The most fundamental aspect of organising is to decide what people are required to do as part of their job. This process is called job design.
Various factors that affect a job design are:- 1. Size 2. Technology 3. Environment 4. Strategies and Goals 5. Specialisation and Division of Labour 6. Authority and Responsibility 7. Span of Control.
8. Ergonomics and Job Design 9. Work Schedules 10. Organisational Factors 11. Environmental Factors 12. Behavioural Factors.
Learn about the Factors Affecting Job Design
Factors Affecting Job Design – 4 Main Factors: Size, Technology, Environment, Strategies and Goals
Organisations undergo change, become obsolete or ineffective due to changes in size, technology, environment and its strategies and goals. Hence, it is difficult to label one particular structure as an ideal structure for any organisation. Hence, organisations need to review and redesign their structures as and when the need arises.
The structure should be redesigned keeping in mind certain factors like:
4. Strategies and goals
It’s an indication of the number of employees working for the organisation. Size is very important in the context of designing an organisation. In most cases, the size of the workforce is an indication of the organisation’s scale of operations. In most organisations its assets, employee strength, geographical spread, diversity and production are an indication of its size.
Complexity, specialisation and standardisation are low in small organisations. Larger organisations may have more levels in their hierarchy and hence, may have tall structures when compared to smaller organisations. For example, McDonalds, a fast food giant, specialising in hamburgers has a high degree of formalisation, specialisation and standardisation.
Technology has redefined the way organisations work. Organisational structure varies according to the degree of usage of technology. Variability of structures can be attributed to the tools, techniques and equipment used in an organisation in the process of delivering a product or service.
Joan Woodward, a sociologist, wanted to study the relationship between the size and success of an organisation. She could not find a relationship between the success of a firm and its size.
She then focussed her attention on technological aspects, which affected the organisational design. She identified three tiers of technologies which affected organisational designing.
i. Unit and small batch production
ii. Large batch and mass production
iii. Continuous process production
The complexity of technology used in these systems increases from small batch to continuous process technology.
i. Unit and Small Batch Production:
In this system, customised products are manufactured. The customer’s specifications drive the whole manufacturing process. Customised Limousines car (Stretched Limousines) are an example of this kind of product.
ii. Large Batch and Mass Production:
As the name suggests, products are made in large numbers. Assembly lines are used during production. For example, microchips used in computers are mass produced.
iii. Continuous Process Production:
Raw materials are processed in a continuous manner by a number of machines to get the final product. Chemical and petroleum refineries are one such example. Woodward conducted her research by taking a sample of 100 UK-based companies.
From her study, she concluded that:
a. Increasing complexity of technology also meant a tall organisational structure with a number of levels.
b. Increase in the executive’s span of control.
c. Requirement of fewer but highly skilled workers.
d. Level of specialisation and formalisation needed was very high in large and mass production organisations.
Tom Burns and G. M. Stalker hold the credit for finding the relationship between environment and organisational design. They studied twenty organisations and came to the following conclusions- They identified two types of extremities in the environment. One was a highly stable environment and the other was highly unstable.
Then they identified organisations which worked in these environments. They found that the organisational design of companies working in stable environments differs from those working in unstable environments.
On the basis of this, they divided the organisational designs into two types:
i. Mechanistic and
This organisational design is characterised by a bureaucratic system, tall structures, highly centralised decision-making, with rules and regulations for every activity. This kind of design is adopted by organisations which work in a highly stable environment.
It’s an organisational design characterised by a high degree of flexibility, flat structures and delegation 6f authority. Organisations which work in an unpredictable environment and which have to change and adapt for their survival belong to this category.
4. Organisational Strategies and Goals:
Organisational design is greatly affected by an organisation’s strategy. Both corporate strategy and business strategy have a say in the organisational design.
i. Corporate Strategy and Organisational Design:
Corporate strategy is the overall strategy adopted by an organisation to manage all its strategic business units.
ii. Business Strategy:
It’s a strategy that is focused on a single business unit rather than the whole organisation or business group. For example, if an organisation has adopted cost leadership strategy then functional structure would be an apt structure for this strategy.
The mapping of business strategy to the organisational structure has been done by Danny Miller.
