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Article

Caroline Knight, Sabreen Kaur, and Sharon K. Parker

Work design refers to the roles, responsibilities, and work tasks that comprise an individual’s job and how they are structured and organized. Good work design is created by jobs high in characteristics such as autonomy, social support, and feedback, and moderate in job demands such as workload, role ambiguity, and role conflict. Established research shows good work design is associated with work outcomes such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, work safety, and job performance. Poor work design is characterized by roles that are low in job resources and/or overly high in job demands, and has been linked to poor health and well-being, absenteeism, and poor performance. Work design in the 20th century was characterized by traditional theories focusing on work motivation, well-being, and performance. Motivational and stress theories of work design were later integrated, and work characteristics were expanded to include a whole variety of task, knowledge, social, and work-context characteristics as well as demands, better reflecting contemporary jobs. In the early 21st century, relational theories flourished, focusing on the social and prosocial aspects of work. The role of work design on learning and cognition was also recognized, with benefits for creativity and performance. Work design is affected by many factors, including individual traits, organizational factors, national factors, and global factors. Managers may impact employees’ work design “top-down” by changing policies and procedures, while individuals may change their own work design “bottom-up” through “job crafting.” In the contemporary era, technology and societal factors play an important role in how work is changing. Information and communication technology has enabled remote working and collaboration across time and space, with positive implications for efficiency and flexibility, but potentially also increasing close monitoring and isolation. Automation has led to daily interaction with technologies like robots, algorithms, and artificial intelligence, which can influence autonomy, job complexity, social interaction, and job demands in different ways, ultimately impacting how motivating jobs are. Given the rapidly changing nature of work, it is critical that managers and organizations adopt a human-centered approach to designing work, with managers sensitive to the positive and negative implications of contemporary work on employees’ work design, well-being, and performance. Further research is needed to understand the multitude of multilevel factors influencing work design, how work can be redesigned to optimize technology and worker motivation, and the shorter- and longer-term processes linking work design to under-researched outcomes like identity, cognition, and learning. Overall, the aim is to create high-quality contemporary work in which all individuals can thrive.

Article

Work motivation is defined as a set of energetic forces, internal or external to individuals, that help to initiate work-related behavior and determine its form, direction, intensity, and duration. It is one of the most studied and discussed topics in industrial and organizational psychology and extensively documented in meta-analyses and literature reviews. The content approaches to motivation show that (a) both mastery- and performance-approach goals are related positively to performance (achievement goal theory); (b) a promotion focus is positively associated with positive worker outcomes, while a prevention focus has less beneficial outcomes and relates negatively or not at all to such outcomes (regulatory focus theory); and (c) intrinsic motivation and basic need satisfaction are positively related to positive worker outcomes (self-determination theory). Context motivational theories indicate that (a) extrinsic incentives are associated with poorer well-being and creativity yet better employee performance (reinforcement theory) and (b) job characteristics explain up to 87% of the variance in worker outcomes (work design theories). Finally, the process approaches to motivation reveal that (a) expectancy theory is more useful in explaining choice behavior rather than energy investment or persistence; (b) setting specific difficult goals increases performance, even more so when feedback is also given, and that goal commitment is particularly important for goal achievement (goal setting theory); (c) goals allow people to more effectively process information, but the role of self-efficacy is less clear (self-regulation theories); and (d) perceived behavioral control is essential for intentions to behave (theory of planned behavior). Most of this research on work motivation has employed rather traditional research methods, such as cross-sectional self-reported studies that disconnect with work motivation theory focusing on dynamic processes over time. Therefore, to properly test motivational theory and advance the field of work motivation, future research should use longitudinal (experimental) field studies, person-centered approaches, and experience sampling method studies to allow for the evaluation of motivational and behavioral variability as a function of time, work events, and individual and situational factors. In terms of content, future research should go beyond the study of separate work motivation theories and integrate them to better understand the content, process, and context of work motivation. Such an integrated theory should include the work context in a more structured and explicit way, also taking into account that contextual variables may operate in isolation or interactively to affect motivation and that workers also influence the work context. As such, time and individual perspectives thereof should also be better incorporated in such integrated work motivation theories. Finally, there are a few “do’s” and “don’ts” for practitioners to enable them to practice evidence-based human resource management. First, following self-determination theory, one should bear in mind that not all motivation is good: Some types, especially those reflecting autonomous motivation (i.e., related to intrinsic motivation or experienced meaningfulness), generally lead to better outcomes than other, more controlled types (e.g., based on rewards or guilt induction). Second, goal setting theory is a useful perspective when developing performance management systems.