Job Enrichment

Increasing Job Satisfaction

Brighten up the jobs in your team!

© iStockphoto/oonal

Most of us want interesting, challenging jobs where we feel that we can make a real difference to other people's lives.

As it is for us, so it is for the people who work with or for us.

So why are so many jobs so boring and monotonous? And what can you do to make the jobs you offer more satisfying? (By reducing recruitment costs, increasing retention of experienced staff and motivating them to perform at a high level, you can have a real impact on the bottom line.)

One of the key factors in good job design is job enrichment, most notably promoted by psychologist Frederick Herzberg in his 1968 article "One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?". This is the practice of enhancing individual jobs to make the responsibilities more rewarding and inspiring for the people who do them.

With job enrichment, you expand the task set that someone performs. You provide more stimulating and interesting work that adds variety and challenge to an employee's daily routine. This increases the depth of the job and allows people to have more control over their work.

Tip:

Before you look at ways to enrich the jobs in your workplace, you need to have as your foundation a good, fair work environment. If there are fundamental flaws – in the way people are compensated, their working conditions, their supervision, the expectations placed upon them, or the way they're treated – then those problems should be fixed first. If they are not resolved, any other attempts to increase satisfaction are likely to be sterile.

Designing Jobs that Motivate

Hackman and Oldham   identified five factors of job design that typically contribute to people's enjoyment of a job:

  • Skill Variety – Increasing the number of skills that individuals use while performing work.
  • Task Identity – Enabling people to perform a job from start to finish.
  • Task Significance – Providing work that has a direct impact on the organization or its stakeholders.
  • Autonomy – Increasing the degree of decision making, and the freedom to choose how and when work is done.
  • Feedback – Increasing the amount of recognition for doing a job well, and communicate the results of people's work.

Job enrichment addresses these factors by enhancing the job's core dimensions and increasing people's sense of fulfillment.

Job Enrichment Options

The central focus of job enrichment is giving people more control over their work. (Lack of control is a key cause of stress, and therefore of unhappiness.) Where possible, allow them to take on tasks that are typically done by supervisors. This means that they have more influence over planning, executing, and evaluating the jobs they do.

In enriched jobs, people complete activities with increased freedom, independence, and responsibility. They also receive plenty of feedback, so that they can assess and correct their own performance.

Here are some strategies you can use to enrich jobs in your workplace:

  • Rotate Jobs – Give people the opportunity to use a variety of skills, and perform different kinds of work. The most common way to do this is through job rotation. Move your workers through a variety of jobs that allow them to see different parts of the organization, learn different skills and acquire different experiences. This can be very motivating, especially for people in jobs that are very repetitive or that focus on only one or two skills.
  • Combine Tasks – Combine work activities to provide a more challenging and complex work assignment. This can significantly increase "task identity" because people see a job through from start to finish. This allows workers to use a wide variety of skills, which can make the work seem more meaningful and important. For example, you can convert an assembly line process, in which each person does one task, into a process in which one person assembles a whole unit. You can apply this model wherever you have people or groups that typically perform only one part of an overall process. Consider expanding their roles to give them responsibility for the entire process, or for a bigger part of that process.

    Note:

    These forms of job enrichment can be tricky because they may provide increased motivation at the expense of decreased productivity. When you have new people performing tasks, you may have to deal with issues of training, efficiency, and performance. You must carefully weigh the benefits against the costs.
  • Identify Project-Focused Work Units – Break your typical functional lines and form project-focused units. For example, rather than having all of your marketing people in one department, with supervisors directing who works on which project, you could split the department into specialized project units – specific storyboard creators, copywriters, and designers could all work together for one client or one campaign. Allowing employees to build client relationships is an excellent way to increase autonomy, task identity and feedback.
  • Create Autonomous Work Teams – This is job enrichment at the group level. Set a goal for a team, and make team members free to determine work assignments, schedules, rest breaks, evaluation parameters, and the like. You may even give them influence over choosing their own team members. With this method, you'll significantly cut back on supervisory positions, and people will gain leadership and management skills.
  • Implement Participative Management – Allow team members to participate in decision making and get involved in strategic planning. This is an excellent way to communicate to members of your team that their input is important. It can work in any organization – from a very small company, with an owner/boss who's used to dictating everything, to a large company with a huge hierarchy. When people realize that what they say is valued and makes a difference, they'll likely be motivated.
  • Redistribute Power and Authority – Redistribute control and grant more authority to workers for making job-related decisions. As supervisors delegate more authority and responsibility, team members' autonomy, accountability, and task identity will increase.
  • Increase Employee-Directed Feedback – Make sure that people know how well, or poorly, they're performing their jobs. The more control you can give them for evaluating and monitoring their own performance, the more enriched their jobs will be. Rather than have your quality control department go around and point out mistakes, consider giving each team responsibility for their own quality control. Workers will receive immediate feedback, and they'll learn to solve problems, take initiative, and make decisions.

Job enrichment provides many opportunities for people's development. You'll give them lots of opportunity to participate in how their work gets done, and they'll most-likely enjoy an increased sense of personal responsibility for their tasks.

Tip:

Don't just accept these points wholesale – they'll work in some situations and not in others. Apply these ideas sensibly and in a way that is aligned with the realities of your workplace and your organization's mission.

Implementing a Job Enrichment Program

  • Step One – Find out where people are dissatisfied with their current work assignments. There's little point to enriching jobs and changing the work environment if you're enriching the wrong jobs and making the wrong changes. Like any motivation initiative, determine what your people want before you begin.

    Surveys   are a good means of doing this. Don't make the mistake of presuming that you know what people want: Go to the source – and use that information to build your enrichment options.

  • Step Two – Consider which job enrichment options you can provide. You don't need to drastically redesign your entire work process. The way that you design the enriched jobs must strike a balance between operational need and job satisfaction. If significant changes are needed, consider establishing a "job enrichment task force" – perhaps use a cross-section of employees, and give them responsibility for deciding which enrichment options make the most sense.
  • Step Three – Design and communicate your program. If you're making significant changes, let people know what you're doing and why. Work with your managers to create an enriching work environment that includes lots of employee participation and recognition. Remember to monitor your efforts, and regularly evaluate the effectiveness of what you're providing.

Key Points

Job enrichment is a fundamental part of attracting, motivating, and retaining talented people, particularly where work is repetitive or boring. To do it well, you need a great match between the way your jobs are designed and the skills and interests of the employees working for you.

When your work assignments reflect a good level of skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and feedback, members of your team are likely be much more content, and much less stressed. Enriched jobs lead to more satisfied and motivated workers.

Your responsibility is to figure out which combination of enrichment options will lead to increased performance and productivity.

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