Sunday, February 21, 2010


The job-characteristics model by Hackman and Oldham identifies five important design characteristics of jobs.  Autonomy stimulates responsibility, and feedback provides knowledge of results. Following is a description of each characteristic.
SKILL VARIETY The extent to which the work requires several different activities for successful completion indicates its skill variety. For example, low skill variety exists when an assembly-line worker performs the same two tasks repetitively. The more skills involved, the more meaningful the work.
Skill variety can be enhanced in several ways. Job rotation can break the monotony of an otherwise routine job with little scope by shifting a person from job to job. Job enlargement may as well.
TASK IDENTITY The extent to which the job includes a “whole” identifiable unit of work that is carried out from start to finish and that results in a visible outcome is its task identity. For example, one corporation changed its customer service processes so that when a customer calls with a problem, one employee, called a Customer Care Advocate, handles most or all facets of the problem from maintenance to repair. As a result, more than 40% of customer problems are resolved by one person while the customer is still on the line. Previously, less than 1% of the customer problems were resolved immediately because the customer service representative had to complete paperwork and forward it to operations, which then followed a number of separate steps using different people to resolve problems. In the current system, the Customer Care Advocate can identify more closely with solving a customer’s problem.
TASK SIGNIFICANCE The amount of impact the job has on other people indicates its task significance. A job is more meaningful if it is important to other people for some reason. For instance, a soldier may experience more fulfillment when defending his or her country from a real threat than when merely training to stay ready in case such a threat arises. In the earlier example, the Customer Care Advocate’s task has significance because it affects customers considerably.
AUTONOMY The extent of individual freedom and discretion in the work and its scheduling indicates autonomy. More autonomy leads to a greater feeling of personal responsibility for the work. Efforts to increase autonomy may lead to what was characterized as job enrichment by Frederick Herzberg. Examples of actions that increase autonomy include giving more freedom and authority so the employee can perform the job as he or she sees fit and increasing an employee’s accountability for work by reducing external control.
FEEDBACK The amount of information employees receive about how well or how poorly they have performed is feedback. The advantage of feedback is that it helps employees to understand the effectiveness of their performance and contributes to their overall knowledge about the work. At one firm, feedback reports from customers who contact the company with problems are given directly to the employees who handle the customers’ complaints, instead of being given only to the department manager.

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