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Want to Motivate Your Staff? Give Them a Good Job To Do

JobSatisfactionIf you want people to do a good job, give them a good job to do.
                                                                                                                        – Frederick Herzberg

Is your staff’s seeming lack of motivation weighing you down? Are you struggling to come up with good ideas for motivating your staff? Do you want a new tool for your managerial toolkit?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, the job design approach to motivation is might be worth your consideration.

Good job design was first introduced by Frederick Herzberg. Herzberg was a pioneer in the field of management and motivation, creating multiple theories that continued to be drawn upon in current times. Probably one of his most important ideas was that employee satisfaction can be enhanced through ‘job enrichment’–the addition of different tasks associated with a job that provides greater involvement and interaction with that job.  It postulates:

  • The job must use the full ability of the employee and provide them with sufficient challenge; and
  • Any employee who demonstrates an increasing level of ability should be given correspondingly increasing levels of responsibility.

If a job cannot be designed to use an employee’s full ability management should consider employing someone of lesser skills or perhaps automation of the task.  If a person’s skills cannot be used to the full they will experience problems with motivation. If the latter is the case for your employee, Herzberg suggests thinking about the dimensions of a “good job” then figuring out how you (the employer) might adjust one or more of the dimensions in order to more fully engage the employee’s skills.

Good Job Design Dimensions

A good job can be analyzed based on these five characteristics.

  1. Task Variety: use a variety of skills
  2. Task Identity: seeing something to completion
  3. Task Significance:  understanding how the job contributes
  4. Autonomy: some control over what and how
  5. Feedback: data on performance

Core Dimensions and Values

It’s important to understand how each of the dimensions connects to a personal value.

Job DesignJob Design Rating Scale

With any job, you can think about how much of each dimension is present.

Job Design rating scale

Exercise, Part I: Job Design Current State

Think of a person (or group) you would like to motivate for improved performance? Consider each of the core dimensions. To what extent, for example, does your employee have Task Variety in her job? Place an X on the appropriate point along each scale.

Job Design Current State

 Exercise, Part II: Job Design Desired Future State

Now, think about which dimensions you might adjust/increase in order to more fully engage your employee’s skills. Are you unsure about which dimensions would have the most significant impact? Ask. Use the 5 Dimensions of Good Job Design as a framework for beginning a conversation. It will add structure to your conversation while conveying your commitment to your employee.

job design desired future state

For those who have used this tool, or plan to do so, please share your results with us. We would love to hear about effective strategies and practices for increasing staff engagement.

Now, go! Manage, lead, change your organizations for the better!


DeEtta Jones

DeEtta Jones is an invited speaker, equity, diversity and inclusion strategy consultant and author with more than twenty years of experience working with people from around the world to on personal effectiveness and building workforce capacity.

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