Job Enrichment: Definition, Advantages, Disadvantages & Examples

Instructor: Devyn Feinman
What is job enrichment? What are the benefits of a job enrichment program? Are there disadvantages to enriching jobs? In this lesson we'll discuss what job enrichment is, how to do it, and the good and bad of modifying jobs in your organization.

What is Job Enrichment?

Job enrichment is a management concept that involves redesigning jobs so that they are more challenging to the employee and have less repetitive work.

The concept is based on a 1968 Harvard Business Review article by psychologist Frederick Herzberg titled 'One More Time: How Do You Motivate Employees?' In the article, Herzberg stated that the greatest employee motivators, based on several investigations, are (in descending order): achievement, recognition, work itself, responsibility, advancement, and growth. To improve employee motivation and productivity, jobs should be modified to increase the motivators present for the employee.

To make this concept more usable, let's imagine you are a company manager and want to increase the satisfaction of your staff. As you walk through the process of job enrichment, you'll need to keep in mind these goals:

  • Reduce repetitive work.
  • Increase the employee's feelings of recognition and achievement.
  • Provide opportunities for employee advancement (i.e. promotions into jobs requiring more skills).
  • Provide opportunities for employee growth (i.e. an increase in skills and knowledge without a job promotion).

Why Enrich Jobs?

The purpose of job enrichment is to make the position more satisfying to the employee. Overall goals for the company often include increasing employee job satisfaction, reducing turnover, and improving productivity of employees.

To rephrase this: we want to enrich our staff's positions so that they will be happier, more productive, and less likely to seek a job elsewhere.

Principles of Job Enrichment

Vertical job loading is the terminology used by Herzberg to describe his principles for enriching positions and giving employees more challenging work. It is intended to contrast with 'job enlargement,' a.k.a. 'horizontal job loading,' which often involves giving employees more work without changing the challenge level.

To enrich a position, first brainstorm a list of potential changes to the position. Once you have a list of options, Herzberg recommends using the following seven principles to review the options, and shortlist only those that invoke one or more of the following:

  1. Removing some controls while retaining accountability
  2. Increasing the accountability of individuals for own work
  3. Giving a person a complete, natural unit of work
  4. Granting additional authority to employees in their activity
  5. Making periodic reports directly available to the workers themselves rather than to supervisors
  6. Introducing new and more difficult tasks not previously handled
  7. Assigning individuals specific or specialized tasks; enabling them to become experts

(Herzberg, 1968)

For example, you might have on your list 'Allow staffer A to present the monthly report directly to senior management.' When you review this option against our list above, you find that it will meet the following goals:

  • Increasing the accountability of individuals for own work by having them present directly to senior staff.
  • Granting additional authority to employees in their activities by trusting them to make a presentation to a second-level manager.

Since it does meet some of the goals on our enrichment list, it would be added to the shortlist.

Once you have a final list, prioritize the options and document implementation steps and dates for each option you plan to implement.

Advantages of Job Enrichment

The advantages of job enrichment revolve around retaining high-quality employees longer at the company:

  • Employees have higher job satisfaction, and are less likely to quit.
  • Employees better utilize their skills, so the company gets higher-quality work products from the same staff.
  • Higher levels of job satisfaction are associated with lower levels of absenteeism.

Disadvantages of Job Enrichment

The disadvantages of job enrichment revolve around the fact that someone has to develop and implement the enrichment program:

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