If a job has high Motivating Potential, the jobholders are more likely to feel  their work is meaningful, to exhibit high levels of motivation, performance, and job satisfaction. If a job has low Motivating Potential, jobholders are more likely to exhibit negative outcomes, like absenteeism, turnover, and sluggish performance.

To promote employee well-being, employers historically have offered behavior change programs, using a variety of means — some subtle, some less-so — to coax employees to fix what the employer has deemed flaws in employee lifestyles. These tactics have been found to have limited effectiveness.

Employee health is influenced by how work is designed, in addition to workplace policies and environment. Before trying to change employees, employers can take action by changing factors of well-being that they — the employers — control. Healthier job design is closer at hand for employers compared to the daunting task of changing employees’ health habits. Unfortunately, few employers have been trained on how to optimize job design for maximal employee wellbeing, motivation, and performance.

Job Characteristics Model

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The Job Characteristics Model was developed by J. Richard Hackman and Greg Oldham in the 1970s and, despite some gaps, remains the prevailing framework for understanding job design and employee motivation. Their Job Diagnostics Survey, with some tweaks made by follow-up researchers, is one of the most thoroughly studied and validated tools to assess the effectiveness of a job’s design.


Looking for Jozito’s version of the Motivating Potential Scoring survey? Sorry, we’ve disabled it due to technical issues. For now, learn more about job motivating potential with the information below, excerpted from the results users of our survey received:

The Job Characteristics Model informs us that the levels of five specific job dimensions (characteristics) in a job’s design determine its potential to evoke intrinsic motivation, optimal performance, and job satisfaction.

The 5 characteristics are Skill Variety, Task Identity, Task Significance, Autonomy, and Feedback. (Most likely they overlooked a few, especially social support from supervisors and co-workers). Definitions accompany your score for each characteristic, below.

Skill Variety, Task Identify, and Task Significance are the primary constituents of a job’s meaningfulness. It’s ideal to have all three, but a motivating job must be strong in at least one. Autonomy and Feedback are both strongly weighted elements.

Employees’ individual differences come into play in how they respond to a job with high motivating potential. Those who strongly seek personal feelings of accomplishment and growth respond very positively to a job high in motivating potential; those who do not value accomplishment and growth may feel uncomfortably “stretched” by it.

Individual response to motivating potential is influenced by other aspects of the work situation, as well, including compensation, job security, social interaction, and supervision.

Read on to learn more about job design.

Job Design

Job design is the allocation, content, and organization of job tasks, activities, relationships, and responsibilities to satisfy the needs of the business as well as the wellbeing of the jobholders.

Job design is all around us. Managers design jobs when they create new positions, tweak existing positions, and conduct reorganizations. Individuals engage in design when they are “job crafting.” (Learn more about job crafting on the Jozito blog.)

Job Characteristics can be measured or kept in mind as one or more processes of job design are conducted:

  • Job Enlargement changes a job to include more and/or different tasks. Job enlargement adds interest to the work but may or may not give employees more responsibility. J
  • Job Rotation historically has meant moving employees from one task to another. In today’s knowledge-based economy, it’s sometimes helpful to think of periodic exchanging of responsibilities as a form of job rotation. 
  • Job Enrichment gives employees more responsibility, accountability, and independence or allows for greater participation and new opportunities.

There are other types of job design. An increasingly favored example is Self-Directed Teams, in which a group of employees are assigned (or choose) to complete a body of work, and they determine among themselves the allocation of tasks and responsibilities. Another approach, balancing a job’s demands with its resources, has a rapidly growing body of evidence linking it to work engagement, reduced burnout, and better adaptability to change.

Regardless of the approach that works best for you, be deliberate in striking the right balance of autonomy (or control) with job demands (physical and psychological) and social support. It’s a balance that, research has shown, can be quite nuanced.

Heed the most important principle of job design: Seek and value the participation of employees when designing their jobs.