Work Design




Chapter 5 Summary

In chapter 5 Motivating employee performance through work, Griffin and Moorhead (2009) present major components of the strategies that organizations can adopt to improve the performance of their employees. Reading the chapter enables to achieve learning objectives related to comprehensive understanding of these components. They include motivation, employee performance, work design and flexible work arrangements.

The chapter begins with a preface about the lack of happiness among the American employees, which highlights the importance of the chapters subject. The authors define the main reasons of this phenomenon as increased competition, longer working hours, economic uncertainty and technological pressure. Unfortunately, the employees unhappiness that is associated with growing rates of injuries, illnesses and suicides turns into business problems. These issues are related to increased turnover, lost efficiency and low morale that ultimately worsen organizations performance. Nevertheless, according to some studies, about 40% of workers love their jobs, which mostly relates to the nontraditional careers (Griffin & Moorhead, 2009). These jobs allow people to express themselves and learn to create a basis for career happiness. The best option for individuals who find their jobs unsatisfying may be looking for another job based on separate notions of success and money. With respect to the managers who determine job performance in an organization, the preface concludes that the long-term key to success in business is to create jobs that optimize the organizations requirements for productivity and efficiency while simultaneously motivating and satisfying the employees who perform those jobs (Griffin & Moorhead, 2009, p.117).

After a preface, the next section examines the connection between employee performance and motivation. It introduces a framework in the form of diagram that allows managers to enhance performance in their organizations using different theories of motivation. These methods include job design, employee participation and empowerment, flexible work arrangements, goal setting, performance management, and organizational rewards that can help transform motivation into improved performance.

The next section describes one of the most important methods of enhancing employees performance - work design. The section starts with a look at historical approaches. The core of work design is job structure, which is a way of defining and structuring jobs in an organization. Job design is important, because properly defined and structured responsibilities have a positive impact on employees motivation. Historically, the common model of work design has been job specialization. Specialized jobs appeared to be a rational and efficient way to structure jobs in large-scale assembly lines. Further, to support the achievement of the learning objectives, this section presents the article from the New York Times that discusses challenges of designing jobs for low-skill employees that reduce their workplace unhappiness. The main problem that the article defines is producing innovative design out of routine and repetitive jobs with little autonomy.

Meanwhile it turns out that monotony and boredom associated with specialized job model eventually reduce performance efficiency and lead to unhappiness in the workplace. As a result, managers are forced to move away from excessive specialization to other models - job rotation and job enlargement. Even though job rotation and job enlargement seemed promising, they still failed to avoid the downsides of excessive specialization due to the lack of theory-driven methods. A more complex approach was job enrichment that implied increased employees vertical and horizontal loading by assigning more tasks and giving more control. Eventually, job enrichment approach was found to be cost ineffective and inefficient. It necessitated the appearance of more complex and sophisticated viewpoints reflected in a contemporary model of jobs design.

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Moreover,, the next section emphasizes the importance of another model - the job characteristics theory. This theory describes the job in terms of its motivational features: skills variety, task identity and importance, independence and feedback, which have potential to enhance psychological conditions of people. These conditions include experienced responsibility for results, experienced meaningfulness of the work, and aknowledgement the results. Through these psychological states of employees, job characteristics can affect personal and work results. Besides, this theory gives managers general guidelines of implementing basic motivational job characteristics with consideration of individual differences, which are also important in job design.

The next section of the chapter reviews the importance of employees involvement based on their empowerment and participation management, which have potential to improve employees motivation. Participation means expanding employees role in the decision-making process. Griffin and Moorhead define empowerment as the process of enabling workers to set their own work goals, make decisions, and solve problems within their spheres of responsibility and authority (2009, p.125). The role of participation and empowerment in motivation is crucial, because they can make workers more committed to executing decisions. In addition, these actions help satisfy their need for achievement, provide responsibility and recognition and improve self-esteem. Importantly, the necessary conditions for successful empowerment in an organization are readiness to delegate power and autonomy to lower levels throughout the organization, commitment to maintaining participation and empowerment, systematic approach, patience in an effort to empower employees, and increased engagement in training activities.

Later, the authors discuss new managerial practices of empowering workers in organizations. These practices include expanding areas of employees involvement by establishing work teams of different types. Moreover, another option is implementing decentralized methods of management that allow delegating more power, responsibility and authority throughout an organization.

The final section of the chapter identifies and describes key flexible work arrangements, which can help an organization to improve employees motivation and performance. The most common arrangements used in organizations all over the world are variable work schedules, extended work schedules, flexible work schedules, job sharing, and telecommuting.

A variable work schedule includes a compressed schedule, which increases daily working hours and reduces a traditional number of 5 working days while still completing a 40-hour week, or alternating a traditional and compressed schedule. To provide more a comprehensive understanding of the subject for the readers, the section analyzes HP case study concerning changes in their job design and work arrangements in order to create flexible workspace in the company.

Extended work schedules require diving work into periods and following the periods of paid time off relatively longer. With flexible work schedules, or flextime, employees have more control over their working hours, which exceed the core time. Job sharing is another alternative work arrangement that allows part-time workers to share one full-time job. This approach helps organizations to entice more employees, receive some cost benefits and get the advantage of a wider set of skills.

Telecommuting is another important approach that is gaining popularity due to its flexibility. This approach allows employees to work part of working time from remote locations by using modern communication technologies. Moreover, the implementation of this approach helps reduce turnover and maintain facilities.

The chapter concludes with a case study, which shows how Hewlett-Packard increased motivation of their employees by providing workplace flexibility, especially with the help of telecommuting that grew to 100% from 10% in 1999 (Griffin & Moorhead, 2009).

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