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  • Summer 2014 Job Design
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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, 2014, L.10, p.2).

 

Case

People are motivated by any number of constructs when on the job.  Jobs can be defined by the tasks that are required to perform well at the job, the environment in which the job takes place, and the nature that those tasks are to be performed (PSU WC, 2014, L.10, p.6).  Employees are not only successful because they are deemed capable of completing a task, but also in designing the job to be appropriate for the employee.  Job Design theory takes into consideration the skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, and job feedback that an employee experiences in order to maximize both productivity and job satisfaction.  By developing a better understanding of each of these constructs, a job can be well defined and even altered if needed, leading to the successful hiring of a person that will perform well. 

 

Jenna is a teller at A Local Credit Union (ALCU).  Her daily tasks include: performing deposits and withdrawals of cash and checks; issuing new debit cards; maintaining a vault for the branch; and making sixteen sales a month that include at least one MasterCard product, one investment consultation product, and a mix of checking accounts, savings accounts, certificates of deposits, and electronic statements.  Training for this position included how to use the software for maintaining accounts, how to make debit cards, how to open different types of products, and the laws associated with the banking industry like the Bank Secrecy Act and the U.S. Patriot Act.

Jenna meets most of her monthly goals.  MasterCards are difficult to sell because she is not allowed to personally open those accounts.  The customer must be sent to another associate and many times customers lose interest if they have to leave her window.  Investment consultations are very difficult to sell because she is not allowed to talk about investment products.  She is only allowed to describe the services that are available and it is difficult to persuade a skeptical member when she is not able to provide examples of what the financials advisors are able to do for them.  Jenna has been keeping an eye out for an open Senior Financial Service Representative position, as it is the next step up in employment at ALCU, but these positions rarely open in the local area and the competition is strong.

Members go to a teller window looking to do financial transactions like deposits and withdrawals.  They much prefer the privacy of a desk were a senior associate assists them for.  Members view senior associates as more competent and knowledgeable in spite of ALCU’s policy that every associate is be able to assist a member with whatever they need. 

Feedback exists in the form of monthly status reports of her progress.  At this point she is made aware if she is on pace, exceeding, or missing her goals.  The software used for those goals utilizes a journal style record keeping for her to record her thoughts over each month.  This is her way to communicate to management her successes and frustrations with each individual sales goal and service characteristic.  A year-end evaluation takes place where the records are read by upper management, and based upon her goals she is awarded a 0% to 5% raise.  It is well known that 5% is unheard of, even by those who exceed all goals by 10% which results in the employee being awarded admission into the President’s Council for the next year.  Aside from a weekend trip to the city and a small bonus, President’s Council does not yield any other benefit.  Most employees who do well get a 2% raise.

The frustrations of being left without all of the devices needed to perform the job can affect a person’s attitude towards their work. In our example the teller seems to have a broad knowledge of the processes from her training. She still does not have all of the autonomy in the current teller position to perform the actions necessary for financial sales. It can also be frustrating to the customer to have to talk to someone else to continue on with the process.

However, the part of her job such as performing transactions begins to become very easy and repetitive. When a job becomes repetitive then there is a much larger likelihood that the person will become less and less excited or enthusiastic about their job. As her motivation decreases and dissatisfaction increases the prospects of not performing her job adequately or meeting goals increases. It is important that her employer identifies this problem quickly so they can provide the feedback that is important to maintain their employees. Afterwards they can alter Jenna’s position to fit her individual characteristics. This will help to improve her satisfaction in her job.

In our example the bank teller is dissatisfied with her job for several reasons. She would like to receive a pay raise and she is also dissatisfied with her job tasks. In the case of the bank teller, pay is a hygiene factor. It is related to context and extrinsic aspects of the job (PSU WC, 2014, L.10).  The teller being dissatisfied with her job tasks is a motivator. It relates to the task at hand and the intrinsic aspects of the job. Based on Herzberg’s theory the teller would be less satisfied without challenging work but not dissatisfied. Also, even if she received the pay raise it does not mean her satisfaction with the job will increase (PSU WC, 2014, L.10).

