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Why Are Jobs Designed the Way They Are?

Author

Listed:
  • 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Zoghi, Cindy & Levenson, Alec R. & Gibbs, Michael, 2005. "Why Are Jobs Designed the Way They Are?," IZA Discussion Papers 1529, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1529
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    11. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1998. "The Origins of Technology-Skill Complementarity," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 693-732.
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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, vol. 18(6), pages 862-871.
    2. Ben-Ner, Avner & Kong, Fanmin & Lluis, Stéphanie, 2012. "Uncertainty, task environment, and organization design: An empirical investigation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 281-313.
    3. Gibbs, Michael, 2012. "Design and Implementation of Pay for Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 6322, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Alec Levenson & Cindy Zoghi, 2010. "Occupations, Human Capital and Skills," Journal of Labor Research, 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, vol. 105(1), pages 97-115, January.
    6. Maija Halonen-Akatwijuka, 2010. "Organizational Design, Technology and the Boundaries of the Firm," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 77(307), pages 544-564, July.

    More about this item

    Keywords

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

    JEL classification:

    • M5 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics
    • M50 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - General
    • J2 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • L23 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Organization of Production

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