Job redesign


Frank Greer’s job at the Jeep plant was made up of repetitive tasks that provided him with little variety, autonomy, or motivation. In contrast, his job in the paint shop is challenging and stimulating.

In this article, we want to look at some of the ways that jobs can be reshaped into order to make them more motivating. We now review the job redesign options job rotation, job enlargement, and job enrichment.

Job Rotation:

If employees suffer from monotony because of same type of job routine over long periods in their work then the management can resort to different alternatives to break the monotony and revive their motivation. One of the alternatives is to use job rotation (or what many now call cross-training). We define this practice as the periodic shifting of an employee from one task to another. When an activity is no longer challenging, the employee is rotated to another job, usually at the same level, that has similar skill requirements.

The strengths of job rotation are that it reduces boredom and increases motivation through diversifying the employee’s activities. It 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. On the other hand, job rotation is not without its drawbacks. Training costs increase and productivity is reduced by moving a worker into a new position. His or her efficiency at the prior job was 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 years ago, the idea of expanding jobs horizontally, or what we call job enlargement, grew in popularity. Increasing the number and variety of tasks that an individual performed resulted in jobs with more diversity. For example instead of only sorting the incoming mail of the department, a mail sorter’s job could be enlarged to include physically delivering the mail to the various other departments or running outgoing letters through the postage meter.

Efforts at job enlargement met 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!� Such may be one or two exceptional cases of some skewed thinking personnel. However, there have been some successful applications of job enlargement. The job of a housekeeper in some smaller hotels, for example, includes not only cleaning bathrooms, making beds, and vacuuming, but also replacing burned out light bulbs, providing turn-down service, and restocking mini-bars.

Job enrichment:

How does management enrich an employee’s job? Combining tasks takes existing and fractionized tasks and puts them back together to form a new and large 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 remaining at a constant level.

To illustrate job enrichment, let’s look at what management at Banc 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 handoff. 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 turn around documents in a day while advising clients on such arcane matters as bank procedures in Turkey and US munitions’ export controls. The results of these changes were great as Department productivity more than tripled. Employee satisfaction soared, and transaction volume rose more than 10% a year.

The overall evidence on job enrichment generally shows that it reduces absenteeism and turnover costs and increases 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 higher quality of product or service. Reduction in productivity can be neutralized by giving proper training before the job enrichment is implemented. Initially the training costs seem higher but over a period of time it benefits the organization.