature and which comprises the following:

  • The title and duties the job fulfills
  • Who supervises the employee holding the job
  • Experience and qualifications expected from an applicant

The job description outlines the general attributes of the person for whom the job is designed and serves as the basis for improvement and modification during the improvement process.


The first step in improving fit for a given job design is training. Once an individual is hired to perform a specific set of duties, both management and human resources should assist in preparing the individual to accomplish these tasks. In this process, the organization is responsible for improving fit by supplying all of the necessary tools, contacts, and information employees will need to accomplish their objectives.

Job Analysis

Analyzing the outcomes of a given job within the organization, both from the task perspective and the employee perspective, can assist in improving fit by ensuring that the employee is both satisfied and accomplishing the desired objective. Job analysis employs a series of steps which enable a supervisor to assess a given employee/job fit and to improve the fit, if necessary. These steps include:

  • Observation: The simplest method of assessing how a job and employee fit is observing the employee at work. The manager may find it useful to ask a few questions during this process, but it is important not to make the employee uncomfortable (which would skew the results).
  • Survey/Questionnaire: Providing the employee with a survey is another effective data-collection strategy. A survey should provide dimensions of the job and allow the experts in that specific role to weigh the importance of each component. Supervisors can also gather data on what is working and what is not, allowing them to edit and improve task assignments.
  • Interviews: One-on-one, formal or informal interviews are also a useful tool in gathering data about the employee, allowing the supervisor to obtain more details than a survey provides. In this situation, the supervisor can also customize each discussion to become more familiar with the personality, levels of satisfaction, and perceived efficiency of each employee.
  • Checklist: Another method of improving job fit is to create a checklist. Employees or the supervisor can fill these out, identifying what tasks are being done early, on-time, or later (they can also note quality and resource efficiency).


Questionnaire: Employee questionnaires can be a useful method of assessing job fit.

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