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Job Enrichment Isn't Easy
Job enrichment is very much in vogue today. Personnel and training journals, industry and trade magazines carry articles
on the subject with increasing frequency.
Most of these articles, however, are of a
general, non-specific nature, for studies in
this new field have not produced much
practical information on how to implement
job enrichment programs.
In 1965, at the American Telephone and
Telegraph Company, the first empirical
study, testing Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory,' was made under the author's
direction. This classic case is fully and effectively described by Robert N. Ford in
his book on the subject," The trial at AT&T
demonstrated that job redesign could lead
to significant productivity increases, as well
as improvement in employees' feelings
about their work.
What It Is, What It Does
Job enrichment means the redesigning of
jobs, intelligently building into them the
necessary psychological nutrients. These
nutrients include such elements as: increased responsibility; opportunities for
achievement and recognition for that
achievement; chances for new learning; and
a steady movement toward more complex
tasks. The latter item does not necessarily
mean promotion, although that may be an
end result, particularly when a job cannot
be further changed.
Many organizations state that they are
already using the job enrichment concept.
They send supervisors and managers to
classes to study motivation theory, see a few
films, and, in many instances, gain a good
foundation of knowledge, but they fail to
make any actual changes in the jobs. This
is not job enrichment. Courses and educational films can be a pleasant experience,
but, if no change in jobs results, there is no
job enrichment, and the organization has
not accomplished anything.
The Old Ways Won't Do
In earlier years, any job was considered
good enough for most workers. But today's
employees are saying that such is not the
case anymore. They are clearly dissatisfied
with their daily activities. In thousands of
interviews over the last several years, it has
been found over and over again that a
large majority of employees are unhappy
with their tasks. They feel underutilized,
and they believe they are capable of contributing far more than their jobs either require or allow.
Recently, the author and his associates
interviewed two sets of 50 workers in two
companies, and the results showed that 85%
were disgruntled and bitter about their
jobs. Most of the workers were completely
bored with their activity. Many were looking for new positions. Almost all felt capa• Roy W. Walters is president of Roy W.
Walters and Associates, a firm that specializes
in redesigning fobs for improved manpower
.. Mr. ~alters
held many line and
staff POSItIOns WIth the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania, and for a number of
years was Director of Employment and Development for the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.
ble of handling more responsibility. Many
resented having their work checked. When
asked what they thought about while at
work, they answered, "the new dress I plan
to buy tonight" or "which movie we
tonight" or "what I'll buy my wife for her
birthday." Many reported that when the
work load gets exceptionally heavy or when
numerous errors are made, management reacts by putting on additional workers who
do nothing but check for mistakes. Alternatively, jobs are split and employees are
asked to do smaller pieces of work.
With such attitudes and feelings as these,
is it any wonder that the overall performance of these people was lackadaisical?
The line of questioning used in studying
these two companies was deliberately directed, since there was no need to ascertain
employees' feelings about the context that
surrounds their jobs. The Motivation-Hygiene Theory" predicts responses to that
line of questioning-i.e., workers always
want more hygiene; they never get enough.
Many managers are of the opinion that
poor work results are caused by lazy, unmotivated, poorly selected workers. Research in recent years in the behavioral
sciences suggests, however, that the work
itself may be at the heart of the problem.
For example, the jobs examined in the two
companies referred to above were those in
which poor attendance, lateness, high frequency of errors, and low productivity had
been observed, indicating that problems
might exist in the work content.
A manager's plight would be serious indeed, if he were left with only his own resources to face the challenge of managing
effectively in this tangle of behavior problems. The situation, however, has attracted
the attention of some very astute analysts
of the psychology of work and management
techniques. Significant strides have been
made toward not only understanding but
also dealing practically with the perplexing
problems of employee motivation. Job enrichment is producing results strong enough
to indicate that it is indeed an appropriate
method for solving these problems.
Where Do You Begin?
