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Introduction

There are many factors that can be manipulated to improve an employee’s motivation.  These can be related to individual characteristics, environmental characteristics, or job characteristics.  Job characteristics theories include job design.  Job design theories state that the job itself has intrinsic motivational factors.  By designing more interesting and pleasurable jobs, the workers in them will be better motivated.  Traditional jobs were designed for ease and efficiency, but many workers became bored and complacent.  By designing a job that is meaningful and satisfying will increase their satisfaction.  Employees will be most motivated when they are properly matched to a specific job that matches what they are looking for (PSU WC, L10, p.2).

 

Case

The Robertson Rubber Company is responsible for manufacturing tires.  They have been in business for over 40 years and have been quite successful.  They have positions in sales, administration, and production.  Despite demand being at an all time high, production was not doing well.  The management tried to find out what was wrong and they were surprised by what they found.  The employees were not satisfied with their jobs.  They found the work monotonous and were bored with what they were doing.  The main problem was in production.  There are four steps to manufacturing a tire: preparation of semi-finished tires, assembly, curing the tire, and the final verification.  Each employee is responsible for one step only.  The management decided that the best way to motivate the workers is to redesign their jobs to make them more enjoyable and engaging.

 

Analysis of Theory

The main theory associated with job design is job characteristics theory.  This theory states that when the work is interesting, individuals will enjoy their jobs, and therefore be highly motivated and perform well.  The first element of job characteristics theory is the core job dimensions.  The five core dimensions are skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and job feedback.  Skill variety refers to the number of different skills required to complete a particular job.  Task identity is the extent to which a job requires completion from the beginning to the end.  Task significance is the impact that the job has on others and whether it counts for something.  Autonomy refers to the degree of freedom that the employee feels that they have to do their job as they see fit.  Finally, job feedback refers to the extent that an employee receives direct feedback about their performance (PSU WC, L10, p.7).

Another element of job characteristics is the critical psychological states.  Different job dimensions lead workers to experience different psychological feelings.  A job that is high in skill variety, task identity, and task significance leads to feelings that the job is meaningful.  A job high in autonomy causes feelings that they are responsible for their work and its success.  Feedback gives feelings of knowledge related to the results of their work (PSU WC, L10, p.7).

A third element of this theory is work outcomes.  When a job provides for all five of the core dimensions and the critical psychological states are achieved, then certain outcomes will follow.  These include high internal motivation, high quality performance, high satisfaction with work, and low absenteeism and turnover.  The probability that these outcomes will occur is measured by the Motivation Potential Score (MPS).  The higher MPS is, the more likely the job will lead to the desired outcomes (PSU WC, L10, p.8).

The final element of job characteristics theory is growth need strength.  Only employees that need to fulfill higher needs, such as self-actualization, will respond better to jobs high in MPS.  Workers who only want to make a paycheck and go home will not respond to changes in job design (PSU WC, L10, p.9).

The job design approaches proposed by Campion and Thayer are also relevant to this case.   Traditional jobs would be classified as mechanistic.  These jobs involve a single, simple, repetitive, unspecialized task.  These jobs have a low chance of error, but have low job satisfaction and motivation.  The opposite can be said of the motivational approach.  Workers are happier, but it is costlier to implement and can be very stressful.  A job of this approach would be characterized by meeting all five of the core dimensions outlined by job characteristics theory (Campion & Thayer, 1987).

 

Application of Theory

The Robertson Company has decided that the best way to improve production and motivation is by redesigning the jobs using job characteristics theory.  The management started by calculating their MPS.  Because the current job was low in task identity and skill variety, MPS was also very low.  They also talked to the employees and determined that they all had sufficient growth need strength to be satisfied with their current job.

The new jobs must each represent the five core dimensions.  The first is skill variety.  Each of the four production stages requires one skill each.  To increase variety, all of the employees could be trained to work at each of the four stations.  Every week, the workers will rotate which station they are working at.  This would allow them to perform each task every month, which would be a good variety.  This would also help to improve task identity.  The workers may not see a tire from scratch to completion every day, but they will contribute to every step of the process over time.

This job does contain task significance.  The management just needs to do a better job of informing the workers of these benefits.  Employees need to understand that they are not just manufacturing tires; they are essentially manufacturing a safer roadway for America.  Technological advances and benefits of the tires need to be understood by all employees in order to provide a sense of pride in the company and a belief that their work is important.  This can be done by showing an educational video on the importance of safe tires when they are hired and by hanging posters to remind the employees of what they are doing.

Jobs producing tires are also autonomous.  The workers are told to complete their task and are left alone to do it.  Employees should be able to operate in an independent fashion, which leads to greater autonomy.  Periodic meetings, whether daily, weekly, or monthly, should take place to ensure that everyone is doing the tasks and work is being done to the company’s predetermined standards.  An annual performance evaluation with merit-based incentives should be in place to encourage quality work.  Additionally, an employee of the month/year program could be implemented.

These jobs were already high in feedback.  All tires must be tested before they can be sold.  If the workers are making unsafe tires, they will know immediately.  This near constant feedback will motivate the employees not to make a mistake.

According to job design approaches by Campion and Thayer, the existing jobs would be classified as mechanistic.  These jobs consisted of a single task that was rather simple to train.  All employees were required to do the same job over and over and were aided by machines.  These traits led to low satisfaction and the decline in productivity.

The management is working towards a motivational job-design approach.  This includes implementing the five dimensions as discussed above.  Working in teams will allow more social interaction.  Making a finished good that so many people need should create feelings of achievement.  Team meetings will facilitate communication.  The employee of the month program will provide recognition.  Finally, the extra training provided will lead to competitive pay for having many skills and these skills should provide job security.

 

Limitations

Research has shown that there is a weak relationship between job characteristics and critical psychological states.  This is most noticeable with autonomy and feedback being related to experienced responsibility and knowledge of results.  There are also studies that show that job performance actually declined after a job redesign and the boost in job satisfaction was temporary (PSU WC, L10, p.10).  Finally, studies have shown that job satisfaction was weakly related to job performance.  A better predictor of job performance is actually overall life satisfaction (Bright, 2008).  

 

Sources

Bright, J. (2008, March 1). Power to the people; The ladder. Sydney Morning Herald, p. 7.

 

Campion, M., & Thayer, P. (1987). Job design: Approaches, outcomes, and trade-offs. Organizational Dynamics, 15, 66–79.

 

Pennsylvania State University World Campus. (2011). PSYCH 484 Lesson 10: Job Design: Do I find my work interesting and challenging? Retrieved from https://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/su13/psych484/001/content/lesson/lesson10_01.html

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