Work Redesign: Eight Obstacles and Opportunities

Topics: Job satisfaction, Organizational studies and human resource management, Employment Pages: 42 (13398 words) Published: April 3, 2011

M I C H A E L A . C A M P I O N , T R O Y V. M U M F O R D , F R E D E R I C K P. M O R G E S O N , A N D JENNIFER D. NAHRGANG Successful work-design initiatives must overcome many obstacles in order to have their intended impact. This article outlines eight obstacles to work redesign: (1) influences on multiple outcomes, (2) trade-offs between different approaches, (3) difficulty in choosing appropriate units of analysis, (4) difficulty in predicting the nature of the job, (5) complications from individual differences, (6) job enlargement occurring without job enrichment, (7) creating new jobs as part of growth or downsizing, and (8) differences between longterm and short-term effects. This article examines the nature of these eight obstacles, reviews prior research on this topic, and outlines suggestions for managing these obstacles in practice. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.


he dawn of the Industrial Revolution changed the nature of work, spawning the use of assembly-line systems that maximized employee efficiency and minimized the employee skills needed to perform the work (e.g., Gilbreth, 1911; Taylor, 1911). This new nature of work simultaneously led to employee problems with morale, working conditions, and safety (Losey, 1998). As limitations in these approaches became obvious, personnel practitioners and researchers began to focus their attention upon a more motivationally oriented approach (Hackman & Oldham, 1975; Hulin & Blood, 1968). Derived from psychological research on job enrichment and en-

largement and theories of work motivation, it primarily sought to enhance worker satisfaction and provide for intrinsic needs. Both the mechanistic and motivational trends in designing work illustrate an important insight— the nature of work has a substantial impact on an employee’s performance and attitude. Work design continues to be of great practical significance to organizations as they try to attain conflicting outcomes such as efficiency and satisfaction. The popularity of such programs as total quality management (Deming, 1986; Juran & Gryna, 1988; Waldman, 1994) and reengineering (Hammer & Champy, 1993), which contain substantial work-design components, attests to

Correspondence to Michael A. Campion, Krannert School of Management, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2056, 765-494-5909 (office), 765-494-9658 (fax), Human Resource Management, Winter 2005, Vol. 44, No. 4, Pp. 367–390 © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley InterScience ( DOI: 10.1002/hrm.20080



the practicality of the topic. In addition, current trends in human resource management research that consider strategic HR (Delery & Shaw, 2001) and human capital management (Lepak & Snell, 1999) can be aided by considering theoretical and practical implications of job-design research. For example, Delery and Shaw (2001) and Tsui, Pearce, Porter, and Tripoli (1997) argue that many strategic HR policies should differ by job in the organization. Decisions surrounding such differential policies would benefit from knowlThere are several edge of the design of those jobs. clear relationships For example, a decision to implement a gainsharing compensabetween tion system for a subgroup of jobs necessitates an understanding of characteristics of the interdependencies among work and employee those jobs. Similarly, the human capital management perspective, reactions that can which concerns the effective utilization of human capabilities, guide efforts to would clearly benefit from enhanced knowledge of job design, simultaneously in part because job design has immaximize efficiency plications for what people do and how effectively they do it. and satisfaction in HR professionals today can profit greatly from the knowledge the workplace. gained through these years of research...
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