A Motivation Theory: Job Characteristics Model: Management Funda; V4 Issue 3

Do you agree that typically a motivated employee is a productive employee? Imagine then if as a manager you can design jobs such that it makes your people motivated. Would you not have a very powerful tool for enhancing your team productivity? Over the years a lot of people have developed different theories to explain what motivates a person at work. Two such people were Hackman and Oldham. They developed the Job Characteristics Model; a motivation theory which identifies five job characteristics impacting an employee’s personal and work outcomes.

Understanding the Job Characteristics Model

According to The Job Characteristics Model the presence of five core job dimensions ensures three psychological states. These psychological states in turn influence desirable work outcomes like quality of work, job satisfaction etc. Let’s look at them in detail.

Critical Psychological States 

The five core job dimensions stated below result in three different psychological states.

  1. Experienced meaningfulness of the work: The extent to which people believe that their job is meaningful, and that their work is valued and appreciated.
  2. Experienced responsibility for the outcomes of work: The extent to which people feel accountable for the results of their work, and for the outcomes they have produced.
  3. Knowledge of the actual results of the work activity: The extent to which people know how well they are doing.

Core Job Dimensions

  1. Skill variety: This refers to the range of skills and actsivities necessary to complete the job. The more a person is required to use a wide variety of skills, the more satisfying the job is likely to be. However, far too many might be overwhelming, too few, may prove boring. Jobs that require employees to make decisions and solve problems will usually be more satisfying than jobs with tasks that are routine and predictable.
  2. Task identity: This dimension measures the degree to which the job requires completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work. Employees who are involved in an activity from start to finish are usually more satisfied. For example, writing an entire report would be more satisfying than just formatting it.
  3. Task significance: This looks at the impact and influence of a job. Jobs are more satisfying if people believe that they make a difference, and are adding real value to colleagues, the organization, or the larger community.
  4. Autonomy: This describes the amount of individual choice and discretion involved in a job. More autonomy leads to more satisfaction. For instance, a job is likely to be more satisfying if people are involved in making decisions, instead of simply being told what to do.
  5. Feedback: This dimension measures the amount of information an employee receives about his or her performance, and the extent to which he or she can see the impact of the work. The more people are told about their performance, the more interested they will be in doing a good job. So, sharing production figures, customer satisfaction scores etc can increase the feedback levels.

The model says that internal rewards are obtained by individual when he/she learns (knowledge of results) that he/she personally (experienced responsibility) has performed well on a task that he/she cares about (experienced meaningfulness).The more these psychological states are present the greater will be an employee’s motivation, performance, satisfaction. The model is depicted graphically below. 

Hackman and Oldham’s Job Characteristics Model

You can also see in the figure above that the links between the job dimensions and the outcomes are moderated by the strength of the individual’s growth need. This means an individual with high growth need is more likely to experience the psychological states when their jobs are enriched ie., the scope of the job is expanded. And they will respond more positively to the psychological states when they are present.

Applying the Job Characteristics Model

So how can you use this model? Well, you can tweak the design of the existing jobs of your team members. You can even design new jobs such that the job holders experience greater job satisfaction and deliver results. More specifically you can do the following:- 

  • Combine tasks to increase skill variety and improve task identity. For instance make a person completely responsible for recruiting for a vacancy rather than for just sourcing of appropriate profiles for the same.
  • Assign larger, more significant tasks to people, so that they feel connected to and accountable for results.
  • Get people to see how their performance is contributing to the performance of the department, division and organization. Link their goals with the organization goals.
  • Increase participation of your team members in decision making, and delegate more responsibility in order to improve autonomy.
  • Open channels of communication to improve the frequency and quality of feedback.
  • Give your team members knowledge of the results of their work. For example get an electronics engineer who assembles a radio to also test it if it operates properly rather than getting only the quality control inspector to test it.
  • Share feedback from customers, clients, and other stakeholders with your team members.
  • Provide opportunities for providers of a service to meet the recipients of the service.


Apart from job characteristics there are other factors also that influence job performance. But you can surely make a start by designing the job effectively to motivate your team members. Just remember one important point though. When you are redesigning a job be sure to truly enrich the job and, not just give more work for people to do. So go ahead and try your hand at some designing and design some jobs that people will love to do and will do well.