Introducing a job enrichment program
into an organization is difficult, tricky work,
mainly because it requires adoption of new
attitudes about people and new styles of
managing. It also requires reexamination of
many current processes, such as job descriptions, appraisal plans, and reward systems.
Most managers and supervisors resist these
Workers Want to Work
A basic principle behind the application
of job enrichment is that the implementer
(in most cases this is the supervisor or
manager) must adopt the attitude that
workers want to be effectively used. He
must recognize that most workers want
interesting, meaningful work and that they
are willing to accept responsibility. He must
realize that unused capabilities represent
untapped resources, skills, and talents
which are presently being wasted. And he
must be made to realize that his own effectiveness as a manager will be greatly enhanced when he is able to unleash these
great resources in his workers.
The best proof of any theory is the hard,
fast results which occur when the theory
becomes practice. Job enrichment efforts in
a number of cases over the last few years
have produced excellent results, both for
the companies and for the individual workers. In one organization, job enrichment
saved $300,000 for the company by increasing production per employee. This was
done by expanding job responsibilities and
by reducing verification of the work. In
another organization, the savings were
$100,000, realized through increased production and reduction in the number of
employees. In still another company, quality of output improved 35 per cent.
Job enrichment is not designed to make
workers feel better. It is not a "sweetnessand-light" program. It is, rather, a hard,
cold, money-making approach to human
utilization. And yet, employees do feel
better and happier when given more meaningful work to perform.
A Long-Range Effort
Job enrichment is not without problems.
It requires continued commitment and constant effort. Once management commits itself to the principle of helping people grow
and develop on their jobs, it must then reexamine certain other established management tools.
Sub-organization relationships will require constant examination, for as jobs
change, so, too, will work-flows and processes change. Job descriptions will need
constant revision, for inflexible job specifications can hamper job change. These descriptions must be constantly updated if
workers are to be permitted to continue
to grow. Reward systems in a job enrichment program have to be geared to a function of accomplishment rather than a function of time.
A simple example can illustrate the point.
Suppose a job has eight basic elements, A
to H. Suppose two workers can perform all
eight, two workers can perform five, and
two workers can perform three. The supervisor can now see his job responsibility
quite clearly. First, how does he get the
two workers who can do the five elements
to do all eight, and the two workers doing
three elements to do all eight? This may require more training, more coaching. Second, how does he give the workers doing all
eight elements a 9th or 10th item to handle?
The great probability exists that they will
get completely bored doing the same eight
elements day after day; hence, new tasks
are desirable if they are to continue to grow
and use their capabilities.
Relationships Must Be Fluid
The source of these new tasks may be
elements from another job, earlier or later
in the work process, or perhaps elements in
the boss's job that he can pass on to these
workers. In either event, a fluid, dynamic
definition of the sub-organization relationship and of the company's job specifications
is required. And, as is clearly indicated,
there should be different rewards given to
those workers doing nine or ten elements as
contrasted to three or four. Time on the
job has no bearing on these rewards, only
accomplishment. Failure to adopt this approach and a continuation of rigid relationships, specifications and reward systems, is
the antithesis of job enrichment. This may
be the reason why so few organizations
really apply the job enrichment concept effectively.
There are other barriers also. One of the
most noticeable barriers is the apparent
threat to middle management. First- and
second-level supervisors quickly see the advantages that job enrichment offers in the
solution of their chronic daily problems. It
usually makes sense to them, mainly because they know how sterile most of their
workers' jobs are, since they usually held
these jobs themselves before being appointed supervisors. Similarly, top management quickly understands the theoretical
framework within which job enrichment
operates because most top managers are
able to conceptualize effectively and most
are publicly pledged to human utilization.
Making Room for Change
But there is a solid layer of middle managers to whom job enrichment often appears to be a distinct threat. At middle
manager levels today there are many, many
comfortable people who have achieved all
the marks of success working at half of
their capacities. They tend to resent any
dislodgement from their comfortable daily
operations. When lower-level management
begins to give up some of its responsibilities
in order to enrich the jobs of subordinates,
these lower-level people then look upward
to their middle managers for nutrients that
will fill the void and therefore enrich their
own jobs. And this is viewed as a threat,
because most organizations train their middle management to "play it safe."
