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Why Are Jobs Designed the Way They Are?

  • Zoghi, Cindy

    ()

    (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Levenson, Alec R.

    ()

    (University of Southern California)

  • Gibbs, Michael

    ()

    (University of Chicago)

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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File URL: http://ftp.iza.org/dp1529.pdf
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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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  1. 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, vol. 18(3), pages 353-76, July.
  2. Claudia Goldin & Lawrence F. Katz, 1996. "The Origins of Technology-Skill Complementarity," NBER Working Papers 5657, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. David Autor & Frank Levy & Richard Murnane, 2003. "The skill content of recent technological change: an empirical exploration," Proceedings, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, issue Nov.
  7. Wouter Dessein & Tano Santos, 2003. "The Demand for Coordination," NBER Working Papers 10056, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Gary S. Murphy Becker & Kevin M., 1992. "The Division of Labor, Coordination Costs, and Knowledge," University of Chicago - George G. Stigler Center for Study of Economy and State 79, Chicago - Center for Study of Economy and State.
  9. 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..
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. Sabrina Wulff Pabilonia & Cindy Zoghi, 2004. "Which Workers Gain from Computer Use?," Working Papers 373, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  13. John Paul Macduffie, 1995. "Human Resource Bundles and Manufacturing Performance: Organizational Logic and Flexible Production Systems in the World Auto Industry," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 48(2), pages 197-221, January.
  14. 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.
  15. 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, vol. 117(1), pages 339-376, February.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
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