The Job characteristics model

Jean-Claude sighed as he looked at the page in his organizational behaviour textbook for the sixth time. He was very interested in the job characteristics model, but he wasn’t sure how best to put it into practice.

Jean-Claude was a construction site supervisor who had been working with the same

team of construction professionals for several years. Each individual had his or her own

specialty and would come on-site when needed. Some were experts in framing, others were

electricians, plumbers, drywall installers, and so on. For some reason, however, Jean-Claude

found it especially difficult to keep roofing experts on his team. He wondered if enriching

the job would help.

Roofers installed shingles, which was particularly hot, repetitive, and physically

demanding work. Unlike with some other tasks, roofers did not need to be licensed. There

were few, if any, opportunities for independent decision making, and feedback only arrived

at the very end of the job in the form of a quick “It’s okay” or “It’s not okay” from the site

supervisor. Pay tended to be lower than that of other construction professionals, and the

work less prestigious. Some of the other workers, particularly those with journeyman cre-

dentials, considered them low-skill “grunts” rather than professionals like themselves. In

addition to all of that, some people disliked working on steep, high roofs even with appro-

priate safety gear. All in all, roofing was considered a tedious, strenuous, hazardous job that

few really enjoyed. It was not surprising, therefore, that it was the one job he consistently

had problems staffing.

He thought the job characteristics model might help him make the roofer’s job more

engaging, and staffing it easier. He thought carefully about each and every component of

the model and what it might mean in the context of construction in general and roofing in

particular. But it was a pretty routine job, and Jean-Claude struggled to find ways to apply

the model.

Giving up, he decided to go to a movie and think about something else. As often hap-

pens, halfway through the movie it came to him. He knew exactly how to improve skill

variety, task significance, task identity, even autonomy and feedback! Jean-Claude started

writing down his plan. He was going to make the following changes to the roofing job . . .

Discussion Questions

1. What, specifically, makes the roofing job less engaging?

2. How might Jean-Claude adjust the roofing job to make it more engaging? Use the job

characteristics model as a guide when responding.

3. Is the job characteristics model universally applicable? Can you think of any jobs it

might not apply to? If so, why would it not apply? If not, why do you think that is?

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