This paper begins by introducing the issues surrounding work design and job satisfaction and goes on to explore the different theories of work design. It then highlights the disparate approaches to work design, employee-centred work designs, before evaluating which aspects lead to job satisfaction. Ultimately, the paper evaluates work design and job satisfaction at the BBC, and ends with a conclusion, of the main points.
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Employee retention is a major challenge facing organisations in the private and public sector. Employees are increasingly seeking jobs that satisfy their career and personal-development goals. For example, employees prefer to join organisations that have incorporated employee training and development in their HR management practices (Adekola 2011, p.111). In recognition of this, organisations have identified job satisfaction as one of the most effective ways in which they can achieve their employee-retention objectives.
Job satisfaction refers to how individuals feel about their work. Additionally, Hernon and Altman (2010, p.92) posit that job satisfaction ‘entails the extent to which individuals like or dislike their work’. An organisation’s performance is improved by a low rate of employee turnover, low rate of absenteeism, and improved employee productivity.
This leads to optimal utilisation of human capital; hence enhancing the organisation’s financial performance. A high degree of organisational identification enables employees to identify with the organisation. This minimises the rate of employee turnover.
Lumley et al. (2011, p. 101) argue that job satisfaction ‘influences people’s attitude towards their jobs ’. Job satisfaction is influenced by various organisational and personal factors. Therefore, organisations have a role to play in nurturing a high level of job satisfaction. Effective job design is one ways through which organisations promote job satisfaction. French (2011, p. 244) defines job design as ‘the process of planning and specification of job tasks and the work setting designated for their accomplishment’.
The British Broadcasting Corporation BBC is one example of public sector organisation, which operates in the mass media industry. The UK government publicly owns the organisation. The firm has a human resource base of over 23,000 employees. This paper is based on the following question: To what extent can managers use work design to improve job satisfaction?
Theories of job design
Daft (2008, p. 34) argues that views ‘on how to design jobs in organisations have changed remarkably over the years’. These changes have led to the development of diverse work-design theories. The majority of work-design theories developed focuses on how organisations can improve the level of job satisfaction amongst their employees. Some of the theories are evaluated in this paper.
The two-factor theory by Fredrick Herzberg postulates that two main aspects, viz. the job and the work environment, influence the degree of employee satisfaction (Krajewski, Malhotra & Ritzman 2012, p.211).
Therefore, this theory underscores the importance of ensuring that individual jobs are designed effectively. Additionally, the theory highlights motivational factors to be major contributors to enhancing the level of job satisfaction. Examples of hygiene factors include base wage or salary, organisational policies, quality of supervision, and working conditions (Schermerhorn 2011, p.293).
Consequently, the theory focuses on the settings within which individuals work, rather than the nature of job. Therefore, HR managers are required to improve the working environment rather than the job itself. According to Krajewski, Malhotra, and Ritzman (2012, p.214), one of the major criticisms of this theory is that it ‘assumes that there is a strong correlation between the employees’ productivity and job satisfaction’. However, Hertzberg did not illustrate this relationship methodically.
The two-factor theory hypothesises that a high level of job dissatisfaction is evidenced if the ‘hygiene factors’ in the work environment are poor. Additionally, the theory emphasises that enhancing the hygienic factors only decreases job dissatisfaction as opposed to improving the level of job motivation.
The motivating factors, which are inherent in the job content, contribute to a high level of job satisfaction. Some of the main motivating factors include recognition, responsibility, achievement, and advancements (Schermerhorn 2011, p.299).
One of the most important contributions of the two-factor theory is that it emphasises on the contribution of job enrichment in promoting job satisfaction. One of the major limitations of this theory, however, is that there is no standard method of measuring the ‘hygiene factors’; rather it depends on the supervisors’ opinions (Schermerhorn 2011, p.299).
According to Oldham’s job characteristic theory, the nature of the task performed is critical to an employees’ level (Saiyadain 2003, p.84). It follows that, monotonous jobs suppress employees’ level of motivation.
