Why Are Jobs Designed the Way They Are?

41 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2005  

Cynthia Zoghi

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Alec R. Levenson

University of Southern California - Center for Effective Organizations (CEO)

Michael Gibbs

University of Chicago Booth School of Business; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Date Written: March 4, 2005

Abstract

In this paper we study job design. Will an organization plan precisely how the job is to be done ex ante, or ask workers to determine the process as they go? We first model this decision and predict complementarity between these job attributes: multitasking, discretion, skills, and interdependence of tasks. We argue that characteristics of the firm and industry (e.g., product and technology, organizational change) can explain observed patterns and trends in job design. We then use novel data on these job attributes to examine these issues. As predicted, job designs tend to be "coherent" across these characteristics within the same job. Job designs also tend to follow similar patterns across jobs in the same firm, and especially in the same establishment: when one job is optimized ex ante, others are more likely to be also. There is some evidence that firms may segregate different types of job designs across different establishments.

Keywords: job design, organization design, specialization, job enrichment, intrinsic motivation

JEL Classification: M5, M50, J2, J24, L23

Suggested Citation

Zoghi, Cynthia and Levenson, Alec R. and Gibbs, Michael, Why Are Jobs Designed the Way They Are? (March 4, 2005). IZA Discussion Paper No. 1529. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=681225

Cynthia Zoghi

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( email )

2 Massachusetts Avenue, NE
Washington, DC 20212
United States

Alec Levenson

University of Southern California - Center for Effective Organizations (CEO) ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States
213-821-1095 (Phone)

Michael Gibbs (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

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