be more important, but they also make attributions that in retrospect seem unwarranted, if not biased. That is, they reflect reality of the past that may not accurately represent the current or future nature of work. For example, Steinberg (1992) has shown that current systems for classifying occupations, such as the Dictionary of Occupational Titles and the Hay System, not only use managerial work as a baseline for assessing the complexity of other jobs, but they also tend to rate occupations traditionally filled by men (e.g., zookeeper) as more highly skilled than occupations traditionally filled by women (e.g., child care provider).
Unfortunately, outdated systems of occupational analysis and classification hamper more than the ability to assess the changing nature of work; they also create serious practical problems. As noted earlier, they are used by educators, employment counselors, military planners, policy makers, and parents.
Given the uncertain and multiple directions in which the nature of work may be changing and the fact that research on the topic is both scarce and diverse, determining whether and how work is changing and then recommending an approach for mapping an occupational structure carries risks. Particularly important is the failure to consider a sufficient range of perspectives and types of evidence. As a result, we have attempted to incorporate the contributions of a variety of disciplines.
Research on work and the workplace is found in many disciplines, including economics, labor relations, sociology, organization studies, anthropology, industrial and organizational psychology, and ergonomics. The methodological and substantive differences among these disciplines are useful for developing a broad understanding of how and why the nature of work may be changing. As changes occur, they must be examined and understood at three levels of analysis: (1) work and the individual practitioner, (2) organizations and other institutions in which the work is embedded, and (3) the economy and society as a whole. The different disciplines typically have more to say about one level of analysis than the others. In general, anthropology, industrial and organizational psychology, and ergonomics focus on the
The following key factors need to be taken into consideration when designing roles:
Greater variety in a job can improve the interest, challenge and commitment of the role holder to the task. Doing the same repetitive tasks may offer little challenge and can lead to role holders losing interest or becoming and dissatisfied.
Variety means more than simply adding an extra but similar duty. For example, processing different forms would not make the work more meaningful as there may be no extra challenge. Some other type of relevant activity may, therefore, be worthwhile incorporating into the job.
Alternatively, too much variety can also be frustrating and a source of conflict and dissatisfaction. The optimum amount of variety will differ from person to person and will depend on the level of the position, and the needs of the job.
Individuals need to feel responsible for the work they are doing, either individually or as part of a team. Their work should be clearly identified so they can see that they are personally responsible for the outcomes (successes and failures) that occur as a result of their own actions. If the responsibilities are clear, then the role holder and their supervisor will be better able to know if the accountabilities of the position are being delivered. The employee should be able to understand the significance of the work they undertake and where it fits into the purpose of the organisation.
This goes hand in hand with responsibility. Autonomy means giving more scope to individuals to regulate and control their own work within the parameters set for the job. The role holder will need to have some areas of decision-making that they can call their own, within the overall framework of their job. For example, this might include scope for exercising some discretion over their method of working in order to deliver.
Individuals often receive more satisfaction from doing a ‘whole’ piece of work. This is more likely to occur when a task or job has a distinct beginning and end which is clearly apparent to the roleholder and others who work around them. It is highly desirable that people see the end results of the work they have produced, either on their own or as a part of a team.
Everyone benefits from information on how they are doing and this helps roleholders feel motivated and contributes to their development in the role.
Providing genuine feedback is primarily the responsibility of the line manager, and can built in to the formal working relationship through e.g. regular one-to-one meetings to discuss work objectives.
The staff review and development appraisal procedure provides one important mechanism for nominated supervisors to communicate and give feedback to staff members.
As well as information on the standard of their performance, the role holder will need to know what their particular targets are and how they relate to the overall operation of the work unit and the University. This can be clarified to a large extent through the PD33, the Model Appraisal Form PD25 and the Personal Development Plan PD26.
In most cases a role should provide the hole holder with an opportunity for interaction with other employees, who in turn are important sources of feedback at many levels. Colleagues and customers should be encouraged to give appropriate feedback, recognition and support to members of staff.
Participation in decision making
Most people want to take part in decision making about matters that directly affect their work. As a result of experience they also have considerable potential to contribute. People are, generally, far more likely to act upon and own decisions that they have had a part in making. Being told about matters affecting people and the job they undertake is clearly better than no communication at all, but it doesn't allow for effective involvement which in itself can be motivational. Interchange of ideas is better still and unless people can participate in the discussion of matters that affect their work, they may not be satisfied in their job, or contribute to their full potential. Participation and contribution to wider-ranging issues can be encouraged through e.g. institutional meetings, specialist subject discussions.
Recognition and support
People usually aspire to have jobs that contribute to self-respect, particularly through acceptance and recognition by fellow workers and their supervisors. Jobs need to encourage sound working relationships between individuals, provide clearly defined areas of responsibility and where possible, support teamworking. This can reduce an individual's feeling of isolation, which may result in negative feelings about work and the workplace.
A job must be designed to support a safe and healthy working environment that is inclusive, non-discriminatory, free from harassment, occupational health and safety hazards.
The following questions may be useful to consider when designing a job:
- How suitable is the amount of variety in the position?
- How much responsibility is there in the position?
- How much opportunity does the position give for autonomy?
- To what extent are the duties and tasks to be performed ‘whole’ tasks?
- How much feedback is provided about performance?
- How much opportunity is provided for participating in decisions?
- To what extent does the position provide for support and recognition?
- Is there a safe and healthy work environment?
The following checklist may also be helpful in the process of job design:
Does the position:
- Carry out tasks using a range of knowledge and skills?
- Have clear objectives?
- Combine a variety of tasks which together form a coherent whole?
- Constitute a significant contribution to the total function of the organisation, which can be readily communicated to the staff member?
- Provide problem solving opportunities, appropriate developmental growth potential and a reasonable degree of challenge?
- Allow for an appropriate level of discretion and decision making by the roleholder?
- Optimise the utilisation of existing skills?
- Optimise potential for the acquisition of new skills which improve opportunities for career development?
- Incorporate working arrangements that provide for tasks covering a variety of subject matter, pace and method of work, experience and training?
- Ensure in its design, the job is directly responsive to the needs of the organisation?
- Assure occupational health and safety and the well-being of the role holder within the design of the job?
- Achieve physical and social integration with other positions and staff in the workplace?
- Achieve neutrality in relation to assumptions about the sex, race or other possible discriminatory factors unless this is needed by a particular job?