17 February 2005

Work Design as a source of Motivation – The Indian Context

The general lot of the working class in India has improved substantially, since independence. The Top Managements and the Government have been paying increasing attention to workers and their needs. Working class has been securing steady increase in wages and welfare and non -wage benefits as a result of their bargaining strength, labour-oriented policies of the Government and progressive policies of the employers. However, these increases in wages and other benefits have not resulted in any tangible returns from the workers in the form of increased productivity, better employee discipline and so on.

A new problem
Parallel to the above development, the top managements in India have not been paying proper attention to the problems of vital sizable section of people consisting of Junior and Middle level managers. They are the middlemen between the top management and the front line work force. They are responsible for converting the top management policies and decisions into organisational results. Their co-operation is essential for the top management to run the business effectively. Most of the people who now occupy junior and middle level positions do not belong to the generation of people who occupied these positions before independence. These new generation managers who are often much better qualified technically and in the area of general management, compared to their counterparts. Due to their better educational background and increased stress on democracy and socialism around, these people are also more achievement-oriented and equalitarian in terms of their value -orientations. They expect relatively more freedom at work and opportunity for participation in decision making and worth while contributions to the organization.

Both practitioners and management academics have started realizing the need to understand the problems of these people with a view to (a)avoid mounting frustration and discontent among them and its consequences and (b) to motivate them so that they realize their full potential on the job and contribution to productivity. Some of the top executives as well as scholars have shown concerns about this group. For instance, Ranganekar1 comments that “in many cases, the top management continues to put pressure on the middle management level to get results. However, the middle management is often unable to pass it as it is confronted with organized employees at the lowest level. In case of a serious conflict between the management and the workers, the middle management group finds squeezed between the two sides. The new manager at the junior and middle management level has often received some degree of management education. This has led him to expect participation in management decision making process. However, in actual life he finds himself as mere implementer of decisions arrived at without the benefit of his thinking- ‘a mere messenger of the real decision makers’ in the words of a middle manager.

Consequences of Discontent among Middle Managers
The discontent among junior and middle managers may lead to several dysfunctional kinds of behaviour on their part. They may express work behaviour characterized by apathy, lack of result-orientation, lack of responsibility, sense of alienation, rigidity, extreme rule-orientation, resistance to change and unreasonable demands for economic and other pecuniary incentives.

Many a times they organize themselves along the trade union lines for collective action. They bargain with the top management on conditions of employment and even resort to violence and other pressure tactics to get their demands considered2. In U.S.A the scholars have noted that the managerial frustration and discontent with corporate life are increasing and that the middle managers are tending towards formal and informal organisations which can collectively put pressure for job security, emoluments and more effective participation in management. In India, the top managements in many of the Indian organizations such as public sector and business enterprises are already facing threats on account of the formation of Supervisory and Officer’s Associations. Some top executives and scholars3 feel that the unionization among junior and middle managers will have far greater disastrous consequences to the organisation and this phenomenon cannot be viewed in the perspective in which it is viewed in the case of workers.

Motivation and Incentives
The organisations do not seem to be providing adequate number of both financial and non-financial incentives to the junior and middle managers. Indian studies on the motivation of managers and supervisors4 have revealed the absence of a number of incentives in their job5. The managers feel that their jobs are monotonous and that they are unable to test their skills and make use of their experience. They perceive that their jobs do not allow them sufficient freedom to take decisions. Nor do they provide them with opportunity for sharing adequate responsibility, learning and developing new skills. They also experience a sense of being left out of the main stream of organisational events due to inadequate communication and supportive feed -back of the information regarding their performance and that of others. These imply that the ways in which jobs and organisational practices are designed hardly provide the above kinds of satisfaction which are the real sources of motivation.

The jobs are normally designed according to the principles of task specialization and division of labour characterized as principles of Taylorism. The jobs that are at the bottom of the hierarchy are organized strictly along the above rational lines. The principles of Taylorism assumes the form of bureaucracy in the case of higher positions such as those of supervisors and managers. Job designs and associated practices along bureaucratic lines do not provide for socio-emotional and motivational pre-dispositions of the employees. They are unable to provide well-being of the employees. These designs are particularly inadequate in motivating junior and middle managers who seek freedom, responsibility, learning experience, challenge, opportunity for self expression and innovativeness on the job.

