Having specialized jobs could help organizations function more effectively.
Employees can gain expertise that allows them to perform jobs with greater efficiency and
effectiveness. However, highly specialized and specific jobs could negatively affect
organizations by increasing boredom and reducing the perceived meaningfulness of the
jobs. This could lead to lower job performance, lower job motivation, and more quitting.
Greater skill variety has been found to be associated with greater perceived
meaningfulness of work (e.g., Hackman & Oldham, 1975; Johns, Xie, & Fang, 1992).
Skill variety would involve using different talents and skills in a job. Greater skill variety
may foster greater meaning in work because it allows us to express more aspects of our
personality in our work. It may also increase meaning because it reduces boredom. (1)
Although these correlational findings do no allow us to make causal conclusions, it
may be good for companies to design jobs with significant skill variety. In designing new
jobs, organizations should allow employees to use diverse talents, skills, interests, and
types of knowledge. Management could conduct surveys on employee perceptions of
their skills, talents, interests, and knowledge. Employees could also be asked to describe
their conceptions of the ideal job. They could be instructed to describe how they could
use a variety of skills, talents, types of knowledge, and interests in one job.
Job design is an important issue in organizations. Having diverse jobs in organizations
may reflect an ideal workplace, and may increase employee motivation and job meaning.
Increasing employee motivation and job meaning may increase job performance.
1. Skill variety is one factor in the job characteristics model that influences the
experienced meaningfulness of work. See Hackman and Oldman (1980) for a description
of the job characteristics model.
Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1975). Development of the job diagnostic
survey. Journal of Applied Psychology, 60, 159-170.
Hackman, J. R., & Oldham, G. R. (1980). Work redesign. Reading, MA:
Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
Johns, G., Xie, J. L., & Fang, Y. (1992). Mediating and moderating effects in
job design. Journal of Management, 18, 657-676.