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   2011, Vol. 43 Issue (07) : 810-820     DOI:
The Differential Effects of Job Design on Knowledge Workers and Manual Workers:
A Field Quasi-experiment in China
TU Hong-Wei;YAN Ming;ZHOU Xing
(1 School of Management, Xiamen University, Xiamen, China)
(2 Department of Management, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong, China)
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Abstract  Along with the revolution in the structure of work in organizations, job design research seems to have developed to its peak and gradually lost its attraction. While enriched jobs have proliferated since the 1980’s, more and more studies have found that it is difficult to generalize universal effects of job design across all situations for all workers. It calls into doubt whether job enrichment has really resolved the problems created by “Taylorizing” jobs and raises the question of whether Taylorist principles have really become obsolete for current human resource management (HRM). Responding to these concerns, we aim to extend job design research by examining the distinct effects of job enrichment on satisfaction and performance for two different types of workers. Accordingly, the specific goals of this article and the differences between the past literature and the present study rest with the proposition that worker type (knowledge workers vs. manual workers) may be a potential factor moderating the impact of job enrichment on work outcomes, that is, KWs and MWs will respond differently to comparable job enrichment manipulations.
To test the hypotheses, we conducted a quasi-experimental field study with computer programmers and maintenance workers. The research site was the head office of an IT company in Shenzhen, China, and 280 participants were randomly selected with an equal number from Program Development Department (PDD) and the Logistics Department (LD). The study was conducted in three phases. In Phase 1, PDD programmers (KWs) and LD workers (MWs) were randomly assigned to the experimental condition in which the tasks were substantially enriched in phase 3 or control condition in which tasks remained the same. Phase 2 lasted for four weeks during which time employees were assigned to perform these baseline tasks. Phase 3 consisted of a six-month period during which the participants in the experimental groups worked on their respective enriched jobs and the participants in the control groups continued to work on the baseline jobs.
A 2 ×2 × 2 repeated-measures ANOVA was performed to examine changes in satisfaction and performance, with Work Type and Condition as the between-participants variables, and Experimental Session (pretest vs. posttest) as the within-participants variable. The hypotheses were generally supported by the significant between-participants Work Type × Condition interaction on both satisfaction and performance scores. The significant within-participants simple effect of Experimental Session indicated a difference in response to job enrichment between PDD programmers and LD workers, supporting the general argument that the effects of job enrichment on KWs and MWs are different.
The present study may advance HRM theory and practice by enriching our knowledge of the application of both enrichment design theory and Taylorism. Theoretically, although a review of the evidence on the causal relationship between job design and the outcomes of satisfaction and performance show that the relationships are not particularly strong, few researchers have been interested in exploring the reasons. We argued that both theories of job enrichment and Taylorism could potentially be beneficial for current day HRM practice if we were able to understand the circumstances under which they could be more effectively applied, i.e., for KW’s vs. MW’s. In practice, HR managers should therefore note that the enrichment design can not be routinely applied to all employees. MWs may prefer a Taylorist workplace, in which the employer can easily define performance standards and ensure the utility of employees’ productivity, and on the other hand, employees can focus on the completion of narrowly defined tasks with less stress. Yet, an enrichment strategy should be considered for KWs’ tasks as this approach should satisfy their needs in doing knowledge work and increase the motivating potential of their work.
Keywords knowledge workers      manual workers      job enrichment      job satisfaction      task performance     
Corresponding Authors: YAN Ming   
Issue Date: 30 July 2011
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TU Hong-Wei
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TU Hong-Wei,YAN Ming,ZHOU Xing. The Differential Effects of Job Design on Knowledge Workers and Manual Workers:
A Field Quasi-experiment in China
[J]. , 2011, 43(07): 810-820.
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