Discuss the importance of Ergonomics and Socio-technical approach in Job Design.
BEFORE A JOB DESIGN IS DONE,
A JOB ANALYSIS SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT.
Job Analysis is a process to identify and determine in detail the particular job duties and requirements and the relative importance of these duties for a given job. Job Analysis is a process where judgements are made about data collected on a job.
There are two key elements of a job analysis:
1. Identification of major job requirements (MJRs) which are the most important duties and responsibilities of the position to be filled. They are the main purpose or primary reasons the position exists. The primary source of MJRs is the most current, official position description.
2. Identification of knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) required to accomplish each MJR and the quality level and amount of the KSAs needed. Most job analyses deal with KSAs that are measurable, that can be documented, and produce meaningful differences between candidates. Typically, possession of KSAs is demonstrated by experience, education, or training. The goal of KSAs is to identify those candidates who are potentially best qualified to perform the position to be filled; they are most useful when they provide meaningful distinctions among qualified candidates. Source documents for KSAs may be the position description, HRM standard qualifications and job classification standards.
Job Analysis should collect information on the following areas:
Duties and Tasks The basic unit of a job is the performance of specific tasks and duties. Information to be collected about these items may include: frequency, duration, effort, skill, complexity, equipment, standards, etc.
Environment This may have a significant impact on the physical requirements to be able to perform a job. The work environment may include unpleasant conditions such as offensive odors and temperature extremes. There may also be definite risks to the incumbent such as noxious fumes, radioactive substances, hostile and aggressive people, and dangerous explosives.
Tools and Equipment Some duties and tasks are performed using specific equipment and tools. Equipment may include protective clothing. These items need to be specified in a Job Analysis.
Relationships Supervision given and received. Relationships with internal or external people.
Requirements The knowledges, skills, and abilities (KSA's) required to perform the job. While an incumbent may have higher KSA's than those required for the job, a Job Analysis typically only states the minimum requirements to perform the job.
What does or should the person do?
What knowledge, skill, and abilities does it take to perform this job?
What is the result of the person performing the job?
How does this job fit in with other jobs in the organization?
What is the job’s contribution toward the organization’s goals?
The process may seek to obtain information about the:
context within which the job exists
Worker Functions. The relationship of the worker to data, people, and things.
Work Fields. The techniques used to complete the tasks of the job. Over 100 such fields have been identified. This descriptor also includes the machines, tools, equipment, and work aids that are used in the job.
Materials, Products, Subject Matter, and/or Services. The outcomes of the job or the purpose of performing the job.
Worker Traits. The aptitudes, educational and vocational training, and personal traits required of the worker.
Physical Demands. Job requirements such as strength, observation, and talking. This descriptor also includes the physical environment of the work.
experience levels required
To properly perform a job analysis, the individual performing the job should be observed and interviewed. In addition, co-workers and other individuals with similar and related jobs should be interviewed. It is imperative that job tasks be recorded with videotape, pictures, and/or sketches. Also, if the job is performed in a sequence, the work completed before and after the particular job should be documented.
What are the job duties necessary for job performance? The number of job duties is usually less than ten essential activities, which are necessary to the job.
B. Job Setting
What equipment is used in the work setting?
How is the workstation arranged?
How is the work organized?
3. Work Activities
What worker movements are necessary to accomplish the job? If there is another way to perform a job function, note this (lifting with an assistive device, typing with an alternative input device).
What are the subject's anthropometric data? Document the subject's stature; eye, shoulder, and knee height; arm reach; leg length; and waist level. Anthropometric data are used to specify appropriate reach and space requirements for various populations.
What types of personal protective equipment (PPE) are used? Document any gloves, arm guards, hardhats, safety glasses, respirators, or shoes.
Are the space dimensions within the workstation sufficient? The top of the computer monitor should be level with the operator's eyes and positioned at a comfortable viewing distance. (This is task specific.) Repositioning with an adjustable monitor arm is an option. The monitor should be placed directly in front of the chair and over the center of the workstation knee well. Screen height should be between 33 and 42 inches, the angle of the monitor screen should be between 0 and 7 degrees, and viewing distance should be between 18 and 28 inches.
Is glare diffused with panel diffusers and/or glare screens? Task lighting with a dimmer control should help, and adjustable blinds can taper excessive sunlight.
Is the pace setting appropriate? Document what body parts remain idle and what body parts are in steady motion.
Are the "proper" tools available? Tools that are pneumatic; tools that can be used in either hand; tools with pistol shaped handles for power grips; tools with round edges, padded handles, spring activation, and space between closed handles will reduce palm stress and grip force. Newer tools equipped with tool wraps and tool balancers/positioners are also helpful.
