The success of projects often depends on the inclusion of appropriate job design elements. However, despite the growing recognition and adoption, many of them align poorly with the set goals. The following paper analyzes four elements of job design based on a personal example and outlines their applicability to a wider context.
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In one of my previous positions, I was a part of the team that worked on a small project. The team was overseen by a manager whose role was initially limited to advise (she had an experience of participating in two similar projects in the past) and communicating the results to the senior management. However, the responsibilities were soon expanded to include employee motivation and empowerment as goals. While these tasks were not explicitly articulated, a number of actions were observed that had a positive effect on the engagement demonstrated by the team.
The first element of job design that was incorporated into managerial practices was job enlargement. This element was especially prominent since the size of the team did not exceed ten employees. For this reason, the majority of employees were assigned a number of tasks that sometimes exceeded the usual workload. Fortunately, the team was compiled of people with substantial previous experience in many of the procedures necessary for the successful completion of the project. Thus, it was possible to organize the task distribution in a way that prevented excessive workload while at the same time created equal opportunities for most of the members (Zareen, Razzaq, & Mujtaba, 2013). Most importantly, it ensured an appropriate diversification of tasks for each employee, which allowed for the additional variety of actions (Heizer & Render, 2016). This move was appealing to the workers who favored horizontal job loading and considered it their preferred mode of operations.
The second notable element of job design was job enrichment. While the majority of tasks were familiar to the team, some required significant time and effort to be completed. These tasks were initially planned to be distributed equally within the team, it soon became apparent that two employees were particularly efficient in completing them whereas the rest experienced significant difficulties (bordering with workflow disruption in one extreme case). Such results eventually prompted the manager to adjust the model by assigning the most challenging and time-consuming tasks to the members who were known to accomplish them effectively. In addition to alleviating the workload from the rest of the team, this resulted in greater employee satisfaction by allocating the tasks in accordance with personal preferences of the team (Trivellas, Reklitis, & Platis, 2013). This assertion is consistent with an informal statement from one of the employees in question, who welcomed the increase in work intensity and considered it an improvement in comparison to a host of small tasks that did not require creativity and dedication.
The third element of job design that was incorporated by the leader was the use of cross-functional teams. Due to the highly specialized nature of tasks prevalent in the project, the team was comprised primarily of the employees with the engineering background. However, in order to attain additional flexibility in decision-making, it also included the representatives from marketing segment of the organization. Finally, two of the tea members specialized in information security, which further diversified the profile of the team. In addition to role distribution, several other characteristics of a cross-functional team could be observed throughout the course of the project.
First, the redistribution of tasks among the members mentioned above was clearly oriented at capitalizing on strengths and preferences of the employees. In a cross-functional team, this is traditionally approached by gathering information on each member and determining the best area for their application, which is expected to improve performance and satisfaction on a per-employee basis (Daspit, Justice Tillman, Boyd, & Mckee, 2013). Second, despite the clear allocation of tasks, the ideas and issues that emerged during the course of the project were brought up, discussed, and adopted whenever appropriate. According to Lin, Wang, and Kung (2015), this provides a cross-functional team with the source of ideas and encourages creative collaboration. It is also worth mentioning that in most cases, the discussions were not formalized, which had a positive impact on the workplace climate.
The latter can also be considered an instance of employee empowerment. During the informal discussions, each team member could participate in the development of a solution to the problem (Lee, Lee, & Park, 2014). In addition, the manager consistently emphasized the importance of each of the proposed options and encouraged developing it into a fully operational solution whenever it was beneficial for the project. Such an approach encouraged active and passionate participation and ensured the necessary commitment from all members of the team.
In my opinion, the majority of jobs would benefit from all of the elements identified above. However, a number of scenarios render some of these elements ineffective. For instance, cross-functional teams become less useful in companies that require a number of highly specialized tasks that cannot be delegated to employees without necessary qualification. The same can be said about job enlargement – the projects that involve complex and/or unfamiliar processes will result in confusion and performance decline with increasing horizontal load.
As can be seen, the effectiveness of each element of job design depends on several factors, including compatibility with team characteristics, goals of the project, and nature of the undertaken tasks. However, with certain exceptions, each of the identified elements has an overall positive effect on team’s performance. In addition, the appropriate use of the elements is expected to improve workplace climate and employee satisfaction, further enhancing project outcomes.
Daspit, J., Justice Tillman, C., Boyd, N. G., & Mckee, V. (2013). Cross-functional team effectiveness: An examination of internal team environment, shared leadership, and cohesion influences. Team Performance Management: An International Journal, 19(1), 34-56.
Heizer, J., & Render, B. (2016). Operations management: Flexible version (10th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.
Lee, J., Lee, H., & Park, J. G. (2014). Exploring the impact of empowering leadership on knowledge sharing, absorptive capacity and team performance in IT service. Information Technology & People, 27(3), 366-386.
Lin, Y., Wang, Y., & Kung, L. (2015). Influences of cross-functional collaboration and knowledge creation on technology commercialization: Evidence from high-tech industries. Industrial Marketing Management, 49, 128-138.
Trivellas, P., Reklitis, P., & Platis, C. (2013). The effect of job related stress on employees’ satisfaction: A survey in health care. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 73, 718-726.
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Zareen, M., Razzaq, K., & Mujtaba, B. G. (2013). Job design and employee performance: The moderating role of employee psychological perception. European Journal of Business and Management, 5(5), 46-55.