Job design

Job design combines responsibilities and duties into jobs that enhance organizational effectiveness and employee satisfaction. There are four general categories to consider when designing jobs:

  • Behavioural competencies
  • Organizational objectives
  • Efficiency
  • Ergonomics

Behavioural competencies

When considering the behavioural competencies a job requires, ask yourself “what employee talents, skills, and abilities are necessary to do the work?” As part of this work, many organizations consider job characteristics, job enrichment, and employee engagement.

Job characteristics

One of the most well-known theories on job design looks at jobs from the employee's perspective. The Job Characteristics Modelopens in new tab, developed by J. Richard Hackman and Greg R. Oldham, links employee motivation and job satisfaction to the following characteristics of a job:

Skill variety
The degree to which the job involves different tasks and uses different skills.
Task identity
The degree to which the job requires completing an entire piece of work — doing the task from beginning to end.
Task significance
The degree to which the job has importance to the organization, externally, or the employee in a role.
The amount of independence and discretion the employee has in completing their work.
Job feedback
The degree to which the employee is given direct information about the effectiveness of their performance.

Job enrichment

Job enrichment is any effort that tries to increase the enjoyable or satisfying elements of a job. It focuses less on the job itself and more on the experience of those accomplishing the work. Common ways that jobs are enriched include:

  • Increasing the level of difficulty or responsibility of a job.
  • Giving employees more say over how work is done.
  • Offering feedback and evaluations directly to employees.
  • Creating growth opportunities by adding new work to jobs that require training.
  • Adapting work or tasks that complement an individual employee's strengths or preferences.

Employee engagement

This behavioural element of job design enhances employee motivation by offering a high level of control over their jobs. Employee engagement allows employees to influence or change their jobs, either themselves or in a group. This may lead to a higher level of engagement as it invites employees to take greater responsibility and become self-managed, increasing a sense of autonomy and control over decisions, but it may be inappropriate for some settings.

Organizational objectives

How will the job contribute to the goals of your organization? Your organization’s mission, community of members, and desired impact can tell you a lot about what kind of job to design. A question for this point might be: "how does this job help us make our vision a reality, accomplish our mission, and/or meet the needs of the people we’re trying to serve?"

There may also be projects or plans in place, such as long-term grants for specific projects or a strategic plan for the organization. These are important things to note when designing jobs, as all jobs should contribute to the organization’s overall goals.


When designing a job, be mindful of productivity and how it relates to the quality of the service. For example, how many clients does this job serve and how much time does it take to provide them with the appropriate service? What is the timeframe spent with each client? When designing jobs, you should note that the more tasks in any given job will decrease the amount of time it takes to get things done, which may negatively impact the quality of service your organization provides. As well, highly efficient processes may become routine and boring and work against the idea of job enrichment.


Ergonomic consideration means looking at the environment, the equipment, the tools, and the relationship between these things and their impact on employees. Even the emotional or mental elements of a job can create a strain that may have negative short or long-term effects on employees.

Looking at the ergonomic consideration of a job can improve safety and efficiency. For example, tasks carried out in extreme heat eventually take a toll on the energy, well-being, and/or health of those doing the work. Bending, lifting, and even typing can have short and long-term effects, as well.

Ergonomic considerations might focus on the following areas:

  • Matching jobs to human capabilities and preferences.
  • Taking into account human sensory reactions and responses, and physical limitations
  • Ensuring that jobs are designed in a safe, efficient, and comfortable way.
  • Trying to limit problems that result from error, inattention, or carelessness that might lead to broken equipment, damaged products, or injuries.
  • Increasing performance through the manual or practical design elements of a task or job.
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