He suggested suitable structures for Michael Porter’s different business strategies:
b. Cost Leadership
Its a business strategy in which the company tries to gain competitive advantage by concentrating on one particular product, market or customer group.
b. Cost Leadership:
If the company reduces the cost of its product for gaining competitive advantage then it’s called cost leadership. For example, Walmart, a retailing chain, uses this strategy for edging out its competitors. It sells a variety of products at a cost lower than its competitors for gaining competitive advantage.
If a company’s products and services are unique in the sense that they are the only one of its kind. Danny Miller and G. Morgan in their book, ‘The case for Configuration’ have discussed the concept of mapping strategy and structure. (Sage Publications, 1983), available in the market then it is called differentiation.
Uniqueness in product features, service delivery system, etc. is termed as differentiation. Differentiation can be further divided into market and innovative differentiation. For example, BMW has differentiated itself on the basis of its features in its cars.
Factors Affecting Job Design – 5 Main Factors
The most fundamental aspect of organising is to decide what people are required to do as part of their job. This process is called job design. Five main factors need to be considered- the level of specialisation; authority; span of control; ergonomics; and work schedules.
1. Specialisation and Division of Labour:
Job design assumes that some workers will specialise in certain activities while other workers will specialise in different ones. Specialisation means that each worker only does a part of what is needed. It is sometimes called division of labour.
Up to a point it leads to greater efficiency and economies of scale because:
i. Individuals can quickly develop a high level of skills in certain activities.
ii. People can be directed to those activities where they have most ability and hence their potential can be exploited more fully.
iii. Employees do not waste time changing from task to task.
iv. Jobs are often simplified and can be allocated, at less cost, to workers with lower skills.
Extreme specialisation is seen in some assembly lines where employees are required to do a single task, repetitively but with a high level of speed and efficiency.
Unfortunately, high levels of specialisation have disadvantages:
i. Highly specialised jobs are boring and tend to de-motivate people. Employees rarely see a finished product so they tend not to have a sense of pride in their work.
ii. Teamwork and creativity are inhibited.
iii. Employees will only have a restricted range of skills. They cannot be redeployed to deal with bottlenecks elsewhere. Further, these employees are vulnerable to changes. When changes occur these employees are likely to be dismissed or need retraining.
In general job design seeks to achieve a balance between the advantages and disadvantages of specialisation. Optimum productivity is achieved at intermediate levels of specialisation.
A major aim is to design jobs that avoid the negative effects of specialisation by including factors which motivate workers.
Research suggests that people will be motivated if a job:
i. Requires the use of many, different skills rather than the repetitive use of one or two skills (skill variety).
ii. Allows a person to do a complete job rather than a small part of a job. The worker is then more likely to be motivated by a sense of pride (task identity).
iii. Allows a person to understand the contribution that their work makes to the goals of the organisation or its importance to colleagues or customers (task significance).
iv. Gives freedom, discretion and independence in the way that the work has to be done – providing that the correct results are achieved (autonomy).
v. Provides feedback on a worker’s effectiveness. Sometimes feedback is extrinsic in the sense that people are told how well they are performing. At others feedback is intrinsic because the job itself provides information about success or failure.
Often these principles are applied to improve specialised jobs which are believed to be demotivating. The jobs are examined using a special questionnaire and those areas that are found to be deficient are improved by, say, including new activities or developing a systematic method of feedback.
2. Authority and Responsibility:
Authority is the formal power a job holder has to make decisions, marshal resources and give instructions to others. Authority is mainly a characteristic of a job rather than a characteristic of an individual – it remains the same even if a job is held by a different person. Early management theorists considered authority in depth. They viewed it in a feudal perspective. All authority was held by top management and it was successively delegated to lower ranks. Authority is determined by one’s position in a management hierarchy.
The modern view of authority is rather more complicated. Subordinates often refuse to obey the authority of a superior who is disliked or incompetent. Subordinates may join forces to thwart authority of a new or insecure manager. Subordinates who have particular expertise may exercise more authority than those in superior positions.
For example, a chief executive may follow the judgement of a human resource manager when choosing key members of staff because the HR manager has a higher level of expertise in that area. Job descriptions usually specify the limits of authority. For example, a job description might state that a manager can only authorise overtime up to a certain level.