Enrichment oftentimes means changes in
routines and procedures and the removal
of some controls, once the workers have
demonstrated that they can perform adequately. To be more specific:
1. Job enrichment means differentiating
among workers, and many supervisors are
not accustomed to doing this. They are
often too dependent upon standard job
Many companies which rely on job specifications have honorable intentions of keeping them up to date, but experience indicates that this rarely happens. In consequence, they become meaningless pieces of
paper. Under job enrichment it is necessary
to think of jobs as having fluid, viable designs that are constantly growing. Job specifications are not necessary. Naturally, some
jobs have limits to them, and workers who
are performing at this limit should quickly
be moved to another job which will continue the growth and development patterns
fostered by job enrichment on the previous
position. This means that attention must
constantly be given to the upward mobility
of workers who have demonstrated their
growth characteristics. It is a never-ending
process. Almost every textbook on managerial and supervisory responsibilities states
that this is the primary job of managers
and supervisors. But few really work at it.
Job enrichment, however, forces them to
work at it.
2. Job enrichment means recognizing the
better performers by giving them more responsibility. This is a departure for many
supervisors, who often have structured work
so that no one will fail, making the elements
as simple as possible.
3. Job enrichment means visibly rewarding better workers. Many middle managers
who want to be seen as "good guys" can't
stand the thought of giving rewards for
accomplishments. Instead, they prefer using
standard graphs that designate raises based
on time in grade and "adequate" performance, but bear no relation to visible
Reward systems that are geared to the
passage of time have no use in a job enrichment program. Enriching jobs will force
a reexamination of the old system. We have
yet to observe a worker demanding a higher
salary before he agrees to accept more responsibility. Much of an employee's attitude
is dependent upon the approach used, but
experience indicates that recognizing competence by asking the worker to take on
another responsibility gives him a good
feeling, and he does not think about more
money. Naturally, it is desirable to share
with the workers some of the savings that
will accrue under job enrichment. Moreover, it is desirable to give such recognition
and rewards at the time of the outstanding
contribution, not when a pay graph or curve
says it is due. If we ever hope to train employees that the organization "pays off' on
accomplishment, we must get away from
viewing pay increases in time frames.
These are not insurmountable obstacles.
These problems can be reduced by involving the middle manager in early education
sessions with lower level supervisors. When
he begins to see that there is a logical pattern to job enrichment, that it is based on
sound results to date, and that he will
benefit from it, he usually starts to lower
his resistance to change. Pragmatically, he
begins to see an opportunity to move much
of the detail work he is currently doing to
lower levels. He realizes, too, that items
of change that require his approval will still
be cleared with him. Furthermore, he can
eventually see an opportunity to more adequately develop his subordinate supervisors,
a point his boss probably has told him must
happen if he ever wants to move.
Supervisors Learn To Supervise
Another barrier in instituting these programs is that some supervisors cannot accept their new role under job enrichment.
They have been trained to play the part of
senior workers, so they are actively engaged
in checking on subordinates' work and solving the complex problems themselves. On
the other hand, it is expensive to catch
mistakes by adding layers of checkers, and
even these checkers don't catch all of the
errors. If a supervisor wants to prevent mistakes, he must tell his workers that those
who have demonstrated competent performance have responsibility for the whole
job, and no one will check their work. But
now what happens? This immediately strips
the supervisor of his sphere of previous activity and causes him to analyze his new
role. Now he must truly evaluate, coach,
counsel, train, and reward. In other words,
he must really do all those things that
traditionally have been recognized as the
responsibilities of supervisors, but have not
always been performed by supervisors. Unfortunately, we do encounter a few supervisors who simply cannot change their old
ways. These people must be moved and not
permitted to affect the lives of subordinates
Risks Are Involved
Since job enrichment means giving more
responsibility to those who demonstrate that
they are ready for it, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that there are risks involved
in this procedure. There are bound to be
mistakes and errors. The important point is
that these mistakes occur even with layers
and layers of checkers, and in all enrichment applications in which the author has
participated, where the employee checks his
Own work, no instance has occurred where
errors increased. The reason for this is that
a lot has been learned since the original
trials of job enrichment at AT&T. There,
the motivators were added on a "broadside"
basis. That is, the new item of work was
given to the entire group, and some were
simply not ready for it. Consequently, results suffered. Now, it appears desirable to
give new responsibilities only to those who
can handle them. When this is done, the
opposite result has been found: errors are
In this connection, it is important to consider how the organization reacts when an
error does occur. Failure can be a learning
experience. When workers are given the
chance to fail and do, indeed, fail, properly
deSigned jobs will include sufficient direct
feedback so that the worker will know the
reason for the failure and will take steps
to correct it.
