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How to Create Jobs That Motivate

Updated on October 23, 2014

Last month we showed you how employee motivation comes from the job itself—the work a person is doing. Jobs that motivate are interesting and challenging with lots of responsibility and opportunities to achieve – thereby allowing the employee to experience the ensuing motivation. This also gives the manager more chances to recognize achievements, which adds even more to employee motivation. You create jobs like this through the job enrichment process.

Components of an Enriched Job

Hiring the right people into the right positions is your most important duty as manager; next is to design enriched jobs for your people. Here are three important attributes of an enriched job:

A Complete Job: Try to give the employee complete responsibility for a job that results in a definable product or service. Don’t split up responsibilities; give all the pieces to one person who should be able to see a real change in the product or service when the job is done. A complete (non-fractionated) job streamlines workflow and improves efficiency. When tasks done by separate people or departments are combined into one job, bottlenecks and delays are eliminated.

Decision-Making Control (autonomy): Give the worker as much control as possible over how and when the work is completed, as long as it gets done right and on time. Allow competent employees to schedule their own work, deviate from normal procedures in unusual situations, and to have real authority and responsibility for cost and budget control.

Direct Feedback From the Customer: Depending on the type of work done in your department, it may be possible to assign one employee, or a small team, responsibility for all the work for a specific customer. Allow these employees to get direct feedback from the customer on performance and any problems. If there is a problem, the employee gets an opportunity to fix it before the boss intervenes. Of course, you must check periodically to be sure the job is being done correctly.

All Three Components Are Important: All three components of an enriched job are important and interrelated. If a job is incomplete (fractionated), the employee feels little ownership and has little control over decision-making. Positive feedback means little to any worker who does only part of the job or has little input in the process of doing the job.

The Job Enrichment Process

By studying your overall department workflow and developing streamlined processes, you will improve efficiency and make it easier to enrich individual jobs. Major steps:

1. Analyze Department Workflow/Processes: Analyze the type and time requirements for primary department tasks, and develop flowcharts.

2. Analyze Related Tasks Inside and Outside the Department: Determine if any important workflow tasks are performed outside your department, but could be done inside. Conversely, identify tasks done in your department that contribute little to departmental workflow processes and could be done elsewhere. Make the changes if you can.

3. Reorganize Workflow/Processes if Needed: Most processes can be streamlined and improved. Depending on the volume of major tasks and your customers, you may want to divide your department into multiple work units. Evaluate the possibility of having individuals in your department perform all the work for specific customers.

4. Evaluate Each Employee: Review the skill, training and education of your employees, so you fully understand their capabilities. Meet to discuss current responsibilities and what they like and do not like doing.

5. Enrich the Job: Based on individual capabilities and interests, and on workflow processes, redesign individual jobs. Combine logical tasks and add responsibilities to make each job more challenging, complete and less fragmented. Give the worker as much autonomy as possible for getting the job done (planning, timing, progress reports and budget control).

When possible give the employee responsibility for doing all the work for a specific customer, along with a direct performance feedback link. Check periodically with customers to be sure they are completely satisfied.

Evaluate the Need for Training

By enriching jobs you are adding more responsibility and autonomy. Therefore, you must determine if more individual training is needed and, if so, provide it.

Potential Job Enrichment Concerns

Enriching jobs may scare some people, so be sure to discuss what you are doing, and why. Explain that the new job will be more complete, with more responsibility and opportunities to achieve, more autonomy, and more direct feedback from the customer.

Most employees want more responsibility, but some will not. If a worker does not want to accept the new responsibilities, you must address the situation. Perhaps you can switch some responsibilities between employees, or move the unhappy employee into another job within the department. If this isn’t possible, and reluctance persists, help move that worker into another department or out of the company. Remember, your most important duty as manager is to get the right people into the right positions.

Steven R. Smith is the author of Managing for Success: Practical Advice for Managers, a concise, 150-page guide to help managers and supervisors succeed. It is based on the author’s 42 years of industry experience at 15 different companies. For more information on this book go to:


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