Job Enrichment

Job enrichment refers to the vertical expansion of jobs. It increases the degree to which the worker controls the planning, execution, and evaluation of the work. An enriched job organizes tasks so as to allow the worker to do a complete activity, increase the employee’s freedom and independence, increases responsibility, and provides feedback so individuals will be able to assess and correct their own performance. The enrichment of jobs can be traced to Herzberg’s two factor theory. Following this theory, by increasing the intrinsic factors in a job such as achievement, responsibility, and growth employees are more likely to be satisfied with the job and motivated to perform it.

How does management enrich an employee’s job? Combining tasks take existing and factionalized tasks and puts them back together to form a new and larger module of work. Forming natural work units means that the tasks an employee does create an identifiable and meaningful whole. Establishing client relationships increases the direct relationships between workers and their clients (these may be an internal customer as well as someone outside the organization). Expanding jobs vertically gives employees responsibilities and control that were formerly reserved for management. Opening feedback channels lets employees know how well they are performing their jobs and whether their performance is improving, deteriorating, or examining at a constant level.

To illustrate job enrichment, let’s look at what management at Bank One in Chicago did with its international trade banking department. The department’s chief product is commercial letters of credit essentially a bank guarantee to stand behind huge import and export transactions. Prior to enriching jobs, the department’s 300 employees processed documents in an assembly line fashion, with errors creeping in at each hand off. Meanwhile employees did little to hide the boredom they were experiencing from doing narrow and specialized tasks. Management enriched these jobs by making each clerk a trade expert who was able to handle a customer from start to finish. After 200 hours of training in finance and law, the clerks became full service advisers who could around documents in a day while advising clients on such arcane matters as bank procedures in Turkey and US munitions export controls. And the result? Department productivity more than tripled employee satisfaction soared and transaction volume rose more than 10 percent a year. The overall evidence on job enrichment generally shows that it reduces absenteeism and turnover costs and increased satisfaction, but on the critical issue of productivity, the evidence is inconclusive. In some situations, job enrichment increases productivity in others it decreases it. However, even when productivity goes down, there does seem to be consistently more conscientious use of resources and a higher quality of product or service.

This statement is false. In spite of all attention focused by the media, academicians, and social scientists on human potential and the needs of individuals, there is no evidence to support that the vast majority of workers want challenging jobs. Some individuals prefer highly complex and challenging jobs, others proper in simple routine work.

The individual difference variable that seems to gain the greatest support for the explaining who prefers a challenging job and who doesn’t is the strength of an individual’s higher order needs. Individuals with high growth needs are more responsive to challenging work. But what percentage of rank and file workers actually desires higher order need satisfaction and will respond positively to challenging jobs? No current data are available, but a study from the 1970s estimated the figure at about 15 percent. Even after adjusting for changing work attitudes and the growth in white collar jobs, it seems unlikely that the number today exceeds 40 percent.

The strongest voice advocating challenging jobs had not been that of workers – it’s been that of professors, social science researchers, and journalists. Professors, researchers and journalists undoubtedly made their career choices to some degree because the wanted jobs that gave them autonomy, identify and challenge. That, of course, is their choice. But of them to project their needs onto the workforce in general is presumptuous.

Not every employee is looking for a challenging job. Many workers meet their higher order needs off the job. There are 168 hours in every individual’s week. Work rarely consumes more than 30 percent of this time. That leaves considerable opportunity, even of individuals with strong growth needs, to find higher order need satisfaction outside the workplace.

Comments are closed.