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This model emphasises on the importance of focusing on the most important job characteristics, which include skill variety, feedback, task identity, autonomy, and task significance (Slack, Chambers & Johnson 2010, p.81). These characteristics, according to Slack, Chambers and Johnson (2010, p.83), have an impact on three main psychological states, which are ‘meaningfulness of work, knowledge of outcomes, and responsibility’.
The psychological states influence the level of job satisfaction in a number of ways. First, managers should ensure that the various job tasks have an intrinsic element of motivation for, employees rather than focusing on employee motivation as a means of attaining the desired goal. Therefore, managers should design jobs in such a way that employees can identify with the tasks (Thomas 2009, p. 43).
This increases the extent to which employees identify with the outcomes to be achieved (Zabihi, Khanzadeh & Alipoor 2012, p.8). The task must also be designed in such a way that employees develop a high level of task significance. This assertion means that jobs should be designed in such a way that employees can develop a perception that their work contributes to the wellbeing of a large number of stakeholders (Thomas 2009, p.45).
The Oldham’s job characteristic theory further asserts that jobs should be designed so that they provide employees with a relative degree of autonomy in executing their duties; for example, by formulating the procedures to follow in executing the job by work scheduling (Neuweg 2008, p.699).
Organisations also need to implement an effective feedback mechanism when designing a particular job, so that individual employees are given clear and direct feedback on the effectiveness and efficiency of their performance. Subsequently, managers can identify how best to design jobs in order to increase the level of satisfaction (Burns 2012, p.86).
The socio-technical systems approach highlights the importance of ensuring effective designs of various types of jobs. This approach asserts that effectively and well-designed jobs can contribute towards improvement in the level of job satisfaction by integrating various measures such as incentives (Baxter & Sommerville 2011, p.14).
Psychological empowerment theory- emphasises the importance of increasing the level of intrinsic task motivation by taking into account three elements in an individual’s job: self-determination, competence, and meaning (Cho 2008). According to this theory, an individual attaches meaning to his or her work if she or he believes that the tasks assigned are meaningful (Hacker 2003, p. 105).
Competence involves the extent to which an individual develops the desired skills to complete the assigned tasks successfully. The self-determination aspect of psychological empowerment theory highlights the significance of integrating a substantial degree of autonomy into employees’ (Neuweg 2008, p.700). Overall, this theory underlines the importance of adopting effective work designs to promote job satisfaction.
Work design approaches
Public-sector organisations have an obligation to adopt effective work designs in order to nurture a high level of job satisfaction (Lewis et al. 2007, p. 116).
Goodman, Fandt, and Michlitsch (2007, p.75) echo these sentiments by asserting that it is imperative for managers to ensure that jobs are designed after the various activities and tasks have been effectively identified. The significance of efficient job design cannot be underestimated: an organisation’s productivity is subject to how jobs are structured (Huo, Moynihan & Ingraham 2003, p. 299).
Behavioural theorists have developed different work design-approaches. These approaches emphasise the importance of designing jobs that focus on depth, breadth, and challenge. Some of the major approaches include job enlargement, job enrichment, job rotation, and job simplification (Khann 2007, p. 148).
Lewis et al. (2007, p.116) are of the opinion that it is imperative for organisational managers to understand the idea of job scope in order to implement the concept of job enlargement effectively.
Bustillo and Macias (2005, p. 661) define job scope as ‘the number of activities that a specific job requires and the frequency with which each activity is performed’. Jobs entailing diverse activities are broader than those that have a limited number of activities.
Job enlargement entails horizontally expanding a specific job by making it more challenging for employees. For example, the manager may increase the number of responsibilities for a particular employee. Subsequently, the employee is charged with responsibility for undertaking a variety of tasks. Campion and Thayer (2008, p.119) assert that job enlargement makes a particular job more interesting.
