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The job characteristics model

There are a number of theoretical approaches to wellbeing in occupational psychology. The job characteristics model was first proposed by two organisational psychologists, Oldham and Hackman, in 1975.

The theory proposes that job design impacts worker motivation, work performance and job satisfaction. It also describes the relationship that exists between a worker and the characteristics of a given job. More specifically, it outlines the conditions under which the employee will be motivated to perform effectively in the job.

The model comprises five core characteristics and three psychological states. An individual must experience all three psychological states in order for the desired outcome (motivation, performance) is to be achieved.

A diagram showing three columns. Column 1 contains the following: Skill variety, task identity and task significance which are all grouped together and points to in Column 2 'Critical Psychological States': Experienced meaningfulness of the work. Column 1 'Cored Job Dimensions' also contains Autonomy which points to in Column 2 'Critical Psychological States' Experienced responsibility for outcomes of the work. Column 1 also contains Feedback which leads in Column 2 'Critical Psychological States' to 'Knowledge of the actual results of the work activities'. All the items from Column 2 'Critical Psychological States' feed into Column 3 'Personal and Work Outcomes'. In this column are the following points: High internal work motivation, High-quality work and performance, High satisfaction with the work and Low absenteeism and turnover. Underlying all three columns is 'Employee growth need strength'

Adapted from Hackman, J. R., Oldham, G.R., Feishman, E.A. (1975)

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The five core characteristics

1. Skill variety

The degree to which a job requires a variety of different activities in carrying out the work, which involves the use of a number of different skills and talents of the employee.

2. Task identity

The degree to which the job requires completion of a ‘whole’ and identifiable piece of work - that is, doing a job from beginning to end with a visible outcome.

3. Task significance

The degree to which the job has a substantial impact on the lives or work of other people - whether in the immediate organization or in the external environment

4. Autonomy

The degree to which the job provides substantial freedom, independence, and discretion to the employee in scheduling the work and in determining the procedures to be used in carrying it out.

5. Feedback from the job itself

The degree to which carrying out the work activities required by the job results in the employee obtaining direct and clear information about the effectiveness of his or her performance

The three critical psychological states

1. Experienced meaningfulness of the work

The degree to which the employee experiences the job as one which is generally meaningful, valuable and worthwhile.

2. Experienced responsibility for work outcomes of the work

The degree to which the employee feels personally accountable and responsible for the results of the work he or she does.

3. Knowledge of the actual results of the work activities

The degree to which the employee knows and understands, on a continuous basis, how effectively they are performing the job.


Hackman, J.R., Oldham, G.R., Feishman, E.A. (1975) ‘Development of the Job Diagnostic Survey’ Journal of Applied Psychology [online] 60 (2), 159–170. available from https://locate.coventry.ac.uk/primo-explore/fulldisplay?docid=TN_apa_articles10.1037/h0076546&context=PC&vid=COV_VU1&search_scope=Primo_Central&tab=remote&lang=en_US [10th May 2019]

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This article is from the free online course:

Wellbeing at Work: An Introduction

Coventry University