Why Is Job Design Important and How Can You Improve It?

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Job design is a vital element in employee retention and successful recruitment.

Engagement Multiplier describes job design as:
“Designing a role with tasks and responsibilities that support the organisations’ business goals and is satisfying, rewarding, and motivating for employees.”

Having a well thought out job design that people will like and want to have will lead to impressive improvements in employee engagement, satisfaction and retention. If there’s a particular role that your business is struggling to fill or retain, poor job design could be the reason. Here are some simple red flags that show job design needs improvement:

  • Employees in this role are leaving at an alarmingly fast rate.
  • Employees in the role have a higher absence rate than other employees.
  • The job description has become a huge task list with many never completed.
  • There aren’t many tasks listed in the job description and the ones that are listed are repetitive.

There are four primary elements that comprise job design: tasks, motivation, resource allocation, and reward. These elements can be broken down into what needs to be done, who is going to do it, how to get them to do it, and what they will be rewarded for doing it.

A task is a specified piece of work that can be completed within a given timeframe. Critical tasks should be clearly identified for the role, and each task should have associated timeframes.

Motivation in job design is the reason why employees complete their tasks and what compels them to sustain the effort to do so. Ensuring that employees are passionate and excited, and motivated about their work will make them want to keep doing what they’re doing.

Resource allocation
Resource allocation optimises how work is assigned and makes efficient use of an organisation’s resources to meet its objectives.

Rewards within job design aren’t just compensation and bonuses. Being able to provide job security and company benefits as well as other rewards will play a huge part in motivating employees and creating a desirable job design.

Improving Job Design

Job design also includes job characteristics. Paying attention to these characteristics, and making adjustments to roles as employees gain more experience or in response to employee feedback, allows leaders to make jobs more engaging.

Here are the five core characteristics of Job Design:

Do employees receive regular updates about their performance?

Do you trust your employees to work independently, or do you closely monitor or manage their performance?

Task Significance
Are tasks important and how much do they impact the company or your customers?

Task identity
Are employees working solely on small components of larger tasks, or are they able to identify and complete tasks with a visible outcome?

Skill Variety
How much variety is expected within the role? Are roles expected to be repetitive or is there a variety of different tasks to undertake?

Improving job design
To make the most out of your employees and to ensure they’re happy with their role, you should be making sure that their job design is helping them to thrive rather than hindering your employees. You should be regularly reviewing your current job design and thinking about how a role is performing and delivering within your business and how your current employees feel about their job design. Here are some ways you can review your current job design:

Complete a role and responsibilities assessment. This will help you to understand the work that should be done within the role and what should be expected. Think about the task variety in the role and whether it is lacking or repetitive. Is the role poorly defined? Do you find that tasks are often left uncompleted? If you find that you answered yes to any of these questions make sure to talk with employees and supervisors about the work that is always completed, sometimes completed, and never completed.

Try anonymous surveys to gather quick and honest information on a role. This could be a really useful way to review your current job design, especially if a few people have the same role. You can download our template survey here. It’s important to notice if there is a wide range of responses rather than them being relatively similar as this can signal unfair treatment from a leader.

You should be conducting regular 1-2-1 interviews as these are a great way to gather valuable insight into employees’ satisfaction with their work, as well as useful information on the resource allocation the work requires.

Identifying the areas of improvement
With the data you have gathered, you should now be able to identify where your job design needs improvement. There are two main categories that most improvements will fall under; job responsibilities and management related. Skill variety, task identity and task significance are all improvements that fall under job responsibilities. Ensuring employees receive regular and consistent feedback as well as having a healthy level of autonomy are management related improvements.

Improving job responsibilities doesn’t need to be an overwhelming task, even if your business is short-staffed, facing increased demand, or running to its full capacity you can still make the necessary improvements. Try to think about:

  • Delegating more tasks to roles that need more skill variety.
  • Combining tasks to give employees more robust and fully identifiable tasks and provide an opportunity for upskilling.
  • Enable more experienced employees the opportunity to take on new tasks from related areas of the business to provide cross-training or stretch assignments to more experienced people to improve the design of their roles.

Inexperienced managers tend to lack confidence and usually require training to avoid defaulting to micromanagement and/or favouritism. Here are some tips on becoming a great leader.

Having a strong job design will lead to more engaged and happy employees that value their work and are less likely to want to leave.

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