If the job is more interesting, then the level of job satisfaction amongst employees is improved. Despite the contribution of job enlargement to improving the level of job satisfaction, however, it is imperative that organisational managers to assess whether expanding the job scope are counterproductive with regard to the level of job satisfaction amongst employees. Lewis et al. (2007, p.118) assert that job enlargement can jeopardise job satisfaction.
Job enrichment focuses on the concept of job depth. Job enrichment entails the process through which managers provide sufficient autonomy to employees in the course of executing their duties. Therefore, managers provide employees with certain levels freedom in planning, executing, and controlling the various aspects associated with their job. Furthermore, job enrichment gives employees an opportunity to monitor their job and the quality of output achieved.
Therefore, job enrichment leads to the inclusion of more demanding tasks and is one of the most effective ways of motivating employees and improving the level of job satisfaction (Lewis et al. 2007, p.127). One of the most effective ways through which managers can enrich work is through delegating tasks and responsibilities, which makes a particular job more satisfying (Lussier 2012, p.228).
Job simplification – job simplification takes into account the element of task efficiency, which entails reducing the number of activities that an employee undertakes. Lussier and Kimball (2009, p.58) are of the opinion that job simplification contributes towards a high level of specialisation and efficiency.
This concept of job design is based on the precepts of division of labour. Therefore, employees are in a position to work smarter. One of the ways, which an organisation can undertake job simplification is by changing the work sequence and combining or eliminating some tasks.
According to Lussier (2012, p.235), job rotation involves shifting employees from their usual job roles to another position to enable them to develop an all-rounded experience. Job rotation mainly entails moving employees from one role to another that requires similar skills. This approach to job design is considered a cross-training programme that enables employees to develop new skills by undertaking new tasks. Organisational managers of service and manufacturing companies can integrate job rotation into their work-design process.
For example, firms in the banking industry can rotate their employees between customer service representative, teller, loan officer, and proof operator roles. Similarly, multinational organisations can rotate their top management to work in different foreign subsidiaries in order to improve their international business experience (Lewis et al. 2007, p.96).
Job rotation counters tedium, which is associated with continuously executive repetitive activities. Lateral job rotation, which entails moving employees to new job roles that require similar skills, contributes to career advancement amongst employees, hence increasing the level of job satisfaction. In summary, job enrichment, job rotation, and job enlargement are significant methods of redesigning jobs and they contribute towards a high level of satisfaction.
Employee-centred work redesign
The above traditional work design approaches are not adequate in dealing with the gap between employees and organisations with regard to organisational goals. This inadequacy has led to the development of the employee-centred work redesign. This approach ensures that a clear link between individual employees’ needs and the organisational mission is established.
The approach provides employees with an opportunity to design their job roles in such a way that it benefits the organisation as well as its employees. Lewis et al. (2007, p.98) assert that employee-centred work redesign is very effective in improving levels of job satisfaction.
Causes of job satisfaction
Organisations can integrate different sources of job satisfaction into their work design processes. The first source of job satisfaction relates to work characteristics. Subsequently, organisational managers must integrate effective job characteristics in their work designing process. Terranova (2008, p. 12) argues that the ‘more complex the job, the more interesting it becomes and the more satisfying it is for the worker’.
Employees tend to become bored by doing one job repeatedly, which reduces their level of job satisfaction. In contrast, integrating skill into variety in a particular job increases the level of job satisfaction. It has also been revealed that redesigning job titles increases the level of satisfaction amongst employees, and hence their motivation. However, it is essential for organisational managers to ensure that increasing job characteristics does not also lead to increased job stresses.
In addition to integrating effective job characteristics, it is also essential for organisational leaders to integrate an effective reward system that leads to equitable employee compensation. Hellermann (2006, p.124) adds that monetary and non-monetary ‘rewards should be integrated in the compensation process’.
Paying employees an amount equivalent to their effort tends to increase the level of job satisfaction. An example of non-monetary method of compensation is recognition. Managers should consider integrating employee recognition as one of the elements of job characteristics in order to improve the levels of job satisfaction. It is also imperative for managers to integrate the element of work-life balance into their job designing process.