Traditionally authority was closely guarded because of an implicit belief that employees at lower levels are idiots and cannot be trusted. Often this means that time is wasted because subordinates repeatedly needed to refer matters to their superiors and then wait for their decisions. Many decisions were made by superiors who had neither up-to-date information nor specialist expertise. The modern trend is to push authority as far down the organisation as possible so that decisions can be more timely and based on better information. This trend is called empowerment.
Responsibility is usually linked to authority. It is the duty of a subordinate to perform a task that has been assigned to him or her. However, this duty only exists if the employee, in turn, has authority over the resources needed to do the job. A manager’s “area of responsibility” (AOR) is the domain of resources over which she or he has authority. Job design must achieve the correct relationship between authority and responsibility.
3. Span of Control:
Responsibility for the work of other employees is a special kind of authority. The number of employees supervised is called the “span of control”. Traditionally it was argued that about six subordinates was the optimum span of control. If a manager is responsible for more employees there is the danger of “communication overload” and delays will occur.
However, research has indicated that the span of control depends upon a number of factors such as environmental stability. In highly stable situations with few complexities and exceptions, the span of control can be higher, perhaps extending to 20, 30 or even 50 subordinates.
The latter situation occurs on production lines making highly standardised products. In more changeable situations, where different products are made to meet the needs of individual customers, smaller spans of control may be better. High spans of control are possible when an organisation has a clear system of values, where a boss and subordinates work in close proximity, or where there is an efficient computer system that captures and collates key management information. The increasing use of information technology may be one of the reasons why, in recent years, the spans of managerial control have been increasing.
4. Ergonomics and Job Design:
Ergonomics is a specialised area of psychology which aims to ensure that jobs are designed in a way that makes them suitable for human beings to perform. This means that workplaces should be constructed to minimise harmful effects. Machines should be designed in a way which makes accidents impossible.
For example, a metal-cutting machine can avoid accidental amputation of a hand by making sure that the cutting blades do not come into operation until a guard is in place and the operative’s hands are safely out of the way while pressing two buttons that are placed well outside the danger area.
Ergonomics plays an important role in the design of instrument displays. For example, the pilot of an aircraft must monitor many dials. Many scientific experiments have been conducted to ensure that a cockpit display is laid out to maximise the ease of reading and to minimise the risk of confusion. One of the most recent concerns of ergonomists is the design of computerised workplaces. They should be constructed so that the working position does not create problems from poor posture, glare or repetitive actions that result in repetitive strain injury (RSI).
Ergonomists try to establish the patterns of shift work which do least damage to long-term health. Working very long hours (48 hours or more per week for more than nine weeks) carries long-term health risks. Furthermore, studies conducted as long ago as 1918 showed that the output of people who work very long hours is less than those who work to a more reasonable schedule.
5. Work Schedules:
In traditional agricultural economies work schedules were determined by the natural cycles of night and day and the seasons. With the Industrial Revolution and the invention of artificial lighting, work schedules tended to involve long shifts of 12 hours or more. Such long hours were often counter-productive and shorter hours with more holidays became the norm.
In the middle of the last century the stereotypical work schedule followed a “nine to five” pattern – although probably only a small proportion of the working population actually worked that schedule. In the closing decades of the last century work schedules became more varied and included flexible working hours, a compressed working week and home working.
i. Flexitime is probably the most common variation on the “standard” working week. It allows workers some autonomy and discretion in the hours that they work – provided that the total hours worked is sufficient. Flexitime employees must usually be present for certain core hours such as 10.00 a.m. to 3.00 p.m. It is very popular with secretarial and administrative staff.
The growth of flexitime has been helped by the development of computer systems which can easily keep track of the hours an employee works. Flexitime often increases productivity because it decreases absenteeism and lateness. Employees like flexitime because it allows them to balance the competing demands of work and home. However, some managers may question an employee’s motivation and commitment if they use flexitime too liberally.
ii. Compressed working week is another variation on the “standard” working week whereby employees have longer working days in return for more days when they do not work. The most common form is for employees to work ten hours for four days in return for having a weekend break of three days.