Is traffic flow designed to most effectively meet the needs of workers, contractors, and customers? Document the most frequently traveled areas and whether goods are stored in an accessible place.
Is anti-fatigue matting available in areas where individuals must stand for long periods of time? If available, document whether the matting is properly fixed to the floor.
Is a preventive maintenance program in place for all equipment?
4. Health Care
Are laundry and food carts pushed rather than pulled? Do carts have an oval or round push bar around waist height? Are powered push/pull devices available for use with beds and heavy or multiple carts? Some manufactures have a motorized option available on a hospital bed.
Have job task analysis been performed to identify awkward postures and motions in all jobs? Examination of past injury reports can identify areas of concern to address first. Look for tasks involving reaching, bending, prolonged static postures, forceful exertions, and heavy lifting.
Does the job include repeated and sustained exertions? Document whether the job entails stagnant postures for prolonged periods, repetitive motions, and whole body exertions (lifts, pushes, pulls, etc.).
What are the general environmental factors? Document noise levels, ventilation, flooring material, lighting, air quality, and temperature variations, specifically when the worker is exposed to temperatures greater than 75 degrees or less than 50 degrees.
Are extra electrical outlets for workers using powered assistive technology available?
Are walkways blocked? Obstructed walkways should be opened to eliminate the potential for trips and falls. At least one clear path of travel (without stairs) at least 36 inches wide, except for a minimum of 60 inches in two-way halls and 32 inches through doorways should be provided. Allow a minimum of 60 inches of clear, level floor space in front of and behind a door and 18 inches on the latch side of the door.
Are proper treads, handrails, and detectable warnings installed?
Have changes in floor level been identified with visual and texture contrast?
Are door closers adjusted so that from an open position of 70 degrees, the door will take at least 3 seconds to move to a point 3 inches from the latch? (This is measured to the leading edge of the door.)
Do doorways provide at least 32 inches of level clearance?
Do the inside and outside of doors provide 60 inches of clear floor space and 18 inches to the latch side?
Are materials stored in an accessible area, between 15 inches and 48 inches above the floor?
Are hard-to-reach materials labeled? Materials should have visible labels and color codes.
Are electrical outlets accessible? Electrical outlets should be provided at least 15 inches above the floor.
Are items placed in the most "accessible" place possible? Position storage for pushing rather than pulling, pulling rather than carrying, carrying rather than lowering, and lowering rather than lifting. Make storage available for intermediate transporting and transferring of materials.
Are accessible drinking fountains provided?
Are employees properly trained in ergonomic principles? Training should include proper lifting techniques, adequate maintenance and correct equipment use, and neutral postures.
Are job tasks varied? An individual should alter positions every 45 minutes, e.g., distribute tasks between right and left hands, alternate between intensive fine motor and gross motor manipulation, and change between sitting and standing.
Ergonomics is the science of fitting jobs to people. The discipline encompasses a body of knowledge about physical abilities and limitations as well as other human characteristics that are relevant to job design. Essentially, ergonomics is the relationship between the worker and the job and focuses on the design of work areas to enhance job performance. Ergonomics can help prevent injuries and limit secondary injuries as well as accommodate individuals with various disabilities, including those with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
ERGONOMICS HELPS WORK ORGANIZATION
How can work organization help prevent work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) that can result from using hand tools?
People working at a correctly designed workstation and using the best available tools can still get injured. It happens where their work is poorly designed. Work organization involves:
job content -- task variety
adjustment or acclimatization time
Where a job involves using only one kind of tool for one or a few tasks that vary insignificantly, the same small group of muscles is used over and over again. The resulting overload on the same part of the body can cause pain and injury. A greater variety of tasks allow for changing body position to distribute the workload over different parts of the body, and to give overtaxed muscles some relief and recovery time.
Rotate tasks among workers; have workers move from one task to another according to a schedule.
Add more tasks to the job.
Assign a larger part of work to a team: workers form a team and each member of the team shares several different tasks.
A fast pace of work is a strong risk factor for WMSDs. If the pace is too fast, the muscles involved do not have enough time to recover from the effort and to restore sufficient energy to continue the work.
If the pace of work is imposed externally -- assembly line speed, for example -- adjusts it to the speed that is acceptable for the slowest worker.
Incentive systems that reward for the quality of work naturally determine the "right" pace of work.
Incentive systems that reward for the amount or quantity of work increase the risk for WMSDs and, in the long run, will compromise quality as well.
