Paper Discussing Companies Introducing New Forms of Work Organization

Paper Discussing Companies Introducing New Forms of Work Organization

More than ever before, companies are introducing new forms of work organization, often involving major changes in the nature of people’s jobs. One of these changes is using more work groups within organizations (e.g., Guzzo & Shea, 1992; Magjuka & Baldwin, 1991; Majchrzak, 1988). The difficulty with groups is that sometimes they lead to negative outcomes, such as low productivity (Whyte, 1955), poor decisions (Janis, 1972), and conflict (Alderfer, 1977). However, groups can also hold the potential for simultaneously increasing both productivity and employee satisfaction. (e.g., Goodman, Devadas, & Hughson, 1988; Katzell & Guzzo, 1983). The present role of work groups in organizations with their potential risks and opportunities leads to more interest in understanding the characteristics of effective work groups. In the literature work design is investigated in many different ways. Morgeson & Humphrey (2006) divide work design into task characteristics, knowledge characteristics and social characteristics.

This study adopts a work design perspective on the effect of two task characteristics on work performance. Task characteristics are primarily concerned with how the work itself is accomplished and the range and nature of tasks associated with a particular job. This study will focus on two task characteristics, job autonomy and task variety. Job autonomy is initially seen as the amount of freedom and independence an individual has in terms of carrying out his or her work assignment (Hackman & Oldham, 1975). Recent research has expanded this conceptualization to suggest that autonomy reflects the extent to which a job allows freedom, independence, and discretion to schedule work, make decisions, and choose the methods used to perform tasks (Breaugh, 1985; Wall, Jackson, & Davids, 1992; Wall, Jackson, & Mullarkey, 1995). Thus, autonomy includes three interrelated aspects centered on freedom in work scheduling, decision making and work methods. Research suggest that employees who perceive high job autonomy will perform better than employees who perceive low job autonomy (Hackman & Oldham, 1976). The second task characteristic is task variety, this is the extent to which employees are required to execute a large variety of tasks on the job (Morgeson and Humphrey, 2006). Task variety is also seen as task enlargement which will make a job more interesting and enjoyable (Lawler, 1969). It is important to distinguish skill variety from task variety because the use of multiple skills is distinct from the performance of multiple tasks. The use of multiple tasks is often challenging and thereby engaging to perform.

Theoretical Framework
Work Performance
The literature describes work performance in many ways. According to the model of Campbell (1999) includes work performance only those actions and behaviors that are relevant to the organizational goals and that can be measured in terms of individual skill. This model only shows performance as required tasks. Nowadays the organization science pays also more attention to work practices that are not part of the requirements. Katz and Kahn (1998) made a distinction for these different work behaviors, namely in-role work performance and Organizational Citizenship Behavior (OCB). In-role behavior refers to all duties and responsibilities of a particular task or function. OCB refers to activities that benefit the organization and beyond the expected duties of a job. Despite the fact that OCB is also seen as an important antecedent of work performance, this study will only focus on in-role work performance.

Perceived Job Autonomy and Work Performance
Perceived job autonomy is regarded as the amount of freedom and independence an individual experiences in his or her work (Hackman & Oldham, 1976). Work autonomy is officially defined as ‘the opportunity of employees to make their own decisions and interpretation of how to perform their job’ (Stamps en Piedmonte, 1986). Perceived job autonomy consist out of three interrelated aspects; the perceived freedom in choosing work methods, scheduling and decision making (Morgeson & Humphrey, 2006). Freedom in choosing work methods is the extent to which employees have the opportunity to choose what procedures and methods they want to use in performing their job (Breaugh, 1985). Freedom in scheduling is about the extent to which employees have autonomy in planning their work activities. Freedom in decision making is about the extent to which employees have the opportunity to make decisions by themselves (Morgeson & Humphrey, 2006). High job autonomy will be perceived when an employee is not obligated to work by certain procedures and rules and is not constantly supervised by superiors. A distinction between high and low job autonomy can be made by how often job control is perceived. When freedom is perceived never or sometimes job autonomy is low, when freedom is perceived often or even always job autonomy is high (Verhofstadt, Witte & Omey, 2009).
It has been shown that when organizations provide work autonomy to their employees that this will have beneficial effects on work attitudes such as motivation, satisfaction and performance (Argote & McGrath, 1993; Breaugh, 1985; Spector, 1986). Hackman & Oldham (1976) also state that employees who perceive high job autonomy will perform better than employees who do not. High perceived autonomy will lead to feelings of responsibility for the results of the job, what will lead to higher work effectiveness and internal work motivation.

Task Variety and Work Performance
Task variety is the extent to which employees are required to execute a large variety of tasks on the job (Morgeson and Humphrey, 2006). Essentially, task variety reflects the concept of task enlargement (Lawler, 1969), such that being able to perform numerous tasks on the job is expected to make a job more interesting and enjoyable. ( Sims et al., 1976) Of all work characteristics, task variety has the least amount of empirical research examining its impact on work outcomes. Some meta-analytical findings have only demonstrated that task variety is positively related to job satisfaction, subjective ratings of performance and perceptions of job overload. (Humphrey et al., 2007).

Task Variety Job Autonomy and Work Performance
The construct of autonomy has been linked closely with variety, both empirically and theoretically. Variety refers to the number of different operations the job entails, autonomy refers to the control the worker enjoys with respect to choosing among the operations, ordering the operations and selecting a work pace. It is probably the case that variety sets some upper limit on the amount of autonomy that can be exercised in a given job. (Dodd and Ganster, 1996)Task variety and autonomy are more closely linked to affective outcomes than to job performance, which is not the case of the other job characteristics. (Kopelman, 1986)According to Dodd & Ganster (1996) there exists an interaction between autonomy and task variety. In their paper they suggest that the impact on autonomy was affected by the level of variety. When there was a low variety task, autonomy had little effect on performance. And vice versa.

This means that if an employee has a repetitive, simple job (= low task variety) and has high autonomy, this has little effect on the performance. But in a more complex job ( = high task variety), where employees are able to change the pacing, method and order of doing the work, helps them to attain higher performances. (Dodd & Ganster, 1996). This is in concordance with earlier research on interaction effects between the two variables. ( Campbell & Gingrich, 1986; Farh & Scott, 1983).

Organization and participants
To test the hypothesis we conducted two interviews at the organization Enexis. This company manages the power grid in the north, east and south of The Netherlands. They ensure that the energy of energy suppliers arrives by managing 130.000 kilometers of power lines and 40.000 kilometers of pipe lines. Currently the company employs around 3500 workers. We will conduct our research in a separate division of the department of Information Management of Enexis. This division is called OIS (Other Information Systems) and its main task is providing a well-functioning digital working space for all of the 3500 workplaces. Concrete this means that for every workplace they need to make available a desktop, laptop or tablet pc accommodated with for the specific user needed applications and licenses for these applications. The second task of this department is managing the companies data traffic and data storage in leased data-silo’s. The division consists of approximately 30 employees. On the top there is one manager who supervises 3 service coordinators, 1 license manager, 3 information analysts, 5 functional administrators, 10 consultants and 8 programmers. The employees interviewed for this study are the teamleader/manager of OIS, Henk Kinderman and a teammember/information analyst, Frans Musters.

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