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Job Design: Modeling Intrinsically Motivating Job Characteristics

Updated on September 18, 2012

When managers design jobs, they must always consider how various components of the job will affect employees’ levels of intrinsic motivation. After all, higher motivation generally correlates to higher performance.

For this reason, many models have been constructed to analyze how various job designs would affect motivation levels. One of these models is the job characteristics model, which breaks a job down into various “dimensions” and analyzes the effect of these dimensions on employee motivation.

Job Dimensions: A Job Design Model

According to the job characteristics model, there are five primary dimensions that are relevant to motivation levels. These are:

1. Skill variety

2. Task identity

3. Task significance

4. Autonomy

5. Feedback

Skill variety describes the variety of skills needed to perform a certain job. High skill variety means that employees will need a large range of skills to perform a job, while low skill variety means employees will need relatively few skills. An example of a low skill variety job is data entry or filing – basically, any job that requires repetitive mechanical action and little thought. On the other hand, customer service is typically a high skill variety job, because employees must be proficient in many areas. High skill variety jobs are far more motivating than low skill variety jobs.

Task identity describes the extent to which employees are required to participate in any project. High task identity means they follow the given project from start to finish (say, obtaining sales data, preparing a report, and then presenting the report). On the other hand, low task identity means employees only play a single or smaller part in the task. High task identity is a better motivator than low task identity.

Task significance examines the actual impact of a job on the worker’s life, others’ lives, or the company. High significance jobs generally carry responsibility and show a clear connection to impacts on lives, whereas low significance jobs may seem “trivial.” Most employees find high significance jobs more motivating.

Autonomy relates to the employee’s ability to “make their own decisions” about their work. This includes factors like schedules, techniques, and so on. High autonomy jobs are less structured/rigid and more motivating. Low autonomy jobs tend to be demoralizing and discourage creativity in the workplace.

Feedback describes the level with which employees receive direct feedback on their actions. High feedback jobs involve technology or customer interaction that can verify success, while low feedback jobs provide little to no feedback. High feedback jobs tend to be more motivating.

It is important to remember that each of these five characteristics should be examined from an employee’s perspective, rather than a manager’s perspective or an organizational perspective. For example, take the case of a worker at a catalog sales company who is responsible for checking customer records for accuracy. To the worker, this may seem like a fruitless task. Yet it may be very important to the company, which relies on accurate customer data to drive sales. Thus, managers should take the time to make sure that employees understand how each of the five components of a job fit in the bigger picture.

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      Larry Wall 4 years ago

      Skylergreen:

      This is a very good Hub. Having been out of work for 19 months, I have read a lot of ads.The only comment I will make that employers are demanding too much from potential employees. They may want someone with accounting ability, but has to be expert in SQL database language. Or a Public Relations person who also has to be an expert in accounting functions, computer software, etc. I remember applying for one job as a computer help desk operator for a large law firm. They were not going to hire me, because they had been retained by my former employer to write the separation agreement. Anyway, they declined to hire me, but each week, they kept adding more responsibilities and duties to the job. I finally applied again and stated I knew they were not going to hire me, but they were never going to fill that post with all the demands they were making and the salary range they were offering. The following week, the add ran again, with the job responsibilities reduced significantly. I guess my point is that some employers get a little over-zealous in what they expect employees to do, apparently, wanting every employee to do the work of two or more people.

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