By Lauren Sydoruk

Managers who lead initiatives to make work more motivating and engaging for their employees are more likely to achieve better results in the workplace, new research led by Curtin University has found.

The research, published in Human Relations, investigated whether senior managers who led work redesigns across whole organisations or departments improved individual and organisational performance.

Lead author Dr Caroline Knight, from the Future of Work Institute at Curtin University, said poor work design continued to be a problem in workplaces around the world and could be worsened by rising unemployment rates, underemployment, automation and precarious work.

“Jobs that offer autonomy, social support and feedback can be more motivating and lead to positive outcomes such as increased job satisfaction and wellbeing, as well as improved work safety and work performance. Whereas, poor work design can cause strain, resulting in burnout, poor wellbeing and increased absenteeism from the workplace,” Dr Knight said.

“Our research found that senior managers who design work to be more interesting and motivating, give their employees more tasks and more responsibility, and the ability to make their own decisions, are more likely to see improved performance in the workplace.

“We also found that managers who value their employees’ opinion, give their employees the opportunity to contribute to the design of their work, and build strong relationships with colleagues and co-workers, will help create a sense of purpose and belonging to the organisation, allowing employees to thrive in their roles.”

Co-author ARC Laureate Fellow Professor Sharon Parker, Director of the Centre for Transformative Work Design based in Curtin’s Future of Work Institute, explained that the findings could positively influence work performance as they encouraged motivation, job learning and quick responses in the workplace.

“Managers need to ensure that these initiatives are applied on a case-by-case basis, as some may need to be targeted at those who are most likely to benefit. Managers should also consider the appropriateness of each initiative and how it may impact their employees and their roles in the team,” Professor Parker said.

“Organisations and senior managers should be looking to redesign work that can improve both the wellbeing and performance of their team, moving the world towards a society in which decent work exists for all.”

The paper titled, ‘How work redesign interventions affect performance: An evidence-based model from a systematic review,’ can be found online here.