Job rotation and job enrichment practices are usually introduced in companies as a means of increasing employees' motivation and happiness at work. They are informed by Psychologist Frederick Herzberg's work on motivation in the 1960s. He argued that managers must prevent employee dissatisfaction through maintenance or "hygiene" factors, such as working conditions, pay and pensions. However, motivation itself comes from being given challenging tasks and utilizing skills. Job enrichment is essential to ensuring that staff members are motivated.
Assembly lines work by breaking down a complicated manual task into a sequence of simpler tasks. Workers are divided into teams, and each team member is responsible for a single task. For example, if assembling carts, one worker may be responsible for fitting all the handles and another for fitting all the wheels. It is an efficient way of working, but it swiftly becomes monotonous. To increase job satisfaction, managers often seek to vary this monotony and increase the challenge to employees by rotating tasks on a regular basis. For example, in week one, a worker may be responsible for wheel fitting; in week two, she may fit the handles.
Organizations with large functional departments, such as finance or marketing, will often use job rotation as a method of staff development and a means of innovation. There are, for example, a number of different jobs within finance, both in the head office and in regional branches. When people are seconded to different offices and teams, they gain a better understanding of their colleagues' tasks and can often see ways of communicating better or doing their own jobs more effectively.
Cross-functional job rotation is a typical characteristic of graduate entry schemes in large organizations. New recruits are expected to spend approximately 6 months in each department to gain an understanding of the organization as a whole. This process also allows managers to assess the graduates' skills and potential in order to identify suitable permanent placements. At a higher level, cross-functional job swaps and rotations are common experiences for people being assessed for promotion to senior management.
Another means of increasing staff satisfaction and motivation by job enrichment is to devolve responsibility completely for a project. Members of a team are given a task and a budget and asked to sort out for themselves how to achieve the task. This technique also has value as a learning and development tool and can allow managers to identify high-potential staff and future leaders. An example is when a consultancy encourages junior staff to pitch for low-value new business.
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