A Review of Job Enlargement
The Nature of Work
The advancements in technology by the turn of the 20th Century offered a complex and sophisticated character, giving rise to the practice of division of labor. Such specialization has its advantages in improving efficiency, but the worker repeating tasks soon develops boredom, leading to loss of efficiency.
The behavioral approach to management that gained popularity in the post World War II era strived to improve efficiency through motivating the workforce. One way of improving motivation is through job design, and the major elements of such job design are job rotation, job enrichment, and job enlargement.
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Job Enlargement Defined
What Is Job Enlargement?
Job enlargement is “horizontal” restructuring of the job profile to provide the worker with additional work duties of the same scope. It ranks among the earliest approaches to reduce boredom, and bases itself as a solution to motivational theories that suggest division of labor causes boredom and alienation, and causes efficiency to fall.
The very definition of Job enlargement suggests that the concept involves extending the range of job duties and responsibilities within the same level and periphery of existing duties. For instance, instead of an assembly line layout where each worker engages in a specific process, job enlargement brings modular work where the employee performs several tasks on a single item.
The first noteworthy application of job enlargement in the industry was in the 1960s, when IBM made changes in the production structure to include both machine setting and inspection in their machine operator’s job profile, and also add to the role of foremen and supervisors.
Job Enlargement and Job Satisfaction
Edwin A. Locke’s “Range of Affect Theory” of 1976, a famous job satisfaction model premise that looks at the discrepancies between what one wants in a job and what one has in a job, does influence job satisfaction, and that the extent to which a person values a given facet of his or her work determines how satisfied or dissatisfied he or she is with the job. While this primarily relates to factors such as autonomy in the job, this theory also covers job enlargement. For instance, a worker who values multi-tasking might remain satisfied with an enlarged job profile that allows him to do many things at once, and may remain dissatisfied in a routine assembly line work, doing only one thing repeatedly.
Research on whether job enlargement actually contributes to job satisfaction is, however, limited and mixed.
Job enlargement usually requires training programs to equip employees to handle the added job responsibilities. This results in better productivity and mastery of work, which is a factor that promotes job satisfaction. Even without training, job enlargement allows employees to use their innate skills fully, providing them with greater satisfaction. Adding duties to a worker’s job may also reduce the exposure of workers to specific stresses of repetitive or physically strenuous jobs, again contributing to satisfaction.
The advantages of job enlargement notwithstanding, it raises several challenges. One big danger is “job creep” or the enlarged work again becoming monotonous over time. This leads to the organization not realizing the returns of better efficiency and productivity from its investment in training costs and process redesign to facilitate the job enlargement. Moreover, additional job enlargements beyond a point, can lead to an unmanageable workload for the employee.
Experience from the workplace suggests that job enlargement very often only results in marginal improvement in the degree of repetition, skill demands, and the level of responsibility, and as such, workers do not always respond positively to such changes.
Job enrichment, like job enlargement, means adding to the work duties, but while job enlargement ensures that the additional duties remain at the same level, job enrichment is “vertical” loading or the addition of tasks at a higher level or responsibility. For instance, enlarging the job of a machine operator might mean the operator is entrusted with assembling two parts instead of one, whereas enriching the same job might mean that same machine operator is given the additional task of supervising the work of new trainees.
When comparing job enlargement vs. job enrichment, unlike job enlargement that does not find any basis in psychological theories, job enrichment bases itself on Frederick Herzeberg’s “Two Factor Theory” and finds support in McClelland’s Need achievement theory, and is widely regarded as an improvement over the concept of job enlargement. Research seems to suggest a positive correlation between job enrichment and job satisfaction.
- Encarnacion, Roberto. “Job Design.” https://edweb.sdsu.edu/people/arossett/pie/Interventions/jobdesign_2.htm. Retrieved 03 January 2011.
- ACCEL Team Development. “Early Attempts to Develop New Approaches to Job Design.” https://www.accel-team.com/work_design/wd_02.html. Retrieved 03 January 2011.