Work-family conflict is a major factor that increases job dissatisfaction amongst employees (Terranova 2008, p.60). For example, employees might not have adequate time to cater for their family needs, which is a critical component in minimising stress amongst workers. Therefore, to ensure employees have sufficient time to spend with their family, it is essential for HR managers to integrate the concept of work-life balance in organisation’s HR management practices (Terranova 2008, p.60).
In a bid to attain work-life balance, it is critical for managers to integrate the concept of effective time management. For example, managers can integrate a flexible working programme. Consequently, employees will have adequate time to take care of their families and other personal needs such as education. Integrating such work-life balance tends to increase the level of job satisfaction. Moreover, employees develop a high degree of organisational identification, which reduces the rate of employee turnover.
It is also essential for managers to ensure that role conflicts are eliminated in designing the job. One of the ways through in which this goal can be attained is by ensuring that there is no role ambiguity. Terranova (2008, p.67) argues that the existence of role ambiguity increases job dissatisfaction.
Managers should also eliminate organisational constraints that tend to increase dissatisfaction. First, managers should ensure that jobs are designed in such a way that employees are able to access job-related information effectively and efficiently. Other elements that managers should integrate include providing a particular job with the necessary budgetary support, materials and supplies, task preparation, and adequate support from workmates.
Evaluation of work design and job satisfaction at the BBC
The BBC is cognisant of the importance of effective job design in order to improve the level of job satisfaction. The need for a high level of job satisfaction in the organisation arises from the challenging nature of the tasks that employees undertake in the BBC. The organisation has integrated different approaches to job satisfaction in its work-design efforts.
The organisation motivates its workforce by switching them from one department to another such as the editing, marketing, graphics, and production departments. The objective of job rotation is to offer workers the chance to learn novel knowledge and attainments. Job rotation plays a fundamental role in improving job satisfaction amongst employees by providing them with an opportunity to progress in their career path. The BBC’s decision to adopt job rotation arises from the need to enhance on-the-job training, which is cost effective.
The BBC recognises the importance of employee motivation in enhancing organisational performance. Therefore, the firm has integrated job enrichment in its work design processes. Job enrichment in the BBC is attained by providing employees with a high degree of control over their duties; – employees are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that they attain the desired outcome. Furthermore, the BBC recognises employees who demonstrate exemplary performance in their duties in an effort to motivate them.
The BBC also improves job satisfaction by incorporating challenging tasks in its job designing efforts. However, the firm ensures that adequate support is provided in order to complete the task, which increases levels of satisfaction.
The organisation has adopted job enlargement by increasing the number of responsibilities amongst – employees in the various departments. For example, employees in the production department are required to ensure that they have the capacity to produce content that can be aired on the BBC network. This plays a remarkable role in eliminating boredom associated with undertaking tasks repetitively.
From the above analysis, one can assert that work design is a critical factor in determining the level of satisfaction amongst employees. Thus, managers of private and public organisations can improve the level of satisfaction amongst their workforce by integrating effective work designs.
Different scholars have analysed the subject of job design, which has led to the development of different work design theories. Some of the major theories include the two-factor theory;-job characteristic theory;-, socio-technical systems approach;-action/behavioural theory, and psychological empowerment theory. These theories assert that managers have the capacity to improve job satisfaction by integrating effective work-designs.
The theories highlight the importance of focusing on various job-related aspects such as job content and job context. This paper has highlighted the various work-design approaches that are integrated into organisations’ efforts to improve levels of job satisfaction. These approaches include job rotation, job enrichment, job enlargement, job simplification, and adopting the employee-centred work design.
In the course of adopting these approaches, it is imperative for managers to take into account the various causes of job satisfaction. Some of the elements that managers should integrate in their job designing process include job characteristics, integrating effective reward systems, and ensuring a good work-life balance. Taking into account these elements in their work-designing process can remarkably improve the performance of organisations.
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