What are the four major approaches to job design?

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Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Different textbooks are inevitably going to suggest different ways of sorting out job design, and the above categorization is certainly one way, but there are others.  Another way of approaching this is with the following four classifications:

Job Rotation: Designing a job with job rotation means building in a variety of tasks for all employees, thus eliminating boredom on the job, expanding the employee's areas of competence, and providing more flexibility in staffing and work flow.  However, the drawbacks to this are that one cannot always realize economies of scale and employees who have difficulty multi-tasking might find jobs like this difficult or frustrating.  There are work settings where this is a good idea, for example, in a medical office in which front office employees have a variety of responsibilities, but there are work settings where this is a bad idea, for example, on an assembly line.

Job Engineering: This method of job design focuses on the tasks to be done, the time involved in doing the tasks, and the efficiency of product or service flow through the process.  There is no attention paid to employees' job satisfaction or lack thereof in this design process, but in a highly mechanized environment, there is usually a need for job engineering design.  It would be difficult, for example, to put together a machine or a vehicle without attending to these priorities.

Job Enlargement: This kind of job design returns again to the principles of job motivation and satisfaction, building in a natural progression for employees to take on additional tasks that are a logical extension of what they already do.  This could just as easily be called job expansion.  The idea is to begin employees with one task and once they have achieved mastery, they can add an additional task that is in keeping with the first task.  So, an employee might handle only the simplest sort of customer service calls and then expand to more complex ones as time goes on.  This is motivating, since, if Theory Y holds true, which I believe it does, we gain internal satisfaction from acquiring new skills.  We like to learn! 

Job Enrichment: Once again, this is a means of designing jobs to motivate employees, also based on Theory Y principles.  This is similar to job enlargement in that the employee gets to do more tasks, but the focus is more on autonomy and responsibility in the tasks that are part of the enrichment.  An employee might begin with responsibility to sell a product, and then be given the responsibility to service the accounts for that product, and ultimately be given his or her own budget and control over his or her scheduling to do so.  Autonomy is one of the most powerful motivators in job satisfaction, so this is a highly successful way of designing the work environment. 

I do want to emphasize that a particular text on human resources or on management could very well divide job design into four entirely different categories, but this is a good approach to consider, providing choices for the mechanized environment or for employee motivation and satisfaction.  A good job designer will bear in mind all the important attributes of each, to maximize job performance and efficiency. 

flamingogirl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mechanistic Job-Design Approach - These jobs are high in mechanistic tasks, meaning they require the least skill and training. They also have higher instances of job dissatisfaction, employee absenteeism, and employee turnover due to the menial tasks involved.

Motivational Job-Design Approach - These jobs are harder to staff and take more training because of higher mental demands, but employees are generally more satisfied with their job. Examples are managerial and executive jobs.

Biological Job-Design Approach - Also known as ergonomics, this approach tries to minimze job hazzards and their associated costs.

The Perceptual/Motor Job-Design Approach - This approach ensures employees' mental capabilities and limitations are not exceeded.