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Why Are Jobs Designed the Way They Are?

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Author Info

  • Zoghi, Cindy

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

  • Levenson, Alec R.

    ()
    (University of Southern California)

  • Gibbs, Michael

    ()
    (University of Chicago)

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 Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 1529.

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Length: 41 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Research in Labor Economics, 2010, 30, 107-154
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1529

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Related research

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

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References

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  1. Caroli, Eve & Van Reenen, John, 1999. "Skill biased organizational change? Evidence from a panel of British and French establishments," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Couverture Orange) 9917, CEPREMAP.
  2. Timothy F. Bresnahan & Erik Brynjolfsson & Lorin M. Hitt, 2002. "Information Technology, Workplace Organization, And The Demand For Skilled Labor: Firm-Level Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 117(1), pages 339-376, February.
  3. David Autor & Frank Levy & Richard Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
  4. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1995. "Complementarities and fit strategy, structure, and organizational change in manufacturing," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 179-208, April.
  5. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed The Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213, November.
  6. Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-28, June.
  7. 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, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
  8. 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.
  9. Abraham, Katharine G & Taylor, Susan K, 1996. "Firms' Use of Outside Contractors: Theory and Evidence," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(3), pages 394-424, July.
  10. Becker, G.S. & Murphy, K.M., 1991. "The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center, Chicago - Economics Research Center 92-5, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
  11. Wouter Dessein & Tano Santos, 2003. "The Demand for Coordination," NBER Working Papers 10056, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Lindbeck, Assar & Snower, Dennis J, 2000. "Multitask Learning and the Reorganization of Work: From Tayloristic to Holistic Organization," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 353-76, July.
  13. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1998. "The Origins Of Technology-Skill Complementarity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 693-732, August.
  14. Wruck, Karen Hopper & Jensen, Michael C., 1994. "Science, specific knowledge, and total quality management," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, 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. Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia & Cindy Zoghi, 2004. "Which Workers Gain from Computer Use?," Working Papers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 373, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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Citations

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Cited by:
  1. DeVaro, Jed & Farnham, Martin, 2011. "Two perspectives on multiskilling and product-market volatility," Labour Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 18(6), pages 862-871.
  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. Ben-Ner, Avner & Kong, Fanmin & Lluis, Stéphanie, 2012. "Uncertainty, task environment, and organization design: An empirical investigation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 281-313.
  4. Alec Levenson & Cindy Zoghi, 2010. "Occupations, Human Capital and Skills," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, Springer, vol. 31(4), pages 365-386, December.
  5. Krishnan, Murugappa (Murgie) & Srinivasan, Ashok, 2007. "How do shop-floor supervisors allocate their time?," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 105(1), pages 97-115, January.

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