If the organization reacts by immediately
slapping on new or additional controls, or
by punishing the worker, other employees
and supervisors will quickly refrain from
taking any chances at all. The opportunity
for creativity will thus be eliminated, and
underutilization will continue. Obviously,
if a worker is given a second or even third
chance and still continues to fail, then steps
must be taken to remove him from that
particular function. The worker has probably reached his maximum of ability.
Maintaining Momentum
Job enrichment is definitely not a program that one simply "plugs in" and walks
away from. It is not a "packaged vehicle,"
similar to programs that so many training
staffs are disposed to use. Rather, job enrichment will survive only with constant
follow-up. Keeping the effort alive requires
hard, concentrated work. And, if this is not
done, the program will quickly fail, fall into
ill repute, and be discarded along with
many earlier faddish efforts that misfired.
Regardless of the difficulties associated
with the initial implementation of a job
enrichment program, however, the extra effort is well worth it when, as a result, for
the first time people have a chance to become truly excited about their work.
Many supervisors and managers who
have been in job enrichment programs say
"My life is different. I now have something
to look forward to each day. Now I enjoy
my managerial responsibilities; I used to
dread them because I really wasn't managing." Many workers say, "I. look forward to
coming to work now because I can actually
see my daily accomplishments. Before job
enrichment, I was bored stiff."
An organization which begins a program
of job enrichment and, through this, learns
how to unleash the human abilities that it
employs, will definitely tend to outperform
its competition, insofar as manpower resources are concerned.
None of the beneficial results of job enrichment are achieved without pain. The
organization practicing job enrichment will
have to suffer because it is learning a completely new style of using its human reJOB ENRICHMENT ISN'T EASY 65
sources. But no learning is without pain.
The important thing is that this is constructive pain. John Gardner has stated that,
"Most of us have abilities that we have
never known we had, simply because the
circumstances of our lives never called them
forth."! Job enrichment is one new method
that will call them forth. It holds promise
for an exciting future.
After initial implementation, the problem
of maintaining momentum is essentially one
of determining how to continue the growth
and development of employees. This, however, is the kind of problem which a
healthy, dynamic organization will welcome.
1. Herzberg, Snyderman & Mausner, The Motication to Work. New York: John Wiley and Sons,
2. Ford, Robert N., Mativation Through the Work
Itself. New York: The American Management
Association, 1969.
3. Herzberg, Snyderman & Mausner, op. cit.
4. Gardner, John, Self Renewal. New York: Harper & Row, 1963.
Are you a "wowser"?
A "wowser" is "somebody who pours cold water in your soup, a chronic
enthusiasm-killer. The word comes from Australia, and down under a
wowser has a pretty slim chance of ever winning any popularity contests.
If there is such a thing as personality halitosis, a wowser's got it. Say you
have formed a liking for a new friend, a wowser is the fellow who can cure
you of it. If you have an idea, he is ready instantly to persuade you that it is
not new, that it never has worked, and won't work now. Do you suppose
anybody would ever think of you as a wowser? Probably not. Wowsers are
people who behave like wowsers.-The Little Gazette, March, 1972.
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