What Is a Job Characteristics Model? And How to Apply It

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 16 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There are many ways a company can motivate and train its employees to reduce employee turnover and increase productivity. Many companies employ the job characteristic model to develop meaningful tasks for their employees. Learning more about how this model works and how companies implement it can help you understand the purpose of your tasks and how they can help your personal and career growth. In this article, we define what the job characteristics model is, explain its core characteristics and go over the benefits of using this model.

What is the job characteristics model?

The job characteristics model (JCM) is a theory that recommends an ideal way to increase employees' motivation. The theory posits that enriching an employee's tasks produces a proportional increase in motivation. This means that a job itself helps motivate you. For example, a monotonous job can lower motivation, while a versatile and challenging job may increase motivation. If a job is stimulating, it can result in a morale boost, improved work quality and increased productivity.

The JCM takes note of five critical job characteristics presumed to benefit individuals' motivation and productivity at work. The model also identifies specific individual characteristics that act as moderators in the relationship between the features of jobs and performance variables. Human resource professionals and management can use the JCM to enrich the workplaces by using them to tailor their job descriptions.

Related: What Are Employee Performance Metrics? (With Examples)

5 core job characteristics

The JCM's five variables create a framework that best influences the psychological state of employees regarding their work with the goal of positively influencing responsibility, meaningfulness, motivation, performance and satisfaction. The JCM offers the following five characteristics that indicate the best way to design work:

1. Task identity

Task identity is the extent to which a job description demands the completion of a product or process. It's important for a job to have a clear beginning for conducting the tasks and a clear ending goal. When these specifics are clear, a person can work towards achieving a specific outcome. Task identity helps make jobs feel more meaningful because employees can see the outcome of their labour.

Because there's an expected ending to a task, employees may become more involved and responsible to ensure it's completed. If a task doesn't have a clearly defined objective, employees may only feel motivated to work on these tasks for short periods. They may also regularly set aside these tasks, especially if there's no assigned deadline.

2. Task significance

An equally important job characteristic is that a task needs a purpose. Task significance is the meaning linked to the job in question. It's the extent to which the job performed affects the lives of others within the company or the society. Finding purpose in work can help motivate employees because it allows them to understand why they're performing a task. This also allows employees to better align their personal interests and values with their work.

3. Skill variety

Skill variety refers to the unique skills an employee may use to complete the requirements of a particular job. If a job requires a variety of skills, the employee gets the opportunity to learn and cultivate a broader range of abilities. Learning processes can help keep employees focused and stimulated. When completing a task with new skills, employees may also feel fulfilled. A job can become boring if it involves repetitive skills and may cause employees to perform their duties with minimal effort.

4. Autonomy

Autonomy in a job is how much employees work independently with minimal supervision. Employees get the freedom to plan their workdays and redesign their work procedures. Independence in the workplace can increase employees' sense of responsibility, so they feel more motivated to complete their tasks. Autonomy is more common in mid- to senior-level roles, but providing some autonomous tasks to entry-level employees can help foster their development and test their capabilities.

5. Feedback

Feedback is also a core value of the JCM. It refers to the capacity of employers to relay feedback to employees regarding their job performance. Constructive feedback can help employees improve their performance, and positive feedback can help build their confidence.

Related: How to Improve Work Performance: 16 Tips to Help You

Methods of applying the JCM

Employers can apply the job characteristic model to design new job roles or redesign existing roles to improve employee morale or job satisfaction. Here are the steps to take when applying the JCM:

Delegate tasks down to the lowest level possible

One of the natural ways to apply the JCM is by delegating work. This process can help employees feel more valued and responsible for their tasks. Allowing employees to work freely on an assigned task can give them autonomy and make them feel like a valuable member of the team.

Diversification of assigned tasks

The JCM is useful for diversifying tasks in a workplace. It helps employers and human resource officials to assign varied tasks to each employee, making their job a learning opportunity. Diversification also helps increase employees' knowledge and understanding of how an organisation functions. Having more knowledge allows employees to take on challenges and devise better solutions to problems they face.

Assign teamwork

Because JCM helps define workplace roles, it can help breakdown the roles of team members to foster more collaboration. Teamwork helps build relationships between employees through interaction as they work on their tasks towards common goals. Seeing successful collaborative outcomes can build their morale and encourage them to work together more. It may also allow them to develop new skills, such as communication, giving them a sense of accomplishment.

Encourage job rotation

A workplace may not always have many tasks that employees can take up to keep their jobs interesting. Management can vary their day-to-day roles by assigning different tasks using a rotation system. This arrangement allows employees to learn new skills and responsibilities, which can give them a sense of fulfilment. It can also reduce the monotony of various roles, creating a more stimulating work environment.

Complete performance evaluations

JCM encourages a company's management to give regular feedback concerning employee performance. This can help a company gauge the value an employee contributes to a company. Employers can then design a reward system to appreciate employees who perform exceedingly well using this information.

Related: 15 Ways to Improve Employee Retention at Your Workplace

Benefits of using the job characteristics model

The application of this model yields many benefits for the workplace. Examples of these benefits include:

Improves the clarity of organisational information

The JCM encourages a company's human resource department and managerial staff to state the responsibilities of each job position clearly. When everyone knows and understands their roles, execution of relevant tasks can become easier. Employees can also collaborate better without conflict, which reduces misunderstandings.

Simplifies foal setting and performance appraisals

Because the JCM tool brings clarity regarding each employee's role, it becomes easier to set goals and evaluate performance. This can also make appraisal and reward systems more objective. Fairly rewarding employees can help motivate them to be more productive to attain additional rewards.

Decentralises responsibilities

JCM encourages autonomy that facilitates decentralisation of responsibilities. This involves ensuring a fair distribution of work across an organisation. This can prevent overworking certain employees and centralising too much responsibility on a single employee. Decentralisation of duties can help foster a more collaborative environment.

Encourages sharing of ideas

The JCM is great for encouraging employees to exchange their opinions. Allowing them to contribute to a company's advancement can help them feel more personally connected to their jobs. It also fosters an environment of continuous innovation, improvement and learning. A more collaborative and open company culture can also create a more positive work environment that increase job satisfaction.

Improves quality of work

Besides encouraging employees to complete their work, the JCM can also help improve the quality of work. Because employees find meaning in doing their job, they may strive to do it to the best of their abilities. As employees pursue excellence in their roles, the overall quality of their work may improve.

Boosts employee morale

Applying JCM in the workplace can effectively boost employees' confidence when they see that their efforts positively contribute to a company's success. Higher morale can lead to increased productivity and company loyalty. Employees are more likely to stay in work environments where they feel motivated.

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