Job design


The nature of work and its organization has interested managers, economists and social scientists for as long as people have been employed by others to engage in productive activity. (See section on scientific management.)

Managers have largely been interested in maximizing output from available resources.

Economists and social scientists have raised questions about the organization of work in relation to issues of the individual and society in general. The aims of this section are to:

  • Define selected terms applicable to job design and work organization
  • Examine the aspects of traditional thinking applicable to job design and work organization
  • Propose alternative factors to be considered that take cognizance of employees needs
  • Generate some ideas on how these factors may be applied in work situations in existing and new organizations
  • Stress the importance of fitting the work to the worker, in order to achieve the productivity benefit
Job Design Defined
  • Job design and work organization is the specification of the contents, method and relationships of jobs to satisfy technological and organizational requirements as well as the personal needs of job holders.

N.B. A full glossary of terms appropriate to job design and work organization can be found in the Job Design section of the PDF (which you can purchase by clicking on the 'Purchase PDF' icon.)


In the 1970's increased interest in how best to organize work in the light of:

  • The loss of productive effort due to industrial action and absenteeism
  • Increased demands for employee participation and industrial democracy and
  • Imposition of employment legislation, which appeared to make the task of controlling the workforce more difficult.


In the 1980's, major changes took place in the workplace.

  • Recession, with attendant retrenchments
  • Increased competition
  • Recognition of the need to introduce new technology
  • Shift in relative costs away from the worker to the machine and or process

1990's and the Future Challenge

In the 1990's the trends started in the 80's continue at an increased pace. The challenge, now and in the future for managers, is the optimum design of jobs and work organization to meet unsteady circumstances, brought on in the workplace by changes in the external environment.

Next | Assumptions based on traditional views