The Complete Guide to the Job Characteristics Model

Updated February 3, 2023

Employee productivity and morale are crucial to the success of a business. If you work in human resources, management or a related field, you can use the job characteristics model to help employees or colleagues improve their productivity and job satisfaction. Understanding the steps and techniques involved in implementing the job characteristics model can enable you to use it with greater success and optimize employee performance at work. 

In this article, we explain what the job characteristics model is, describe the core characteristics in the model and discuss how to apply the model in the workplace.

What is the job characteristics model?

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The job characteristics model (JCM) is a theory involving five core job characteristics that are key for employees to excel at their jobs. Originally, Richard Hackman and Greg Oldham developed the JCM in  their book "Work Redesign." The JCM proposes the idea that employees' motivation suffers in jobs that they find boring or non-stimulating, but their motivation flourishes in jobs that they find challenging and exciting.

The job characteristics model can help managers and human resources individuals enrich their workplaces for their colleagues or employees. They can use the JCM to help their employees personalize their jobs and make them more engaging, which can boost employee morale, increase productivity and improve employees' quality of work.

Read more: How To Improve Employee Productivity

5 core job characteristics

The job characteristics model specifies five core job characteristics that can have a significant impact on the psychological state of employees and the quality of their work. These five characteristics are:

1. Task identity

One of the core job characteristics in the JCM is task identity. Task identity refers to an employee completing a whole, identifiable task. Essentially, task identity occurs when an employee can complete an entire task from start to finish, instead of working on only a small portion of it.

Task identity is important because jobs can feel more meaningful when employees see the outcomes of their work. When employees complete only small pieces of work, it may be harder to see outcomes. In comparison, when they complete a task from start to finish, they can understand the value of how that task contributes to the overall project or company goals.

Related: Task Management Skills: Definition and Examples

2. Task significance

Another important job characteristic is task significance. Task significance refers to the sense of meaning associated with the task. Typically, employees draw meaning from tasks when they have a tangible effect on the well-being of other people, whether those people are clients, colleagues or both. 

3. Skill variety

Skill variety means that an employee can use an array of unique skills as they complete the tasks of their job. When a job has skill variety, an employee has the opportunity to develop a range of abilities and take part in diverse experiences. This can help keep their profession interesting and fulfilling, all of which can improve employee satisfaction and retention rates. 

Related: Employability Skills: 10 Examples of Skills Companies Value

4. Autonomy

Autonomy is another core job characteristic. Employees have autonomy when they're given the freedom to work independently. Autonomy can lead to a sense of personal meaning and a higher quality of work, as people in jobs with more autonomy usually feel more responsible for their own actions.

Read more: What Is Employee Autonomy in Business?

5. Feedback

The JCM also includes feedback as a core job characteristic. This means that it's important for employers to give feedback to their employees. Feedback can help employees build their confidence and become better at their jobs. Additionally, when employees get constructive feedback, they're more likely to feel motivated to continue excelling at their job. 

Read more: The Importance of Giving Employees Constructive Feedback (With Examples and Tips)

How to apply the job characteristics model

Once you understand the job characteristics model and the theory behind it, you can begin thinking of ways to put it into action at the place where you work. Here are steps you can follow to apply the JCM:

1. Delegate tasks 

Delegate tasks to the most junior employees who can manage them. Although it may seem counterintuitive, delegating tasks to those who have less experience or qualifications when possible can help these employees develop a sense of autonomy and build their skills. This can allow these employees to have a greater sense of personal responsibility for their work, increasing their motivation and engagement.

Read more: Delegation Strategies for the Workplace

2. Vary the tasks

Varying the tasks involved in a job is another way to implement the JCM. This reflects the core characteristic of skill variety by allowing employees to complete different tasks that involve a broad skill set. Varying a job's tasks can help employees find their work more interesting and fulfilling.

Read more: How To Improve Employee Morale and Job Satisfaction

3. Assign teamwork

Another way to apply the job characteristics model to your workplace is to assign teamwork. Teamwork can help you apply the task identity characteristic of the JCM by allowing employees to complete tasks from start to finish and see tangible outcomes from their work. It may also help them practice a variety of skills, enforcing skill variety.

Related: Characteristics of Good Teamwork (With Tips)

4. Complete performance evaluations

You can also implement the JCM by completing employee performance evaluations. Feedback is a core job characteristic in the model, and performance evaluations are a way to give consistent feedback to your employees. When you complete performance evaluations, think about incorporating a rewards system, such as providing bonuses or making an employee recognition board. Rewarding employees who perform well can motivate them to continue to improve.

Read more: Employee Performance Evaluation: Definition, Benefits and How To Prepare

5. Encourage employees to rotate jobs

If possible, create a workplace structure where employees can periodically rotate jobs. This can help make their responsibilities more diverse and engaging. When employees can regularly have new experiences and exercise different skills, they may feel more interested in and satisfied with their work. 

Read more: Q&A: What Is Employee Engagement?

Benefits of using the job characteristics model

Using the job characteristics model can allow you to enrich your workplace in many ways. Some benefits of using the JCM are:

  • Making jobs more engaging: One of the key benefits of using the JCM is the opportunity to make jobs more engaging for your employees. Each of the core characteristics in the JCM can help employees to feel more connected with their work, which can increase their motivation and the quality of their output.

  • Boosting employee morale: The JCM can also help you boost employee morale. Employee morale is critical to a successful company, and it can result in higher productivity, better workplace culture and increased employee retention.

  • Increasing productivity: Another benefit of using the JCM is that it can help you increase employee productivity. When employees feel more engaged with their jobs, they often perform at a higher level and optimize their professional efficiency.

  • Improving the quality of work: Along with increasing the amount of work that an employee completes, the JCM can also help employees improve the quality of their work. Because the JCM can help employees find more personal meaning in their jobs, they're more likely to produce work that makes them proud.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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