Job design theories since Hackman and Oldham

Hackman and Odhams Job Characteristic model (JCM) has been used extensively for many years as a outline to understanding five key characteristics to promote satisfaction and motivation within a work place. These five factors are ” skill variety, task identity, task significance autonomy and feedback from the job” (Hackman and Oldham 1976) these characteristics in turn promote psychological states ” experience of meaningfulness, experience of outcome responsibility, and knowledge of results of work” (Hackman and Oldham 1976). These states subsequently effect the outcomes; ” work motivation, performance, satisfaction within the work, low absenteeism, and turnover” (Hackman and Oldham 1976). Hackman and Oldham proposed that when these five job characteristics and the work outcomes are combined to find motivating potential score (MVS), which can then be used to measure how the job will affect employees satisfaction, behavior , and desire to grow within their job. This theory was used as a framework for many years, generating a great deal of research. As a whole the JCM does uphold the prediction that when a worker is motivated, satisfied , and their performance is high, they see their job as high within the five key job characteristics, and mediates a more positive physical state. (Fried and Ferris 1985).

However the JCM comes under scrutiny, due to the distinctiveness of the five job characteristics that it uses, it doesn’t approach the job with the certainty that it can be changed. Within the five core characteristics Hackman and Oldham (1976) failed to recognize important features within a work place such as the ” social environment and work context” (Humphreys et al 2007).

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One of the limitations to the JCM that needed looking into more detail was the mediation of critical psychological states(CPS). Fried and Ferris (1985) found that although the JCM has stimulated over 250 published studies, only eight of these studies included the CPS (Renn & Vanderberg 1995). Hackman and Oldham originally stated that the CPS would each separately act as mediators. However, Oldham (1996) later corrected this by stating that the “true mediation model is different”. (Johns et al 1992 in Humphreys et al 2007) also backed this statement in their earlier research suggesting ” that experienced meaning was a particularly encompassing psychological state and it served as a mediator for all five motivational characteristics” (Johns et al 1992 in Humphrey et al 2007 )Johns et al (1992) was not suggesting that the other states should be taken out but each contributes in their own way to the mediation development.

Since Hackmans and Oldhams (1976) theory, other researchers have expanded on the JCM, as although it was evolutionary in expanding the understanding of occupational psychology it was also very limited. Humphreys (2007) meta analysis is a good example of this, as it has found enhanced characteristics than the initial core five that Hackman and Oldham (1976) came up with. One of the first important factors accounting for motivation which was stated earlier the “social environment and work context” (Humphrey et al 2007) both incrementally predicted enhanced motivation and positive behavior better than the original five core characteristics. Humphrey expanded on the importance of social environment, observing that social characteristics are extremely important factors to promote a positive environment at work “motivational qualities, well being, and how meaningful the work” is to the employee ( Myers 1999 in Humphrey 2007). Because these characteristics reduce the likeliness of negative events happening at the work place, they therefore reduce the job stress on the employee. These are extremely important factors in promoting occupational health as Adler an Kwon (2002 in Humphrey et al 2007 ) found that they also increase “motivation and pro-social work behavior, promoting resilience, security , and positive mood on the job”.

When redesigning jobs, consultants might look at social characteristics such as organized team work, which promotes interdependence between associates. Furthermore interdependence offers social support and a network of co workers and supervisors to assist fellow employees and offer support when needed. This network of support also offers role identity and deals with concerns they have. Additionally working in a team just sustains the opportunity for social interaction, researchers have now started to emphasize the significance of team work and interdependence (Arthur, Edwards, Bell, Villado & Bennet 2005 in Humphrey 2007). This also helps to clarify which roles the particular person fills. Which in turn allows for feedback to enhance perception of the individuals responsibility within a role . Biddle(1979 in Humphreys et al 2007) emphasized that social characteristics should improve and develop role awareness as employees roles become more evident with more contact with other people. Furthermore social characteristics enable interactions between employees allowing them to learn from one another and gain valuable experience, that can only be sought from face to face interactions. This facilitates the employees to transfer implicit and explicit knowledge, so they can perform more effectively (Humphreys 2007). If employees find the social environment they work in to be a positive atmosphere and somewhere they like to work then there will be reduced absenteeism, and will want to carry on working for their employer or organization. Moreover jobs often require leadership when part of a group or a team, and group leadership involves teams with assorted skills from different division of an organization such as cross functional teams. Team work involves sharing leadership roles, or involves rotating different leaders, allowing team members to gain more experience and elevate power (Bens 2006)

Following this Humphreys et al (2007) found that work context actually accounts for more variance than social environment, Humphreys et al (2007) specifically looked at three work context characteristics these are ” physical demands, work conditions, and ergonomics”. Physical demands indicate the actual amount of physical exertion or activity is required for the job This also looks at how much stamina, patience and activity one has to do with the job and if it is satisfactory for the individual. Work conditions examines the physical environment that the employees work in, such as ; ” health hazards, temperature and noise” (Campion & McClel- land, 1991 in Humphrey 2007 and Vough& Parker in press). Ergonomics shows if the work allow for travel, stance and movement. All three of these characteristics take into account how the job “is designed in terms of biological concerns”(Campion 1985 in Humphrey 2007). If these three characteristics don’t work in synergy and complement each other then the job will be physically unpleasant, and the employees will not find working there to be a positive experience, and absentee levels will rise.

Bond and Bunce (2001)s longitudinal study, was a quasi experiment which measured job stressors and strain using the occupational stress indicator (OSI), job control, self rated performance and sickness absence, with participants that were particularly stressed within middle management employees working for a government minister, and a very strict control group. A Participative action research program (PAR) was put in place to reduce the employee’s amount of stress. On the basis of Bond and Bunce (2001) findings, the committee involved “decided to develop proposals and action plans to increase workers’ job control over three problem areas: assignment distribution procedures, within-unit consultation and communication, and informal performance feedback”(Bond and Bunce 2001). Subsequently in agreement with PAR the committee offered everyone in the different units a chance to give their opinion, and discuss the changes that they would like to improve the occupational health within the company, before the strategies were finalized. And each PAR unit had to meet specific goals set by the committee.

The study found that giving the individual a small amount of power by being involved in the job redesign gives the individual higher job satisfaction. Furthermore it was the longitudinal and quasi experiment to prove that a work restructuring interventions can reduce stress in the work place and mental health (Bond and Bunce 2001). However there are some problems with this experiment as it lack generalizability due to its common source bias, as the study has asked the individual and it is self report. A job analysis may have been a better option when redesigning the work place as the results can be generalized more easily. However Bond and Bunce’s (2001) study is extremely interesting and shows progression in occupational health psychology.

Following Hackman and Oldham’s theory,. Humphreys meta analysis has allowed us to pinpoint specific out comes, and see where more research needs to take place in order to thoroughly and successfully redesign jobs to promote better health. However it also highlights gaps in research, still the outcomes are unknown and a generic model cannot always be used due to individual characteristics, it can only be used to pinpoint specific relationships.

Bond and Bunce’s (2001) research shows us how much occupational psychology has progressed from Hackman and Oldhams original model.

In conclusion Hackman and Oldham’s (1967) study was very influential in occupational health psychology, and although now it can be criticised greatly for its limitations it is a framework that has just been improved upon time after time, promoting mediation in job redesign throughout all occupations to make it more positive for the employee.

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