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Job Design and Goal Setting: Improving Employee Performance

written by: N Nayab•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 6/2/2011

Job design is the combination of tasks using socio-technical considerations to form complete jobs. Goal setting is listing specific and measurable time-bound targets or tasks that need to be accomplished in a job. Read on for a review of how job design and goal setting improve employee performance.

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    Factors That Shape Employee Performance

    Job Design and Goal Setting Factors affecting work performance are many. Some of the prominent factors include:

    • The extent of knowledge, skill, and expertise to do the job.
    • The ability or the capability to perform the required tasks to match expected standards.
    • Hygiene factors such as pay and other benefits.
    • Motivators that provide positive reinforcement for the employee
    • Environmental conditions such as ergonomics, availability of equipment, and co-workers.
    • Job design or the structuring of the job.
    • Feedback from the supervisors or management such as performance appraisals, providing the employee with a measured indicator of performance and targets, and training to overcome shortcomings.

    Job design and goal setting based on feedback from management play a crucial role in improving employee performance. Research establishes that properly designed jobs with specific targets of achievement help employ enhance performance.

    Image Credit: flickr.com/Rennett Stowe

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    Job Design

    Job design entails fixing the contents, techniques, systems, and procedures related to the job to determine the nature of tasks, the way of doing tasks, the order of performing tasks, and other considerations. It also establishes the work-based relationship of the jobholder with other workers.

    The key elements of job design include:

    • Ergonomic considerations such as pacing tasks to machines, scheduling work and break hours, plus work layout and handling procedures.
    • Job rotation, job enlargement, and job enrichment to determine the scope of work.

    Good job design helps improve performance in many ways. It balances the mental and physical faculties required for the job, allows workers to pace work according to personal needs, work habits, or specific workplace circumstances, avoid work related injury, reduce boredom and monotony while performing tasks, eliminate stress, and smooth workflow. All these improve productivity and raise worker self-esteem, leading to improved performance.

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    Goal Setting

    Goals provide a sense of direction and purpose, providing clarity, a sense of direction, and increased awareness of expectations in a job.

    Setting goals improves employee performance by

    • Narrowing attention and directing efforts toward goal-relevant activities and away from undesirable and goal-irrelevant actions.
    • Encouraging employees to remain persistent and work through setbacks to achieve a goal. Absence of a specific goal or target might lead the employee to abandon a task in the face of setbacks and work on something else instead.
    • Inducing greater effort to achieve goals within the set deadline.
    • Encouraging behavior change to increase productivity and efficiency and accomplish goals.

    Research by Locke et al. (1981) concludes that 90 percent of laboratory and field studies reveal that the presence of specific and challenging goals results in higher performance compared to situations with easy or no goals. The key consideration is to provide specific goals that serve as a reference point to attain a target or direct behavior in a specific direction. One big distorter, however, is the management imposing goals without involving the employees.

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    Relationship Between Job Design and Goal Setting

    Job design and goal setting as variables that shape employee performance remain interrelated. A good job design provides an employee with clear indicators of tasks and the expected requirements of the job. This allows identification of the desired state and, as such, constitutes the basis to form goals.

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    Reference

    1. Locke, Edwin, A. “Goal Setting and Task Performance: 1969-1980". Psychological Bulletin (1981, 90:1) Retrieved from http://datause.cse.ucla.edu/DOCS/eal_goa_1981.pdf on 21 January 2011.
    2. Locke, Edwin, A. & Latham, Gary P. “New Directions in Goal-Setting Theory." http://home.ubalt.edu/tmitch/642/Articles%20syllabus/Locke%20et%20al%20New%20dir%20goal%20setting%2006.pdf. Retreived 21 January 2011.