The Problem of Poor Work Design
Job design is the process of defining and organizing the tasks, responsibilities, and relationships that constitute a job. It is a crucial aspect of strategic workforce planning, as it involves designing the tiny details of jobs that you don’t look at in workforce planning and aligning them with strategic goals.
But also, because it affects how employees perform, learn, and grow in their roles. This is, how well they execute the business strategy. However, many managers struggle to design high-quality jobs that align with organizational goals and employee needs. In fact, poor job design is one of the main causes of employee burnout and disengagement, which can have negative consequences for productivity, innovation, and retention. In this article, we will show you how generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can help you design better jobs and – subsequently – improve the outcomes of your strategic workforce planning activities. We will also provide some tips for using generative AI effectively for job design and workforce planning.
Characteristics of High-Quality Jobs
To design better jobs, managers need to consider the characteristics of high-quality work. Above all the characteristics that foster performance, motivation, and employee well-being. A good reference for what can be considered high-quality work is SMART work design. According to their model, a job should be:
- Stimulating: The work should be challenging in the sense that it requires a variety of skills, includes a variety of tasks, and problem-solving, and in its extension provides opportunities for learning and growth.
- Mastery-oriented: Employees should understand what is expected, have the possibility to take a task from beginning to end and receive feedback to know how they perform.
- Agency-oriented: The person doing a job should have control over the schedule, goals, and methods, and autonomy to express their creativity and initiative.
- Relational: Workers should receive social support from the people they work with, feel that their tasks have significance, and that their work is appreciated, creating a connection to others and fulfillment.
- Tolerable: The work should be manageable in terms of time, and emotional demands, and be coherent in instruction, feedback, and demand.
AI as a Partner for Job Design
Designing high-quality jobs is not an easy task, though. The reality of a job is usually complex and ambiguous. It requires a lot of knowledge, skills, and creativity because you have to understand the context in which a job is being performed, and you need to factor in human emotions and understand social dynamics.
This is where generative AI tools such as ChatGPT can help. AI is good at identifying patterns in the noise of complexity, and, more so, doing it consistently among a large number of jobs.
Also, AI is better than humans at ignoring all the background variables that we have difficulties unlearning, such as which person occupies a specific job today, if you consider that person smart, or maybe the contrary.
AI is also quicker and cheaper. The process can be scaled without cost, time, or quality constraints. Especially with large numbers of jobs, the accuracy will be higher.
Practical Tips for Using ChatGPT for Job Design
Generative AI can be a valuable partner for the process of job design. For example, the Centre for Transformative Work Design at Curtin University ran simulations for job design scenarios in which “ChatGPT consistently chose strategies aimed at fixing the work design […] over those focused on fixing the worker.” However, when the researchers switched off the history function and did not provide a multiple-choice list, ChatGPT did precisely the opposite. It gave efficiency-obsessed suggestions in the footsteps of Peter Drucker, without having the worker in mind. Following these suggestions would lead to low-quality jobs and poor strategy execution.
We ran a variety of additional tests ourselves and learned that without much difficulty it is possible to circumvent problematic suggestions from generative AI and design high-quality jobs, coherent for a large number of them. Here are some practical tips.
Do’s for Creating Prompts for Job Design with ChatGPT:
Be Specific: Provide clear and specific instructions that prioritize outcomes for the worker. Asking to “design a high-quality job” gives better results than generic requests such as “create a good work design”.
Provide Context. Use practical information in the prompt such as the location of the organization, the industry, and the size. But you can also include the organization’s goals and values. Both help improve the alignment of ChatGPT’s suggestions with an organization’s overall strategy.
Mention Objectives: Include specific, beneficial objectives in the question prompts. Objectives such as employee health, motivation, and work meaningfulness will result in different suggestions than, for example, efficiency, and productivity.
Review and Test: Just as with prompts for any other goal, effective prompts need to be reviewed and tested to ensure they drive better-quality outputs.
Collaborate: When possible, seek input from the workers themselves. Generative AI does not know their reality. This is the most efficient way to learn about what would make a job more fulfilling, and you can include undetected physical, emotional, and mental demands.
Provide Training: Before using ChatGPT to design better jobs, get basic training on work design concepts. The people using ChatGPT need to understand the implications of work design on the worker to create valuable results.
Don’ts for Creating Prompts for Job Design with ChatGPT:
Don’t Rely on ChatGPT: It’s a valuable tool, but it cannot replace the need for managers to have an extensive understanding of work design concepts, the jobs themselves, and the context.
Don’t Make Vague Requests: Avoid vague or generic requests, as they may lead to less relevant, effective, and potentially harmful design suggestions.
Don’t Forget Yourself, and the managers. You should have some time available to dive into the complexity of a job. Otherwise, it will be difficult to detect missing requirements. Any suggestion sounds reasonable but is not necessarily complete. Managers’ own jobs need to be tolerable and not excessively time-pressured to allow them to pay attention to how well their staff members’ jobs are designed. Only then they can consider the creation of healthy employee work roles as a legitimate and important responsibility and as a path to better performance.
Don’t Overlook Flexibility and Diversity: Relatively new demands such as flexibility – designing a job to allow work-life balance – or diversity, considering the unique needs and abilities of different worker groups, might not be adequately reflected in the training data of your LLM.
These tips are as valid for designing a job from scratch, as for improving an existing job based on specific problems to solve.
Influence of ChatGPT on Strategic Workforce Planning
The usage of ChatGPT for job design can significantly influence strategic workforce planning by changing the approach to creating roles that align with an organization’s strategic goals and employee needs.
Organizations can tap into its ability to identify patterns in complex job requirements and provide consistent suggestions across a large number of jobs, thus streamlining the job design process.
Moreover, ChatGPT’s capacity to process and analyze vast amounts of data allows for the identification of nuanced correlations between job characteristics, employee performance, and organizational outcomes. This can lead to the discovery of previously unrecognized relationships, ultimately enhancing the strategic alignment of job roles with the organization’s overarching workforce planning activities.
Furthermore, the use of ChatGPT for job design can facilitate a more agile and responsive approach to strategic workforce planning. By rapidly generating and iterating job design scenarios, organizations can adapt to changing market dynamics, technological advancements, and evolving employee preferences. This agility enables organizations to proactively shape their workforce to meet future demands.
ChatGPT’s generative AI capabilities offer a new perspective on job design, enabling organizations to explore innovative and unconventional job structures that may not have been considered through traditional methods.
In essence, the utilization of ChatGPT for job design not only enhances the quality and alignment of job roles with strategic workforce planning but also fosters a culture of continuous innovation and adaptability within organizations.