Job enrichment is an important motivating factor in job satisfaction. It involves giving employees more tasks and greater levels of control and autonomy over how they perform those tasks (PSU WC, 2014, L.10). In the case of the bank teller, this would mean phasing out the teller position and replacing it with a position that was more challenging and afforded her more decision making control, thus providing her with job enrichment.

As a financial service representative, Jenna’s job would change from day to day, task variety. Goals are larger with different types of measure for achieving them. There is more room for the representative to make decisions that they think will be best for the particular customer. They also decided to have discussions quarterly to evaluate how the representatives are doing their job. It is an opportunity to provide both positive and negative feedback with ideas for solutions to help the representatives meet their goals.

Without working to meet these growth needs Jenna would most likely have decided to move on to a different career. Clearly the bank is trying to prevent turnover by improving work satisfaction.


Conclusion

Using the core dimensions of Job Characteristics Theory, many of the issues presented in the case study can be improved. 

First, by using skill variety one can identify that among the myriad of tasks Jenna is assigned, she is not constricted in how she applies her own working system. However, it would be recommended that her tasks are grouped by likeness so that she remains focused and purposeful in her role. By creating more significance in her tasking, it is likelier that Jenna would feel satisfied with her job.

Second, through task identity, Jenna has the inability to complete tasks due to the varied permission levels that prohibit her from completing her monthly goals. A solution may be to adjust her permissions so that she may provide turnkey processes. Another issue that arises is the client’s discomfort with discussing personal information at the teller window, therefore, relocating Jenna to a desk (given the same tasks) will be helpful in aiding her to reach her monthly goals. This will allow continuity of service, reducing Jenna’s frustration due to losing clients who may be interested in other services or account types.

Third, based on the types of tasks under Jenna’s purview, she is vital to ALCU’s gains, as she has the knowledge and ability to open a number of account types with clients. Based on this, her task significance is high. Despite this, clients are still biased as Jenna is not seen as a senior associate, though ALCU has a policy allowing all employees to assist with any client concerns. One way to address this is to shift the job functions of those on the floor to aid the equal perceptions of staff roles and allow clients to feel more comfortable receiving staff assistance.  By enacting equal roles on the floor, clients will have a better understanding of the staff’s equal ability to assist them.

Fourth, Jenna lacks administrative autonomy since she is unable to open MasterCard accounts or to talk about investment products. Though she lacks access in these realms, both tasks occupy a large portion of her work goals. It is strongly recommended that Jenna is given permission to open MasterCard accounts and discuss investment products, or those two tasks are removed from her monthly goals. She also faces some job dissatisfaction since there is limited upward mobility leading to her desired position.  This may be resolved by creating some assistant management positions that focus on the areas requiring further permissions. Addressing this hurdle will allow Jenna to reach her goals in a more efficient manner, while maintaining her own morale until her desired position opens.

Lastly, ALCU has implemented a highly effective job feedback and evaluation system with frequent periods of assessment.  Gains are tied to pay incentives, which encourage employees to complete their given goals. The feedback system is automated, which is helpful in reducing reporting errors and increasing consistency, but will not contribute much in identifying some of the previously mentioned challenges Jenna faces in the goal process if the evaluations only reflect whether or not she met her quotas. By tweaking the feedback system to account for work process the assessments can capture a more accurate picture of employees in their current job roles and make needed adjustments to job descriptions, processes, or quotas.

In conclusion, by identifying areas needing improvement, job design can eliminate redundancy and allow employees to be more productive. By focusing on areas that interrupt the transaction process and remolding them, job design can create a more positive condition for the employer, employee, and clients.

 

References

Pennsylvania State University World Campus (2014). PSYCH 484, lesson 10: job design: do I find my work interesting and challenging? Retrieved fromhttps://courses.worldcampus.psu.edu/su14/psych484/001/content/lesson10/printlesson.html

 

 

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