In today’s high tech, fast-paced world, the work environment is very different than it was a generation ago. It is now rare for a person to stay with a single company his or her entire working life. There are multiple reasons for this, but mostly because employees are often willing to leave a company for better opportunities, companies need to find ways not only to hire qualified people, but also to retain them. As more companies start to realize that a happy employee is an effective employee, they have started to look for ways to improve the work environment.
Many have implemented various work-life programs to help employees, including alternate work arrangements, onsite childcare, exercise facilities, relaxed dress codes, and more. Quality-of-work-life programs go beyond work/life programs by focusing attention less on employee needs outside of work and realizing that job stress and the quality of life at work is even more direct bearing on worker satisfaction. Open communications, mentoring programs, and fostering more amicable relationships among workers are some of the ways employers are improving the quality of work life.
Forces For Change
A factor contributing to the problem was that the workers themselves were changing. They became educated, more affluent (partly because of the effectiveness of classical job design), and more independent. They began reaching for higher-order needs, something more than merely earning their bread. Employers now had two reasons for re-designing jobs and organisations for a better QWL: * Classical design originally gave inadequate attention to human needs. * The needs and aspirations of workers themselves were changing.
Humanised Work Through QWL
One option was to re-design jobs to have the attributes desired by people, and re-design organisations to have the environment desired by the people.
This approach seeks to improve QWL. There is a need to give workers more of a challenge, more of a whole task, more opportunity to use their ideas. Close attention to QWL provides a more humanised work environment. It attempts to serve the higher-order needs of workers as well as their more basic needs.
It seeks to employ the higher skills of workers and to provide an environment that encourages them to improve their skills. The idea is that human resources should be developed and not simply used. Further, the work should not have excessively negative conditions. It should not put workers under undue stress. It should not damage or degrade their humanness. It should not be threatening or unduly dangerous. Finally, it should contribute to, or at least leave unimpaired, workers’ abilities to perform in other life roles, such as citizen, spouse and parent. That is, work should contribute to general social advancement.
Job Enlargement vs. Job Enrichment
The modern interest in quality of work life was stimulated through efforts to change the scope of people’s jobs in attempting to motivate them. Job scope has two dimensions – breadth and depth. Job breadth is the number of different tasks an individual is directly responsible for. It ranges from very narrow (one task performed repetitively) to wide (several tasks). Employees with narrow job breadth were sometimes given a wider variety of duties in order to reduce their monotony; this process is called job enlargement. In order to perform these additional duties, employees spend less time on each duty. Another approach to changing job breadth is job rotation, which involves periodic assignment of an employee to completely different sets of job activities. Job rotation is an effective way to develop multiple skills in employees, which benefits the organisation while creating greater job interest and career options for the employee.
Job enrichment takes a different approach by adding additional motivators to a job to make it more rewarding. It was developed by Frederick Herzberg on the basis of his studies indicating that the most effective way to motivate workers was by focusing on higher-order needs. Job enrichment seeks to add depth to a job by giving workers more control, responsibility and discretion over hoe their job is performed. The difference between enlargement and enrichment is illustrated in the figure on the next page.