Emerging Need
Top management’s efforts to motivate people through wage and salary increases and welfare and fringe benefits are not as much rewarding in present times as it was before. There are several reasons for this. Some of these are; the incidence of direct taxation is so heavy that an increase in executives’ salaries beyond a level show diminishing returns in terms of take home pay. Again, the current rate of inflation is so high that any increase in monetary compensation hardly neutralizes the effects of inflation. This is applicable both to the executives and workers.

Even in the case on non-financial incentives to executives, top managements have been paying much attention to such as aspects as providing comfortable and attractive executive suits, standardizing personnel policies and practices, thereby reducing scope for adhocism, offering attractive designations (Director, vice-president etc) and other status symbols to the comparative neglect of providing conditions on the job for self -expression, i.e., by improving the intrinsic worth of the job5. At the worker level, the common practices are introduction of human relations in supervision, quick redressal of employee grievance, and employee conseling at the expense of making the jobs meaningful and challenging and promoting team spirit. A comprehensive motivational strategy which focuses on the content factors of jobs and which can be attempted both at the levels of managers and workers are ‘Job Design or Job Redesign’.

Essentially, there are two approaches adopted in designing jobs viz., (1) job enrichment approach suggested by Herzberg6 and his colleagues and (2) Socio-technical system approach developed by researchers from Tavistock School of Human Relations, London.

The underlying principle of socio-technical approach is to achieve congruence between work organisation and social organisation. According to this approach, it is necessary to organize the work in such way that the system permits full play of individual skills and nurtures their social needs.

Some scholars such as Herzberg,7 Taylor8 and so on have found out certain ways of making the immediate job environment conductive for this kind of intrinsic motivation. For instance, Herzberg9 suggests the following principles of job design and their motivational pay offs.

Taylor10 suggests the following ways to create motivating conditions on the job.

1. Providing Opportunity For Achievement.

a. Introduce new and difficult tasks not previously handled.
b. Allow employees to have a say in setting their objectives and targets for future action.
c. Provide positive standards against which results can be measured.
d. Give a complete unit of work which is meaningful and not too short in duration.
e. Allow as much autonomy as possible.
f. Opportunity to learn and increase knowledge and skills.

2. Recognition For Achievement
a. Assign individuals specific or specialized tasks enabling them to become expert;
b. Let individuals know how they are doing, praise for good work and guidance when work is not upto the standard.
c. Reward provided by the organization should depend on personal effort e.g. promotion and salary increase depending on personal effort e.g. promotional salary increase dependent (at least in part) on past successful performance.

3. Increased Responsibility
a. Show trust in employee by removing certain controls e.g. clocking in, continuous checking on their work.
b. Delegate to subordinates as much work and decision making authority as possible.
c. Increase the responsibility of the individuals for their own work responsibility for quality as well as quantity.
d. Provide additional authority to an employee in his activities.
e. Give an individual the chance to look after and develop others.
f. Encourage group inter-dependence and mutual help rather than reliance on outside supervision and technical assistance.

4. More Interesting Work
a. Provide variety of tasks;
b. Give individuals jobs which require thought and decisions;
c. Give employees an understanding of their contributions to the whole
d. Give individuals jobs they can improve.

Sl. No. Principle Motivators Involved
A. Removing some controls while retaining account ability. Responsibility and personal achievement.
B. Increasing the accountability of the individual for his own work. Responsibility and recognition.
C. Giving a person a complete natural unit of work (Module 8, division area and son on). Responsibility, achievement and recognition.
D. Granting additional authority to an employee in his activity (Job Freedom). Responsibility, achievement and recognition.
E. Making periodic reports directly available to the employee himself rather than to his supervisor. Internal recognition.
F. Introducing new and more difficult tasks not previously handled. Growth and learning.
G. Assigning individuals specific or specialized tasks, enabling them to become experts. Responsibility, growth and advancement.

Emerging Awareness
An awareness of the need on the part of the top managements to make the middle managerial jobs motivationally effective has developed in India recently. Four sources of evidence to this fact are forthcoming. First, some of the public sector companies have tried to institute certain motivationally effective organisational patterns. For instance, Engineering Projects India Limited11, engineering public sector concern known for its so called progressive management has adopted some of the following principles in the formulation of the functional organisational pattern.

- More clearly defined and undiluted responsibility
- Development of action without any constraints, to facilitate initiative and discretion at all levels of management.
- Faster decisions – decision points being closest to the work level and the problems.
- Concern for Motivation, better morale and greater involvement ant enthusiasm;

Therefore not tight controls are envisaged in the management philosophy of EPI. Controls are limited to the extent of getting feed-back results only.

