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Job design theory
The theories of Maslow and Herzberg have a resonance with the human relations school started by Mayo. All suggest that there is more to successful work practices than simply requiring people to unthinkingly repeat simple tasks: challenge, variety, initiative, recognition and team-work are all seen as valuable contributors to motivation and productivity. Undoubtedly there will be some situations where traditional production lines, in which each person does only a repetitive simple task, will minimise the marginal cost of production. However, those calculations would not take into account:
The costs of recruitment and training caused by high staff turnover that is likely to result if employees dislike their jobs. The costs of staff shortages. Poor quality because employees do not identify with what they are producing. Disengagement of employees from trying to improve production methods.
In the 1960s and 1970s these considerations gave rise to the job redesign movement which attempted to improve jobs (and employee performance) by deliberately designing ‘better’ jobs. A useful way consider a job‘s design elements is the job characteristic model (Hackman and Oldman, 1980) where five core job characteristics were identified:
Skill variety:Does the job require various activities that in turn require workers to develop a variety of skills and talents?
Task identity:Does the job allow the employees to identify with the work in hand (the finished item or service)?
Task significance:Does the job impact other people‘s lives, either society in general, the firm or a sub-group within the firm?
Autonomy (responsibility):Does the job provide the employee with significant freedom, independence, and discretion in scheduling the work and in determining the procedures to be used in carrying it out?
Feedback (knowledge of the results of work):Is the employee provided with feedback about effectiveness and performance?
The first three, above, contribute to the meaningfulness of the work or job.