By: Elizabeth Moraff
An enriched work design is one in which work roles provide employees with autonomy, task variety, and opportunities to use and develop skills. Despite a wealth of literature pointing towards the benefits of enriched work design, low-quality and poorly-designed jobs continue to pervade the global workspace (Parker, Andrei, & Broeck 2019). Further, relatively little research examines the variables that affect what strategies people use when designing jobs (Parker, Andrei, & Broeck 2019). Work Science Center Network member Sharon K. Parker, with Daniela M. Andrei and Anja den Broeck, sought to ameliorate this gap in a study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
Parker and colleagues proposed that supervisors have a tendency towards creating simplified roles while designing work, and that this may lead to the low proportion of enriched work roles. Indeed, they replicated the findings of a 1991 study (Campion & Stevens), in which undergraduate students, when given the opportunity to design clerical roles, overwhelmingly utilized strategies geared towards efficiency and role simplicity, rather than enrichment and enjoyability for workers.
Given this consistent finding, the researchers designed two subsequent studies to explain some of the factors that affect why people choose particular strategies when designing work.
The studies indicated a few important influences on what factors led to more enriched work designs. Firstly, a worker’s current experience of job autonomy corresponded to an increased tendency to design enriching roles for others (Parker, Andrei, & Broeck 2019). Secondly, although registered I-O Psychologists were also more likely to create more enriched roles, this inclination likely stemmed from work experience, which bred implicit knowledge and practical skills, rather than explicit knowledge from their training (Parker, Andrei, & Broeck 2019). In other words, even though I-O Psychologists are experts in work design, they used more enriching strategies not because they were specifically taught to, but because they had experiences that promoted this behavior. Further, openness to change did positively correlate with more enriching strategies and task allocation. Participants who ranked lower on openness to change tended to design less enriched roles (Parker, Andrei, & Broeck 2019).
We are excited for the implications these findings have for IO Psychologists, particularly those involved in designing work and influencing the processes in which work roles emerge. As the Work Science Center, we are glad to highlight research that builds our understanding of how to equip people to design more enriching work.
Campion, M. A., & Stevens, M. J. (1991). Neglected questions in job design: How people design jobs, task-job predictability, and influence of training. Journal of Business and Psychology, 6, 169 –191. http://dx.doi .org/10.1007/BF01126707
Parker, S. K., Andrei, D. M., & Van den Broeck, A. (2019). Poor work design begets poor work design: Capacity and willingness antecedents of individual work design behavior. Journal of Applied Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/apl0000383