The work break is a time period between tasks. Even short periods of time, literally seconds, that allow one to relax muscles involved in operating tools are important in preventing injuries.
The rest break is the period after work stops. Besides allowing for refreshment, rest breaks can be used to stretch and relax.
An adjustment or acclimatization period is the time needed to get "in shape" when returning to work after a long absence, or when starting a new job. It should allow one to refresh old work habits or get used to a new routine. An adjustment period is a very important element of injury prevention. Inexperienced and "new" workers, as well as "old timers" returning to work after a period of recovery and rehabilitation, are more prone than most workers to both injury and re-injury, so adjustment periods are a vitally important way to reintegrate them into the workflow.
Training workers on the safe use of tools, and on the hazards involved in working with them, has always been extremely important. Today, more than ever, when new materials, new technologies and new equipment are replacing older ones faster then ever before, the importance of such training is magnified. The introduction of a new tool or equipment, as well as any change in way the job has been done previously should be preceded by refresher training that includes new information relevant to the changes being introduced. Even the best-designed tool, or the most ergonomically correct workstation, or the most up-to-date work organization will fail to prevent injuries if the worker is not properly trained.
SOCIO-TECNICAL APPROACH TO JOB DESIGN
A sociotechnical system is the term usually given to any instantiation of socio and technical elements engaged in goal directed behaviour. Sociotechnical systems are a particular expression of sociotechnical theory, although they are not necessarily one and the same thing. Sociotechnical systems theory is a mixture of sociotechnical theory, joint optimisation and so forth and general systems theory. The term sociotechnical system recognises that organisations have boundaries and that transactions occur within the system (and its sub-systems) and between the wider context and dynamics of the environment. It is an extension of Sociotechnical Theory which provides a richer descriptive and conceptual language for describing, analysing and designing organisations. A Sociotechnical System, therefore, often describes a ‘thing’ (an interlinked, systems based mixture of people, technology and their environment).
Socio-technical systems approach
Socio-technical systems in organizational development is the term for an approach to complex organizational work design that recognizes the interaction between people and technology in workplaces. The term also refers to the interaction between society's complex infrastructures and human behaviour. In this sense, society itself, and most of its sub-structures, are complex socio-technical systems.
FIRST,THE APPROACH SHOULD BE APPLIED TO THE ORGANIZATION
A sociotechnical systems approach to designing organizations is based upon a set of guiding propositions:
The design of the organization must fit its goals.
Employees must be actively involved in designing the structure of the organization.
Control of variances in production or service must be undertaken as close to their source as possible.
Subsystems must be designed around relatively self-contained and recognizable units of work.
Support systems must fit in with the design of the organization.
The design should allow for a high quality of working life.
Changes should continue to be made as necessary to meet the changing environmental pressures.
It has been suggested that four categories of job characteristic are significant in terms of motivation and performance:
responsible autonomy- the group's acceptance of responsibility for the production cycle, output rate, quality, and quantity of output;
Autonomous behavior includes the self-regulation by the group of work content, critical self-evaluation of work group performance, self-adjustment to cope with changes, and participation in goal setting.
The socio-technical systems approach is not without its limitations. Whilst many advantages can result from focusing on the work group rather than the individuals and their jobs, autonomous group working does not seem to have widespread appeal.
Certainly the roles of both supervision and specialist advisers are considerably affected and in some cases eliminated.
Movement of personnel between work groups with high levels of autonomy may be difficult, hence removing some of management's flexibility.
Difficulties are often experienced in implementation in existing work situations.
A participative design process is not acceptable in many organizations and can be very time-consuming.
Alternative ways of organizing work are not always apparent where existing technology has to be employed.
Management are often not prepared to take the risk of introducing radically different approaches to organizing work alongside other changes which already have a high element of disruption and associated risk.
Approaches to Job Design USING SOCIO TECHNICAL SYSTEMS
There are three important approaches to job design, viz.,
Human approach and
The Job characteristic approach.
The most important single element in the Engineering approaches, proposed by FW Taylor and others, was the task idea, “The work of every workman is fully planned out by the management at least one day in advance and each man receives in most cases complete written instructions, describing in detail the task which he is to accomplish . . . This task specifies not only what is to be done but how it is to be done and the exact time allowed for doing it.” The principles offered by scientific management to job design can be summarised thus:
l Work should be scientifically studied. As advocated fragmentation and routinisation of work to reap the advantages of specialisation.
l Work should be arranged so that workers can be efficient.
l Employees selected for work should be matched to the demands of the job.
l Employees should be trained to perform the job.
l Monetary compensation should be used to reward successful performance of the job.
