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How Can I Adapt my Employees’ Jobs to Make the Work Itself Motivating?

Because certain job features are intrinsically satisfying, redesigning jobs can be a way to motivate employees. It is, after all, easier to change jobs in an organization than it is to change the jobholders.

There are three ways to redesign jobs:

  1. Job rotation. Moving employees through a variety of jobs, departments, or functions is a particularly a good approach for someone who has been on a job for a long time, who is no longer challenged by the job, or who has a strong need for activity or change. By giving an employee the opportunity to change jobs, you can prevent boredom and build a more versatile employee simultaneously.
  2. Job enlargement. By expanding an employee’s duties, you add challenge to a job that has become boring. Once an employee has demonstrated the capacity to handle the current workload and has shown a desire to expand into new areas, adding new responsibilities will tell the employee that you recognize his or her worth. This can be motivating.
  3. Job enrichment. Make the job more desirable or satisfying by giving the performer more autonomy, input into decision making, more interesting projects, whole rather than fragmented projects, or more information about the organization.

Of these three approaches, job enrichment has proven most effective in motivating employees. To work effectively, you and the jobholder need to sit down to determine how you can enrich his or her job—that is, change the job so that corporate needs continue to be met but also the jobholder’s desire for challenge and excitement.

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Consider if any of the following changes can be made to the work:

Can the job be changed so the jobholder is responsible for the whole job from beginning to end? Obviously, a worker in an automobile factory can’t build a whole car, but he or she could handle production of a carburetor from the time the raw parts are uncrated until the unit is mounted in the car.

Can you change the position so the employee can interact with users or clients? Having an ongoing relationship with the person who uses the service or finished product can give the individual a sense of being a person rather than a cog in the machinery.

Can the employee be taught a variety of skills or abilities so he or she can complete all the tasks associated with doing a job? This can eliminate—or at least minimize—the sense of monotony. A Web site developer who has to follow a template day after day can become frustrated with the lack of creativity, but give that same technician the skills and knowledge to design sites and the individual will be more motivated.

Can the employee be trusted to run the show as far as the work is concerned? Not only would you be giving the employee an opportunity to participate in decisions, you would be giving him or her the freedom to decide how it should be done. Such autonomy can make the position more appealing in the long term and motivate the job-holder to perform the work effectively—and identify ways to do the work more efficiently.

Are there opportunities for self-development—that is, for the employee to stretch his or her mind and sharpen his or her skills in a way that makes the employee more valuable to future employers as well as your company? Look for goals that, when satisfied, will help both the employee and your organization.

Be sure that, in the name of job enrichment, you don’t just:

Add another routine task to current ones. An employee already bored with filing won’t get much more satisfaction out of an additional assignment to distribute the department mail twice a day.

Increase the amount of work done. Don’t try to reward an employee who can complete one hundred orders a day by asking him or her to handle one hundred and fifty.

Rotate the person from one boring job to another dead-end position. You have to truly enrich the employee’s work.