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Why Are Jobs Designed the Way They Are?

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Author Info

  • Cindy Zoghi

    ()
    (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Alec Levenson

    ()
    (University of Southern California)

  • Michael Gibbs

    ()
    (University of Chicago GSB and Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA))

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.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in its series Working Papers with number 382.

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Length: 39 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bls:wpaper:ec050080

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Related research

Keywords: job design; organizational design; specialization; job enrichment; intrinsic motivation;

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References

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  1. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 1999. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization and the Demand for Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," NBER Working Papers 7136, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1996. "The Origins of Technology-Skill Complementarity," NBER Working Papers 5657, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. David Autor & Lawrence Katz & Alan Krueger, 1997. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," Working Papers 756, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Peter Cappelli & David Neumark, 2001. "Do "high-performance" work practices improve establishment-level outcomes?," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 54(4), pages 737-775, July.
  5. Becker, G.S. & Murphy, K.M., 1991. "The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 92-5, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  6. Van Reenen, John & Caroli, Eve, 2001. "Skill-Biased Organizational Change? Evidence from a panel of British and French establishments," Economics Papers from University Paris Dauphine 123456789/10093, Paris Dauphine University.
  7. Dessein, Wouter & Santos, Jesus, 2003. "The Demand for Coordination," CEPR Discussion Papers 4096, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  8. Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia & Cindy Zoghi, 2004. "Which Workers Gain from Computer Use?," Working Papers 373, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  9. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
  10. Abraham, Katharine G & Taylor, Susan K, 1996. "Firms' Use of Outside Contractors: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(3), pages 394-424, July.
  11. David H. Autor & Frank Levy & Richard J. Murnane, 2001. "The Skill Content of Recent Technological Change: An Empirical Exploration," NBER Working Papers 8337, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J., 1999. "Multi-Task Learning and the Reorganization of Work. From Tayloristic to Holistic Organization," IZA Discussion Papers 39, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  13. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-28, June.
  14. Wruck, Karen Hopper & Jensen, Michael C., 1994. "Science, specific knowledge, and total quality management," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 18(3), pages 247-287, November.
  15. John MacDuffie, 1995. "Human resource bundles and manufacturing performance: Organizational logic and flexible production systems in the world auto industry," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(2), pages 197-221, January.
  16. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1995. "Complementarities and fit strategy, structure, and organizational change in manufacturing," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 179-208, April.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. Alec Levenson & Cindy Zoghi, 2010. "Occupations, Human Capital and Skills," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 31(4), pages 365-386, December.
  2. Maija Halonen, 2002. "Organizational Design, Technology and the Boundaries of the Firm," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 02/540, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  3. DeVaro, Jed & Farnham, Martin, 2010. "Two Perspectives on Multiskilling and Product Market Volatility," MPRA Paper 23089, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. Avner Ben-Ner & Fanmin Kong & St├ęphanie Lluis, 2011. "Uncertainty, Task Environment, and Organization Design: An Empirical Investigation," Working Papers 1105, University of Waterloo, Department of Economics, revised Dec 2011.
  5. Krishnan, Murugappa (Murgie) & Srinivasan, Ashok, 2007. "How do shop-floor supervisors allocate their time?," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 97-115, January.

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