Working in water-tight compartments which may inhibit the appreciation of working of other disciplines is considered against the management philosophy of EPI. Therefore, job rotation and inter-disciplinary transfers have been accepted in principle to be implemented based on individuals’ aptitudes and abilities.

Limited centralization by grouping the related functions has been considered due to ever increasing complexities in the technological fields and also to maintain good quality technical decisions and actions in specified areas. Limited centralization has also been considered desirable for overall co-operation through Management Information System by inter-meshing the multifarious activities of the company to attain the corporate objectives. Under Corporate Policy, it is also stated that the policy of EPI shall be to reward employees only on the basis of performance and not by seniority.

Second, a few years back six of the public sector undertaking12 initiated some internal work under ‘Action learning programme’ in the field of managerial motivation and related areas. This programme co-ordinated by Bureau of Public enterprises was stated in October 1975, lasted for 8 months or so. According to this programme, the managers of these enterprises set up study teams. They studied the motivational problems with the help of some resource persons from outside. This programme is initiated on the basis of the felt needs on the part of several top level public sector managers to understand and solve some of the motivational problems which stand in the way of utilizing highly skilled human resources.

Enriching Supervisory and Managerial Jobs.

Managerial and supervisory jobs can be made more motivating or challenging and meaningful by using the principles of job enrichment. For this the following methods can be used.

1. Role Analysis and Role Development: This helps development of clear cut understanding of duties, responsibilities, accountability and interface with other roles. It helps to link the individuals with the work groups and work groups with the organization.

2. Management by Objectives (or M.B.O): This involves identification of objectives, key result areas, target setting and formulating action strategies.

3. Management by Participation: Executives at all levels are involved in corporate, department and divisional level planning, target setting, monitoring and review.

4. Team Development and setting up Committees and Project Teams.

5. Instituting performance appraisal: Linked to employee training and career progression.
6. Continuous Training and Development: Training should be based on proper identification of the needs of the executives. Evaluation of the training outcomes on the job against objective criteria should also be done.

7. Providing employees fee back: Giving them data and information about their performance on a continuing basis reviewing subordinates’ performance in a supportive way and encouraging self-initiated review and giving them direct access to control data information are to be carried out. Generally control data and information are made available through quality control department or Accounts department or through the superiors (Departmental heads). Direct access to control data promotes internal control.

Review of performance should be targeted towards small groups or project teams rather than individual, where the task is projected as a common task and the attention of the members are called upon to how to improve the task as a whole, rather than grilling the individuals for their deficiencies. In the process, the members should be encouraged to identify the areas in which they think they need training and development and also to seek training opportunities largely by themselves, instead of the conventional method of identification of training needs of the subordinates by their boss. The boss plays only a supportive role in this. He through his discussions and involvements of his subordinates in the work makes them realize the need for further development to exploit opportunities lying ahead. Thus seeking training is voluntary and attractive and no stigma of personal weakness is attached to training as is done normally. Training and development is positive and people should look for it as a part of their career aspirations and to fulfill their desires for challenging and fuller work life.

Such open culture of learning and development is required to meet the challenges of modernization. This can be developed by including this as one of the criteria for appraising their performance effectiveness. The superiors can ask the question whether their subordinates realize and articulate their needs for training and development while assessing their effectiveness.

The other side of the coin is that the superiors should take responsibility for the career progression of their subordinates and should prepare them. Generally, management succession especially at higher levels such as the Heads of the Departments is not planned properly with the result a ‘sort of vacuum’ is created; when too many people retire at the same time.
8. All the persons at the managerial and supervisory level should be informed about the organisational stream of activities including corporate plans, industrial relations matters, information related to business environment etc.,

9. Instituting ‘Flash light’ awards, apart from linking the traditional rewards such as salary increases, promotions etc to performance results. Some of the ‘flash light awards are:-

- Commendation letters from the Chief Executives,
- Honours (like the best team of the year),
- Honouring people in specially arranged functions, presentation of selected books in the area of their specialization, interest and performance and result areas,
- Nomination them as delegates to attend conferences,
- Nomination them as Experts in Committees set up both inside the company and outside, and
- Nominating them to visit outside educational institutions as Faculty Members with due support from the company side. For this, the company should develop liaison with educational and other institutions to which the company can contribute with its practical knowledge and expertise. By this arrangement, the company while motivating its executives would also be discharging a part of their social responsibility. Industrial association with educational institutions make the latter better and socially useful.

