Q: Do you consider yourself to be a rebel?
A: No, I don’t. I consider myself an advocate of only doing things to create value. I question the value that certain systems and processes have. This can sometimes mean re-evaluating long held practices, most of which stem from good intentions. For example, I get concerned that a lot of theories of engagement ignore job design. They focus too much on things like flexibility and miss the importance of job design in actually providing individuals with satisfaction in their work. The goal is the right one, but the process is wrong.
Q: What is Job Design?
A: Job design is a term that describes the way the work that an individual is doing ‘works’. In lots of jobs, it’s clear what an employee has to deliver, but not how to deliver it. Roadblocks and obstacles can prevent employees from delivering value, and often individuals have to create work arounds to avoid the pitfalls of poor job design. This can lead to them being unable to deliver what they need to, and tasks taking longer than they should.
Q: What is the effect of poor Job design on individuals?
A: Poor job design can be demoralising and stressful for employees. It often leads to increased absences, and poor retention of staff. People feel dispirited; they have very low motivation for their job and as a result, they’re less efficient.
Q: What effect does that have on an organisation as a whole?
A: Poor job design means that the cost of staff is high. Results are slower and productivity is low. Organisations often try to increase recruitment to address this issue, without addressing the core problem. This results in an even higher proportion of employees working in poorly designed jobs.
Q: Where can organisations begin to try and resolve their issues with job design?
A: In order to create well designed, enjoyable jobs, you have to redesign the system in collaboration with staff. They know the hassles and obstacles that they face in their work. At Quo-Change, we support organisations to make these changes using a 4D transformation model based on Systems Thinking. Beginning with diagnosis, we study the problem from the perspective of end-users to identify what the purpose of the work is for the customer. Then we encourage organisations to ask ‘does this job design deliver that?’. If not, we help organisations to redesign their system in the next phase of the transformation model.
Q: What can leaders do to promote changes to job design?
A: Be close to the work. Don’t accept reports or updates from other people; get involved with staff to find out about the daily hassles and inconveniences the system causes, both for employees and customers. When leaders really get in touch with the struggles their staff face, we often find them saying ‘I didn’t realise this was so painful’. It’s only once you properly understand the core problem that you can start to solve it. At Quo-Change we run scoping exercises with new clients to help them achieve that realisation. We find that it’s a really valuable process in helping leaders identify the problems with their system for themselves. I’d encourage any leader struggling with job design to get in touch about an initial scoping exercise.
Q: What are the benefits of good job design?
A: You create satisfying work for people; being able to serve customers more effectively is rewarding, and staff experience more appreciation for the work that they do. People’s potential emerges; they have the capacity to think and solve problems for themselves. Organisations see more innovation in solving problems and making improvements.
Q: What’s your top tip for leaders who are trying to make changes?
A: Experiment on a small scale at first, and assess the impact. Don’t guess, measure. If it works, then you can make a permanent change.