How can jobs be redesigned ?

For an employee GH every day was the same thing, stand on that assembly line, wait for an instruments panel to be moved into place, unlock the mechanism and drop the panel into the Jeep Liberty as it moved by on the line. Then he plugged in the harnessing wires and repeated that for eight hours a day. He did’nt care that they (employer) were paying $24 an hour. GH was going crazy because he did it for almost a year and a half. Finally, he just said to his wife that this isn’t going to be the way he wants to spend the rest of his life. GH quit and now is working in a print shop making less than $15 an hour. But the work he has to do is really interesting. The job changes all the time and he is happy continually learning new things and the work is really challenging. With the new work he looks forward every morning to going to work again.

GH’s job at the Jeep plant was made up of repetitive tasks that provided him with no variety or autonomy or motivation. In contrast, his job in the print shop is challenging and stimulating. Let’s look at some of the ways that job modification or changes can be put into practice to make jobs more motivating.

Job rotation: If employees suffer from over-routinization of their work, one alternative is to use job rotation (or what many now call cross trainings). We define this practice as the periodic shifting of an employee from one task to another. When an activity is no longer challenging the employees is rotated to another job, usually at the same level, that has similar skill requirements. Singapore Airlines, one of the best rated airlines in the world, uses job rotation extensively. For example, a ticket agent may take on the duties of a baggage handler. Job rotation is one of the reasons Singapore Airlines is rated as a highly desirable place to work. Job rotation has also been adopted by many manufacturing firms as a means of increasing flexibility and avoiding layoffs. For instance, managers at Apex Precision Technologies a custom machine shop in Indiana continually train workers on all of the company’s equipment so they can be moved around in response to the requirements of incoming orders. During the 2001 recession, Cleveland based Lincoln Electric moved some salaried workers to hourly clerical jobs and rotated production workers among various machines. The manufacturer of welding and cutting parts was able to minimize layoffs because of its commitment to continual cross training and moving workers wherever they’re needed.

The strengths of job rotation are that it reduces boredom, increase motivation through diversifying the employee’s activities and helps employee better understand how their work contributes to the organization. Job rotation also has indirect benefits for the organization because employees with a wider range of skills give management more flexibility in scheduling work, adapting to changes and filling vacancies. However, job rotation is not without its drawbacks. Training costs are increased, and productivity is reduced by moving a worker into a new position just when efficiency at the prior job is creating organizational economies. Job rotation also creates disruptions. Members of the work group have to adjust to the new employee. And supervisors may also have to spend more time answering questions and monitoring the work of recently rotated employees.

Job Enlargement: More than 35 year ago, the idea of expanding jobs horizontally or what we cal job enlargement grew in popularity. Increasing the number and variety of tasks that an individual performed resulted in jobs with more diversity. Instead of only sorting the incoming mail by department for instance, a mail sorter’s job could be enlarged to include physically delivering the mail to the various departments or running outgoing, letters through the postage meter. The difference between job rotation and job enlargement may seem subtle. However, in job rotation, jobs are not redesigned. Employees simply move from one job to another but the nature of the work does not change. Job enlargement, however, involves actually changing the job.

Efforts at job enlargement meet with less than enthusiastic results. As one employee who experienced such a redesign on his job remarked ‘before I had one lousy job, now, through enlargement, I have three’. However, there have been some successful applications of job enlargement. The job of housekeeper in some smaller hotels for example, includes only cleaning bathrooms, making beds, and vacuuming but also replacing burned out light bulbs, and restocking mini bars.–