The distinctive feature of these category of rewards is that they do not invoke the kind of rivalry feelings which the traditional rewards invoke, as these are not ‘status symbols’ but ‘symbols of achievements’. These rewards have tremendous motivation potential, provided the management can explore the possibilities and implement them imaginatively.

Currently, even those executives who draw fabulous salaries and perks still look for more with no sign of reaching saturation of their desires. The administration of ‘flash light’ rewards should reverse this trend and should wean the executives from the so called ‘money culture’.

Survey of practices in Indian companies shows that some of the methods the companies are using in the area of enriching managerial and supervisory jobs are Role Analysis, M.B.O, Team Development, Performance Appraisal and career development, setting up of committees, Training and Development and so on.

Job design at the Shop Floor Level
Some attempts in designing jobs at the workers’ level using socio-technical approaches, have been made in Indian work organisations.

For example, Late. Prof. Nitish De13 and Prof. Einor Thorsrud helped Bharat Heavy Electricals, one of the largest Indian Public Enterprises to undertake job re-design work in one of their units. They selected a group of workers from the plant side and divided them into two groups, each group was responsible for a whole task. Before, they were working in an assembly like set up, each producing a part of the equipment. From the members of both groups, a task force was formed consisting of permanent members and temporary members every month to give chance to every one. There is considerable freedom and participation in production process both for task group also for the members of the work group.

The task group received overall targets from the management. It broke it into sub-targets, planned the requirements of materials, tools and equipment. The persons in the work group rotated their jobs to develop multi-skills. The first stage inspection for quality was done by the group and only final inspection was done by quality control department. The task force members, identified the training needs of the members and necessary training was imparted by the training department. Task force met to settle issues and reviewed progress in production. Many desirable effects followed from this work arrangement. Some of these were: supervisors role underwent change from chasing ‘workers’ to chasing work factors, as the workers were more responsible for their work. The boredom from the job was removed. Employees had an improved feeling of ownership of work, enjoyed quality of work life and were committed to their work and productivity.

1. Sharu S. Rangnekar: Middle Management in Search of Identity, Paper Published in the Proceedings of the Conference-cum-Seminar of Officers’ Associations, Bombay, June 3, 1973, 10-15

2. Also See: Dayal, Ishwar and Sharma, Baldev, R.Strike of Supervisory Staff in State Bank of India, Bombay, Progressive Corporation 1971.; A.Sreekumar Menon. Management Unionism in Indian Business and industry in Case Problems of Industrial Relations Edited by Suri, G.K Bhargav, K.New Delhi, Shir Ram Centre for Industrial Relations; A Sreekumar Menon, Management, Managerial Unionism in Indian Business and Industry and its Management. Lok Udyog, April 1975; Sharu S.Rangekar,op.cit.; Sreevastava, B.K.Management of Organisational Conflict, Decision, April 1974,

3. See Sharu S.Rangnekar.op.cit.

4. Laxmi Narain. Managerial Compensation and Motivation in Public Enterprises, New Delhi, Oxford & IBH, 1973.; Sinha J.B.P. “Some problems of Public Sector Organisations, Delhi, National 1973; Maule H and Ganguli, T.A. Study of Management Morale in a Private Sector Undertaking , Bombay, Central Labour Institute, Industrial Psychology Division, Report No.3, 1965; Ganguly, D.N. Impact of Management Systems on Morale, Productivity and Industrial Relations. Bombay, central Labour Insitute, 1974.

5. See Harzberg F., Mausner B., and SyndermanB., The Motivation to work Second Edition, New York, Wiley, 1959.

6. Herzberg.F One more time: How do you motivate employees Harward Business Review, Jan-Feb. 1968.

7. op.cit.

8. TaylorL.K. Not forbread alone, in Human and Industrial Relations. Working Hand Book, London, Kluwar-Harrap Handbooks.

9. Herzberg.F. op.cit.

10. Taylor, L.K. op.cit.

11. Corporate policy and Organisational pattern Engineering Project India.

12. A Circular from Chairman’s Office, Indian Oil Corporation Limited on Action Learning Programme. The author associated with this Programme as a resource person in the field of Organisational Behaviour.

13. As reported by Prathasarathi and S.S.Rao in their paper entitled Human Resource Development in Bhel in T.V.Rao, K.K.Verma, Anil.K.Khandewal and E.Abraham S.J. (eds) Alternative Approaches and Strategies of Human Resources Development, Jaipur, Rawat Publication, 1988.


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