Child pages
  • Spring 2012 job design case
Skip to end of metadata
Go to start of metadata


Job Design Theory

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory was the first job-based theory (Pennsylvania State University, 2012) and identified two categories of job factors: hygiene factors, which are extrinsic factors like benefits, pay, and co-worker relationships, and motivators, which are intrinsic and related to job content, like autonomy, responsibility, and challenge level.  Herzberg did not think that hygiene factors could motivate workers; only motivators could do that.

Job Characteristics Theory was introduced by Hackman and Oldham.  This theory assumes that if a job is interesting, people will enjoy their work and be motivated to perform well (Pennsylvania State University, 2012).  Hackman and Oldham identified five core job dimensions in this theory: skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and job feedback.  Additionally, they created an equation to determine a job’s potential to motivate a person (Pennsylvania State University, 2012) known as Motivational Potential Score (MPS).

MPS= [(skill variety + task significance + task identity)/3] *autonomy *feedback.

MPS is an index that summarizes the potential a job has for motivating a person.  The higher the score, the more probability of a person experiencing personal and work outcomes that are representative of the model. 

Case Study Details

Carlos is the floor manager of Industrial Textile, INC. This company makes all of the components that are comprised of a kitchen, which includes; cabinets, counter tops, brackets, knobs, and fixtures.  Carlos is in charge of all the behind the scenes actions that take place to provide the customer the finished product; arranging pickup and delivery of products, new client set up, and dealing with a team of thirty-five employees.  He often looks out of his office window and watches his team moving around quickly to get the quotas met for the day, and longing for the chance to be part of that action and work with his hands like the rest of the crew. 

Mike is one of the thirty-five employees managed by Carlos.  He knows that he is better equipped to motivate his co-workers, not only o tmeet the quota for the day, but to also exceed it by making the job of the day a race to the finish.  Mike looks at the outcomes of his persuasion with his co-workers as a fine skill.  The co-workers also seek Mike out for help with problems that arise on the line.   These are things that the employees know Mike is able to deal with and prevents them from having to seek out the help of their manager, Carlos.

While Carlos and Mike are both doing the jobs they were assigned, neither one is truly happy.  Carlos notices that Mike gets all of the credit from his co-workers for a job well done, which prompts his decision to make some changes at Industrial Textile, INC.  Carlos appoints Mike to the position of shift supervisor, where he will get a five dollar an hour pay raise, as well as more responsibility interacting with co-workers and problems on the line.  Carlos will then take the responsibility of training new employees on the line, which will provide him a chance to move around and be more active.  With this being said, both employees have changed the design of the designated jobs to better suit their liking and allowing them to participate in jobs that each of these men love to do. 

Application of Job Design Theory

Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory

It can be assumed that Carlos and Mike are both, for the most part, satisfied with the way that their current positions address hygiene factors, such as salary and supervision (Pennsylvania State University, 2012).  Carlos may feel a need to address the relationships he has with his co-workers (subordinates), so he likely feels less satisfaction than Mike in this scenario.  By providing himself with an opportunity to interact with new trainees, Carlos will improve his satisfaction of relationships with co-workers, thus he will be, overall, more satisfied with the hygiene factors of his position. 

With respect to motivators, both Carlos and Mike feel some dissatisfaction with their jobs.  Carlos desires more hands-on tasks in his job, while Mike is looking for an opportunity to demonstrate more leadership for his team.  Neither employee fully enjoys his position due to a lack of satisfaction and engagement within their roles.  By allowing Mike to take on a greater level of control, autonomy, and responsibility as a shift supervisor,  Carlos will demonstrate the ability of job enrichment.  This in turn, will help Mike feel more satisfied with the motivating factors of his role (Pennsylvania State University, 2012).   Mike’s increase in responsibility will allow for Carlos to become more involved with the training process of new employees,  which will then increase Carlos’ satisfaction with the motivating factors of his job.

Job Characteristics Theory

The five core job dimensions, as outlined by Hackman and Oldham, include skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and job feedback (Pennsylvania State University, 2012).  In the case of Carlos and Mike, skill variety and task identity do not seem to be a source of dissatisfaction.  The changes Carlos makes with regard to Mike's and his own job, will have more of an effect on the task significance, autonomy, and job feedback dimensions, but still impact skill variety and task identity.  By adapting his job to include training new employees, Carlos has added another variety of skills required by his job.  And in similar fashion, by making Mike a shift supervisor, Carlos has added a new skill set to those required by Mike’s job as well.  Mike will see an increase in autonomy as a shift supervisor, and will also see an increase in task significance, as his supervisory role will impact his co-workers.  Also in this supervisory role, Mike may see an increase in job feedback.  If he is able to motivate his co-workers as much as he feels is possible, he should see a higher quality and/or level of performance.  These scenario will provide a favorable outcome for his job performance as well.

