What Is the Job Characteristics Model? (And How to Use It)
Updated September 30, 2022
The job characteristics model considers various components of someone's job position and how their tasks and responsibilities contribute to their team. This model allows teams to make more honest assessments of their performance and address areas of improvement within the role. Knowing more about this model can help you optimize a team's individual and collective performance. In this article, we discuss the job characteristics model, explain its five main components, identify how to use it, and explore the various benefits associated with the model.
What is the job characteristics model?
The job characteristics model (JCM) is a theory that identifies the primary factors that help team members excel in their jobs. This model evaluates the potential impact of employee motivation on a company and determines how an organization can improve the well-being of consumers. The JCM also considers how motivation increases when employees feel more excited and challenged in their careers. The model helps managers and members of the human resources department to improve workplace culture and increase the team's productivity and the quality of their work.
Components of the job characteristics model
There are five primary components associated with the JCM:
Task identity refers to the completion of unique and identifiable tasks by team members. This typically occurs when an employee completes a whole task rather than a portion of one that a colleague later completes. Strong task identity typically increases the overall productivity of a team because when someone completes their own tasks, they often connect more to those duties and can see the outcome of their work. When team members only complete small portions of a task, it's more challenging for them to observe the results of their efforts.
Another component associated with the JCM is task significance. This component considers the meaning behind tasks and whether team members can identify the importance of their duties. Typically, team members find meaning in tasks that affect the well-being of others, including people inside and outside of their organization. Team members often experience increased motivation to work when they understand the meaning of their role and when they have a sense of pride in the tasks that they undertake.
Skill variety considers the variety of tasks completed by team members. It also considers the skills used by team members to complete their tasks. Team members with jobs requiring a variety of skills have the opportunity to develop their skills and abilities. This typically increases employee motivation and productivity. Jobs with skill variety often help every team member expand and develop their skill set.
Autonomy refers to a job characteristic that allows team members more freedom in their work. This job characteristic permits team members to maintain their independence while collaborating with other professionals. Having autonomy typically increases the confidence of team members and improves their quality of work because employees feel more respected and trusted in their roles.
The JCM considers the feedback between team members and their supervisors or team leaders. This feedback typically helps employees develop their confidence and skills. Team members who get positive and constructive feedback can feel increased motivation in their careers because they develop an understanding of how to succeed. Employees can receive feedback during annual performance reviews and by continuously communicating with their team leaders. They can then review the feedback to learn how to improve their performance and skills. Providing employees with feedback can help leaders support and train stronger team members for future projects.
How to use the job characteristics model
If you work as a manager or in the human resources department, you can follow these steps to apply the job characteristics model in the workplace:
1. Delegate tasks to junior employees
You can delegate tasks to those with the least experience. Although this can seem counterintuitive, delegating tasks to more junior employees can help them feel a greater sense of independence and mutual trust, even if they're not in a position of authority. This can help these employees develop a greater sense of personal responsibility for their work and increase their motivation and engagement.
2. Vary the tasks involved in each job role
Varying the responsibilities involved in a job role is another way to implement the JCM. This reflects the core characteristic of skill variety by allowing employees to complete different tasks that require a broad skill set. Varied job roles can help to keep employees happy and motivated. Typically, employees find their work more interesting and fulfilling if they have a lot of different tasks to complete.
3. Structure teamwork
Another simple step you can follow to apply the JCM in your workplace is to use a structured teamwork approach. Assigning specific tasks to members of a team can help you apply the task identity characteristic of the model. This allows employees to complete tasks from start to finish and see the tangible outcomes of their work. It can also allow them to practise different skills, encouraging skill variety.
4. Complete performance evaluations
You can also apply the JCM by completing employee performance evaluations. Feedback is a core characteristic of the model, and performance evaluations are a way to give consistent feedback to your team members. When you complete performance evaluations, it's important to use a reward system, because rewarding employees who perform well can motivate them to improve further.
5. Encourage employees to rotate jobs
Another step to applying the JCM is to encourage employees to rotate jobs, tasks, or responsibilities regularly. This can keep their roles fresh and allow them to exercise new skills, which can contribute to increased engagement and job satisfaction. In addition to rotating job roles, you can also rotate the tasks assigned within each role to enhance task identity. Using rotation typically promotes excitement among team members and motivates them to learn new skills. They also learn from different perspectives by working in new departments or alongside other colleagues.
Benefits of the job characteristics model
The following are some benefits associated with using the job characteristics in the workplace:
Applying the JCM can help team members experience increased motivation because they get more information about how to conduct their work, establish clear connections to their tasks, and learn how to work more effectively. The model can also contribute to increased team morale because it can result in higher productivity, a better workplace culture, and increased employee retention, all of which may benefit a company significantly.
Stronger company culture
The JCM can help create a stronger workplace culture by enabling team members to collaborate more effectively. Additionally, it can also increase attendance because employees feel more motivated to work and experience increased well-being because they're happy with their workload and level of autonomy. The increased feedback from supervisors also improves the company culture by promoting career advancement and reinforcing positive behaviour among employees. Other ways that organizations can strengthen their company culture include:
Prioritizing connections between team members
Connecting employees through common goals
Providing opportunities for career advancement
Scheduling regular feedback meetings
Increasing autonomy within teams
Encouraging transparency among team members
Reduced employee turnover
The combination of increased motivation and an improved company culture helps reduce employee turnover among teams. Teams also experience better working relationships because of strong collaboration and an improved sense of well-being. When employee turnover is low, companies spend fewer resources on onboarding and recruitment. Typically, companies are also more productive when their teams experience less turnover.
The JCM can also help to increase employee productivity, as it focuses on the quality of their work and allows team members to control their workloads. Additionally, the JCM considers whether the team is effective and achieves its targets. Employees typically perform at a higher level and increase their productivity when they feel engaged with their work. This can directly contribute to the overall success of an organization.
Higher work quality
The JCM can help team members complete more tasks, but it can also help employees to improve the quality of their work. Because the JCM can help employees find more personal meaning in their jobs, they're more likely to produce work that they're proud of. This model can also help team members work more effectively as a collective because it builds mutual understanding and respect for each other's roles.
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