Let’s rethink job design. No wait – let’s rethink organisational design – for improved engagement and productivity through increased levels of employee health and well being.

The Australian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (AFOEM which is a faculty of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians) has released a ‘Consensus Statement on the Health Benefits of Good Work.’ The statement defines ‘good work’ as:

Good work is engaging, fair, respectful and balances job demands, autonomy and job security. Good work accepts the importance of culture and traditional beliefs. It is characterised by safe and healthy work practices and it strikes a balance between the interests of individuals, employers and society. It requires effective change management, clear and realistic performance indicators, matches the work to the individual and uses transparent productivity metrics.”

In a recent hrdaily article Associate Professor Peter Connaughton, President of AFOEM believes that:

“Only when workplaces adopt this way of thinking will they see a reduction in stress claims and mental health issues.”

However it is common practice to match the work (or job role) to the needs of the business.

Businesses exist because an entrepreneur has an idea to provide a service or product that clients need or want and will pay for. The entrepreneur sets us the business to produce that service or product and (perhaps with the help of others) determines what roles are required in the business and what function each role will provide.

Jobs are advertised, people interviewed and recruited and everyone is supposed to do the job they were hired to do. But… that doesn’t really happen in practice. Employees, no matter how hard they focus, will always make that role their own. They attend to the tasks they like and are good at and avoid or reluctantly attend to the tasks they dislike. Some match the role and their strengths very well, others don’t. Managers either performance manage or ignore the failing state of play.

The business will always move forward as long as star performers and average performers out number those who struggle to meet the demands of all facets of their role. But is the business moving forward as well as it could? Is the business being hampered by an increase in physical and psychological injuries?

The Consensus Statement also states,

Safe and healthy work practices, understanding and accommodating cultural and social beliefs, a healthy workplace culture, effective and equitable injury management programs and positive relationships within workplaces are key determinants of individual health, wellbeing, engagement and productivity.”

Why must workplaces continue to be rigid and unaccommodating? Will they ‘lose control’ of what their employees are doing?

Can a business seek an employee for talent, attitude and experience and then mould a role to suit the individual?

Will there come a day when we turn the tables on job design and recruitment?

Will there come a day when businesses can be flexible and accommodating, and through the building of positive relationships and trust (within a framework of constructive performance measurement and management) obtain high levels of engagement, productivity, job satisfaction, innovation, profit and low staff turnover?

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