These principles to job design seem to be quite rational and appealing because they point towards increased organisational performance. Specialisation and routinisation over a period of time result in job incumbents becoming experts rather quickly, leading to higher levels of output. Despite the assumed gains in efficiency, behavioural scientists have found that some job incumbents dislike specialised and routine jobs.
Human Relations Approach
The human relations approach recognised the need to design jobs in an interesting manner. In the past two decades much work has been directed to changing jobs so that job incumbents can satisfy their needs for growth, recognition and responsibilility, enhancing need satisfaction through what is called job enrichment. One widely publicised approach to job enrichment uses what is called job characteristics model and this has been explained separately in the ensuing section.
Two types of factors, viz. (i) motivators like achievements, recognition, work itself, responsibility, advancement and growth and (ii) hygiene factors (which merely maintain the employee on the job and in the organization) like working conditions, organisational policies, inter-personnel relations, pay and job security. The employee is dissatisfied with the job if maintenance factors to the required degree are not introduced into the job. But, the employee may not be satisfied even if the required maintenance factors are provided. The employee will be satisfied with his job and he will be more productive if motivators are introduced into the job content. As such, he asserts that the job designer has to introduce hygienic factors adequately to reduce dissatisfaction and build motivating factors. Thus, THE emphasis is on the psychological needs of the employees in designing jobs.
The Job Characteristics Approach
The Job Characteristics Theory states that employees will work hard when they are rewarded for the work they do and when the work gives them satisfaction. Hence, they suggest that motivation, satisfaction and performance should be integrated in the job design. According to this approach, any job can be described in terms of five core job dimensions which are defined as follows:
(a) Skill variety: The degree to which the job requires that workers use a variety of different activities, talents and skills in order to successfully complete the job requirements.
(b) Task identity: The degree to which the job allows workers to complete whole tasks from start to finish, rather than disjointed portions of the job.
(c) Task significance: The degree to which the job significantly impacts the lives of others both within and outside the workplace.
(d) Autonomy: The degree to which the job allows workers freedom in planning and scheduling and the methods used to complete the job.
(e) Feedback: The degree to which the job itself provides workers with clear, direct and understandable knowledge of their performance.
All of the job dimensions impact workers psychologically. The first three dimensions affect whether or not workers view their job as meaningful. Autonomy determines the extent of responsibility workers feel. Feedback allows for feelings of satisfaction for a job well done by providing knowledge of results.
The core job dimensions can be combined into a single predictive index called the Motivating Potential Score. Its computation is as follows:
Motivating Skill variety + Task identity + Task significance
potential = x Autonomy x Feedback
Jobs that are high on motivating potential must be high at least in one of the three factors that lead to meaningful work and must be high in both autonomy and feedback and vice versa. These three critical psychological states lead to the outcome such as (a) high internal work motivation, (b) high growth satisfaction, (c) high quality work performance, (d) high general job satisfaction, (e) high work effectiveness and (f) low absenteeism and turnover . The model says that internal rewards are obtained by an individual when he learns that he personally has performed well on a task that he cares about.
Sociotechnical Systems Approach
The above theories of job design are all concerned with designing individual jobs. The approach taken by the sociotechnical systems method is the design or work systems that foster a meshing of the technical and social aspects of jobs. In order to create jobs, which have this supportive relationship, work teams not individual jobs, must be studied. Jobs in the traditional sense are non-existent and instead, each worker plays an assigned role in accomplishing the group’s objectives. Redesigning work through sociotechnical systems methods requires the combined efforts of employees, supervisors and union representatives in analysing significant job operations. Jobs are not necessarily designed to be intrinsically motivating; rather, they are designed so that the work is accomplished. As in scientific management, a supervisor’s goal is to ensure that the organization’s objectives are met. However, this is accomplished by concentrating only on critical job aspects, by forming work teams consisting of members who have the necessary qualifications to accomplish the tasks and by allowing work groups the autonomy to manage their own work process.
The thrust of the sociotechnical approach to job design is that both the technical system and the accompanying social system should be considered when designing jobs. According to this concept, jobs should be designed by taking a ‘holistic’ or ‘systems’ view of the entire job situation, including its physical and social environment. Using the sociotechnical approach, the following guidelines have been developed for designing jobs:
1. A job needs to be reasonably demanding for the individual in terms other than sheer endurance and yet provide some variety (not necessarily novelty).
2. Employees need to be able to learn on the job and to go on learning.
3. Employees need some minimum area of decision making that they can call their own.
4. Employees need some minimal degree of social support and recognition at the workplace.
5. Employees need to be able to relate what they do and what they produce to their social life.