Some employees then choose to take a second job. The compressed working week is ideally suited to the domestic arrangements of some employees. However, it has been claimed that many people are fatigued during the last two hours of the 10-hour working shifts and consequently their concentration and attention may suffer.
iii. Homeworking and teleworking- Working at home, or in the fields near to home was once the most common form of work. In many industries, such as assembling small products or packing goods, working from home persisted for many years.
The increasing availability of computers has led to a new variety of homeworking – telecommuting. In telecommuting an employee works at home but is linked to “the office” via computer and modem. In addition, they attend “the office” perhaps one day a week for meetings and social activities. The archetypal form of telecommuting is employees who are engaged in data input.
Teleworking has a number of advantages:
(a) Low overheads – A firm does not have to provide office space, heating and lighting. These costs are usually borne by the teleworker.
(b) Reduction of labour shortages – Firms can employ people who would otherwise be outside the labour market. Teleworking often allows employers to recruit people with domestic responsibilities or who do not wish to commute to work.
(c) Increased productivity – Research suggests that teleworking can increase productivity by 25 per cent. Part of this saving is due to lower absenteeism and labour turnover. Some of the saving may be due to a reduction in time spent on social activities at work and the fact that employees are not fatigued by commuting.
Some people point to the disadvantages of teleworking:
(a) Teleworkers may feel that they and their careers suffer because they are not as visible to important people in the organisation.
(b) Home circumstances may interfere with teleworking and increase the stress placed upon teleworkers.
(c) Teleworkers may find the home-work interface very difficult and will work very long hours in order to complete assignments.
iv. Job sharing – The concept of job sharing is self-explanatory. The duties involved in one job are shared, usually, by two people. Sometimes they work on different days of the week. Sometimes one person works in the morning while the other person works in the afternoon. Frequently the people who share the job are friends. Indeed, job sharers are sometimes husband and wife. If the job is complex, it is important to arrange a short “handover” period where the sharers co-ordinate the jobs in hand.
From the employee’s point of view job sharing may be an excellent way of combining work with domestic responsibilities or leisure. From the employer’s point of view job sharing reduces the impact if an employee needs sick leave. Some people maintain that there is an increase in productivity because each person will achieve more than their proportionate share of the job. Apparently this is particularly true when the job involves creative work- a job shared between two people may well produce 20 per cent or more ideas than a single employee might produce.
v. Contingent workers – Casual workers who are hired as and when there is sufficient demand are often called contingent workers. There is nothing new about contingent working. In agricultural economies many people were hired during the harvest period and their employment ended once the crops were gathered. In the past, dockyard workers were normally employed when ships arrived with cargoes which needed unloading.
Universities employ large numbers of contingency seminar leaders to cope with increased student numbers. Managers who are hired for specific projects are often called “interim managers”. The provision of contingent office workers is highly organised and “temping agencies” have developed to meet this need. Many contingent workers are paid low wages but the temporary nature of their work may be a useful way of obtaining convenient short-term employment.
The costs of using contingent workers from an agency may be high because an agency usually pays higher wages and charges a sizeable commission to cover its costs of recruiting and maintaining a register of temporary employees. Nevertheless, the costs of employing “temps” may be an efficient way of meeting peaks in demand.
vi. Office sharing and hoteling- Providing employees with a workplace or office is expensive. It is particularly expensive if the workplace requires specialist equipment or if it is located in the centre of a major city. To make matters worse individuals may only use their workplace for a part of the time.
For example, a sales manager may only use his or her office during the mornings. During the afternoon he or she may be accompanying sales representatives “on the road”. Therefore it may be possible to allocate an office to two sales managers. One uses it in the morning and is “on the road” during the afternoon while the other is “on the road” during the morning and in the office during the afternoon.
Hoteling takes this idea one step further. A firm can have a number of desks or offices. Staff can book a desk or an office when it is needed in a way that is analogous to booking a hotel room when it is needed for a day or for some purposes only an hour! These arrangements are often used by major consultancy firms which have premises in the prestigious but expensive centres of major cities.
Providing consultants with their own accommodation would be prohibitively costly. Each might occupy an office for only a few hours each week because most of their time is spent at the premises of their clients. The system of booking an office or desk space for short periods is called ‘hot-desking’. Often, a hot-desking employee will be given a trolley to store files and other equipment.
