Job Design: Definition, Strategies and Characteristics

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 July 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.

Adapting to industry changes rapidly can be a significant part of managing a successful business in today's fast-paced, modern society. Designing new and flexible job positions is likely necessary when developing an organisation. If you work in human resources or a management position, understanding the different work design strategies can help you create fulfilling, effective positions. In this article, we define job design, discuss different work design strategies, outline the job characteristics model and explain the importance of work design.

What is job design?

Job design, also known as work design, is the process of specifying the tasks and responsibilities of a position within a company. Simply put, it's the creation of a new job. This is often the responsibility of human resource management.

Typically, human resources consider each position's organisational, personal and technical requirements and align the work design with these conditions. This ensures each work design fulfils both company and employee obligations by achieving the organisational goals and rewarding the employee. Work design is often a crucial aspect of a successful business because it allows the business to develop positions that align with the growing demands in their industry.

Related: How to Write Job Descriptions (With Template and Examples)

Job design strategies

Work design implementation can vary according to the situation. Here are six different work design strategies you might consider:

Job simplification

The job simplification strategy involves removing tasks from an existing position. This might be an ideal strategy for positions that have gradually taken on more responsibilities and are no longer appropriate for one employee to complete. It might also be necessary if you've identified tasks that an employee could perform more productively if given the ability to spend additional time completing them. It can offer an ideal opportunity to enhance productivity by prioritising important duties.

Related: What Is a Job Position? (And How It Differs From a Job Title)

Job rotation

Job rotation is a strategy where employees move between jobs within an organisation. This allows existing employees to learn new skills and knowledge. This benefits a company because it creates adaptable employees who can work collaboratively and cover absences. It provides employees with a thorough understanding of the organisation's entire operation. Job rotation can help a company fulfil its employee's personal goals and interests, contributing to ideal employee engagement and increased motivation.

Related: 9 Great Ways to Build a Successful Career (With Definition)

Job enlargement

Job enlargement is a strategy that adds more tasks to an existing position. The skill level and hierarchy of the position remain the same, but the variety of tasks increases. This strategy can help a company avoid monotonous roles, keeping employees interested and motivated. An example of this might include a customer service representative who answers incoming calls taking on additional tasks, such as responding to email enquiries. Job enlargement often allows employees to build new skills and adds variety to their daily responsibilities.

Related: What Is a Job Specification? Writing a Strong Specification

Job enrichment

The job enrichment strategy involves focusing on employee satisfaction when making changes to a position. It concentrates on developing motivational opportunities for staff members to find satisfaction within their current roles. There are multiple approaches to using the job enrichment strategy. Some examples of these approaches include refining tasks to improve the clarity of a position, offering support for networking and professional relationship building, offering encouragement and constructive feedback regarding career development and emphasising role significance by offering measurable results and key performance indicators.

Related: What Does an HR Manager Do? (Daily Duties and Skills)

Job redesign

The job redesign strategy eliminates non-essential tasks and responsibilities and combines the remaining essential duties into one position. If the essential duties are too diverse for one employee to complete effectively, you might create a team to be responsible for these tasks. When considering job redesign, you can establish the desirable outcome of the operation and restructure each position to increase productivity and performance.

Related: How to Motivate Your Employees With 11 Impactful Strategies

Job crafting

The job crafting strategy is more informal and often happens spontaneously. It refers to when an employee takes on and accumulates more responsibility in the same position. It often includes additional duties and increased scope of tasks. Including an employee in the work design helps them feel a sense of teamwork and reinforces the significance of their employment. Job crafting can develop naturally within the workplace or through an unofficial request or formal meeting.

Related: 8 Employee Recognition Ideas for the Workplace (With Tips)

Job characteristics model

The purpose of the job characteristics model is to create fulfilling and meaningful positions. There are five core job characteristics that incorporate three critical psychological states. The intended outcomes for this characteristics model include achieving high internal work motivation, high growth satisfaction, high general job satisfaction and high work effectiveness. Here are the core job characteristics, including the critical psychological state that applies to each:

Skill variety

The skill variety component of the characteristics model refers to incorporating different skill requirements within a position. This means an employee uses different skills during their regular workday. Incorporating skill variety into a role can support an employee's intrinsic motivation and focus. It helps them develop a flexible skill set and avoids the risk of a job becoming monotonous. The critical psychological state that skill variety supports in the characteristics model is to experience meaningful work.

Related: What Is the Job Characteristics Model? (With 5 Components)

Task identity

The task identity section of the characteristics model specifies offering tasks that have a clear beginning and end instead of small duties that form only part of the task's process. This allows employees to work on a complete process, giving them a sense of ownership and responsibility and often enhancing the quality of work. The critical psychological state associated with task identity is to experience meaningful work.

Related: Classical, Behavioural and Modern Management Theories: Here's the Difference

Task significance

Task significance is the part of the characteristics model that indicates the impact an employee's role has on their colleagues and society. When an employee feels their position may have a substantial impact on another person, this can evoke the critical psychological state of experiencing meaningful work. Work design can include the characteristic of task significance by incorporating duties that contribute to improving a person's psychological, physical or financial well-being.

Autonomy

The autonomy component of the characteristics model refers to the ability of an employee to complete their tasks independently. This allows them the freedom and flexibility to plan their workday, creating a sense of responsibility. The critical psychological state that autonomy supports in the characteristics model is to experience responsibility for the outcomes of the work.

Feedback

The feedback portion of the characteristics model describes providing employees with observations regarding the effectiveness of their performances. Constructive feedback includes praising employees when they perform their duties well and providing them with support and guidance when their performance shows areas for improvement. The critical psychological state that feedback facilitates in the characteristics model is knowledge of the actual results of the work activities.

Related: How to Give Feedback Effectively (With Examples Included)

Importance of work design

Ensuring that work design is effective is important. Here are five results of effective work design:

  • Balanced workload: Work design provides the opportunity to balance each employee's workload, ensuring the assigned amount of work is sustainable. Balancing workload can positively affect stress levels, intrinsic motivation and mental health.

  • Employee engagement: Creating positions that support employee engagement can be beneficial for both the company and the employee. An engaged employee is often more productive and more likely to produce high-quality work.

  • Employee retention: Pursuing effective work design strategies can create ideal positions, improving employee satisfaction. Employees that feel fulfilled in their roles are more likely to remain in their positions.

  • Aligned values: Effective work design offers the potential to align both the company's and the employee's values. Creating positions that align with an employee's values can promote increased productivity and motivation.

  • Remain up-to-date: Regular work design allows a company to remain up-to-date within a developing industry. This can help them employ suitable candidates and give their current employees the opportunity to increase their skills and adapt to new developments.

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