Carlos will not lose autonomy by changing his job duties, but will likely see an increase in both task significance and job feedback.  By taking on the training of employees, Carlos will directly impact many of his co-workers/subordinates.  Additionally, the performance level of those trained by Carlos, will provide a reflection of his performance in this new and developing role.


Job design theory suggests that the source of Carlos' and Mike’s discontent is the structure of their jobs themselves. First, Carlos’s role is high in what Herzberg’s Two-factor Theory would term “motivators” (e.g. responsibility, autonomy) and what Job Characteristics Theory would generally consider positive core job dimensions (Pennsylvania State University, 2012). The skills required are varied; Carlos works with relative independence and autonomy. We can also assume that Carlos’s job offers him more lucrative hygiene factors (e.g. pay, benefits) relative to Mike’s. The latter worker’s job is more rote and structured, which presumably will allow Carlos’ position to more likely foster the critical psychological states (skill variety, task identity, and task significance) that often inspire motivation.

Hence, it is possible that Mike will be unhappy and unmotivated, while for Carlos, the opposite will be true. However, growth need strength — the degree to which an individual wants, and is actually suited to positions associated with high MPS (Motivational Potential Score) will need to be considered (Pennsylvania State University, 2012). Carlos, it seems, would like a little less responsibility; he envies the simplicity of his subordinates’ positions and wishes he could work more often with his hands.  The other side seems to portray Mike being capable of taking on more responsibility. Job design theory suggests a way to address both of their less-than-ideal situations, by slightly tweaking their positions’ requirements.

By promoting Mike to shift supervisor, Carlos has enhanced at least four of the five core job dimensions; skill variety, task identity, task significance and autonomy.  Along with that his is given a $5 an hour raise, a not-totally inconsequential hygiene factor.. Mike, who is high in growth need strength, should flourish in this new role and become more motivated (Pennsylvania State University, 2012). At the same time, by shifting some of his duties to Mike and freeing up some of his own time, Carlos will be available to be more involved in the work out on the floor, Carlos has redesigned his own job to better conform to his personal growth need strength. Even though he hasn’t administered a Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS), Carlos intuitively understands the concept of vertical loading, one of the key components which allows for delegating some of the tasks normally reserved for supervisors (in this case, Carlos) to subordinates.  This is done to grant them more responsibility and autonomy, and hence boost motivation (Pennsylvania State University, 2012).


Job design theory is composed of Herzberg’s two-factor theory and Job Characteristic theory. Herzberg’s theory states that two factors, hygiene and motivators, are responsible for people’s satisfaction and enjoyment in their jobs.  Job Characteristic theory states, "if people are interested in their work, they will be motivated to do well and enjoy their jobs on a daily basis" (Pennsylvania State University, 2012).

In the initial situation, Mike and Carlos both performed their jobs adequately, but neither was happy. If we were to apply Herzberg’s two-factor theory to this, we would say that their hygiene factors were being met, but that they lacked motivating factors, which could enable them to enjoy the responsibilities of each of their positions. From the point of view of Job Characteristic theory, we can see that Mike and Carlos are both capable of doing their jobs.   What they both are looking for are changes in the type of tasks they perform, so that more enjoyment is possible in each of their positions.

Carlos has found a way to improve both his and Mike’s situations. He has given Mike more autonomy and the ability to use his persuasion skills, while at the same time allowing himself a chance to spend more time working with the employees on the line. Now we can expect Mike and Carlos to be more productive at work as well as more interested in their assigned duties. Their hygiene and motivator factors are being me,t which in Herzberg’s eyes, would place them in the ideal position for any employee.  That being one in which their basic needs are met and they are motivated to do their job well.  As Hackman and Oldham would say, Carlos and Mike are now more internally motivated and satisfied with their positions.  This will lead to greater productivity which is the goal of restructuring any employee’s position.


Pennsylvania State University (2012). Work Attitudes and Motivation. PSYCH 484: Lesson 10: Job Design: Do I find my work interesting and challenging? Retrieved March 21, 2012 from

  • No labels