It will be stored, relatively cheaply, in a depot. When office facilities are needed they will be reserved, the trolley will be taken from the depot to the allocated desk and a computer will route telephone calls to the appropriate extension. When the task is completed the desk will be vacated, the trolley returned to the depot and the desk space allocated to another consultant.
From the firm’s point of view, hot-desking is an excellent proposition – it slashes accommodation costs. Furthermore, it inhibits employees wasting time luxuriating in their own office rather than spending time with clients on work that generates fees. However, the impact on employees can be very negative. Hot-desking may involve considerable inconvenience.
It hardly engenders a feeling that the organisation has a long-term commitment to its employees. Consequently, hot-desking reduces an employee’s commitment to the organisation. After all, if the organisation provides them with so little back-up, they may as well “poach” clients and work on their own account.
Under some circumstances the concept of hoteling can work well. For example, the provision of facilities for researchers in management is very expensive and, often, the facilities lie idle for considerable periods while researchers are planning their experiments and writing up results.
A recent innovation is the “research hotel” in which researchers plan their investigations and write up their results in their permanent offices at their own universities. However, the actual experiments and data gathering, which require expensive and specialised facilities, are undertaken at regional centres where good facilities can be reserved for the days or the weeks when they are actually needed.
Factors Affecting Job Design – Organisational, Environmental and Behavioural Factors
A well-defined job will make the job interesting and satisfying for the employee. The result is increased performance and productivity. If a job fails to appear compelling or interesting and leads to employee dissatisfaction, it means the job has to be redesigned based upon the feedback from the employees.
Broadly speaking the various factors that affect a job design can classified under three heads.
1. Organisational Factors
2. Environmental Factors
3. Behavioural Factors.
1. Organisational Factors:
Organisational factors that affect job design can be work nature or characteristics, work flow, organisational practices and ergonomics.
i. Work Nature – There are various elements of a job and job design is required to classify various tasks into a job or a coherent set of jobs. The various tasks may be planning, executing, monitoring, controlling etc. and all these are to be taken into consideration while designing a job.
ii. Ergonomics – Ergonomics aims at designing jobs in such a way that the physical abilities and individual traits of employees are taken into consideration so as to ensure efficiency and productivity.
iii. Workflow – Product and service type often determines the sequence of work flow. A balance is required between various product or service processes and a job design ensures this.
iv. Culture – Organisational culture determines the way tasks are carried out at the work places. Practices are methods or standards laid out for carrying out a certain task. These practices often affect the job design especially when the practices are not aligned to the interests of the unions.
2. Environmental Factors:
Environmental factors affect the job design to a considerable extent. These factors include both the internal as well as external factors. They include factors like employee skills and abilities, their availability, and their socio economic and cultural prospects.
i. Employee availability and abilities – Employee skills, abilities and time of availability play a crucial role while designing of the jobs. The above mentioned factors of employees who will actually perform the job are taken into consideration. Designing a job that is more demanding and their skill set will lead to decreased productivity and employee satisfaction.
ii. Socio economic and cultural expectations – Jobs are nowadays becoming more employee centered rather than process centered. They are therefore designed keeping the employees into consideration. In addition the literacy level among the employees is also on the rise. They now demand jobs that are to their liking and competency and which they can perform the best.
3. Behavioural Factors:
Behavioural factors or human factors are those that pertain to the human need and that need to be satisfied for ensuring productivity at workplace. They include the elements like autonomy, diversity, feedback etc.
A brief explanation of some is given below:
i. Autonomy – Employees should work in an open environment rather than one that contains fear. It promotes creativity, independence and leads to increased efficiency.
ii. Feedback – Feedback should be an integral part of work. Each employee should receive proper feedback about his work performance.
iii. Diversity – Repetitive jobs often make work monotonous which leads to boredom. A job should carry sufficient diversity and variety so that it remains interesting with every passing day. Job variety / diversity should be given due importance while designing a job.
iv. Use of Skills and Abilities – Jobs should be employee rather than process centered. Though due emphasis needs to be given to the latter but jobs should be designed in a manner such that an employee is able to make full use of his abilities and perform the job effectively.