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Design Good Jobs: The Characteristics of Intrinsically Motivating Jobs

3 minute read

By Stavy Papasotiriou, Organisational Psychologist, Employee Happiness Consultant, and Founder of Work Unlocked

Did you know that job design can profoundly impact employees' perception of intrinsic rewards for good performance? It's true! In fact, extensive psychological research suggests that poorly designed jobs are as bad for employee health as no job at all. Because of this, job design factors can determine how motivating or exhausting a job will be.

This article aims to make it simpler for you to design jobs that elicit the key psychological states in which “performance becomes its own reward” – a virtuous self-perpetuating cycle of positive work motivation powered by self-generated rewards.

So, let's dive in and unlock the secrets of transformative job design.


Hackman and Oldham's Job Characteristics Theory shows how meaningfulness, feedback, and responsibility intertwine to ignite motivation from within. It suggests that an employee will experience internal motivation in their job when it generates three critical psychological states:

  1. Autonomy: Give your employees the freedom to excel. Autonomy empowers individuals, allowing them to take ownership of their work. When employees have control over their decisions, schedules, and tasks, their motivation soars. Amplify autonomy and watch as your team members become driven to achieve greatness.
  2. Meaningfulness: Infuse purpose into your employees' work. Meaningfulness is the fuel that ignites passion and engagement. It gives employees a sense of purpose and significance in their work. There are 3 characteristics that contribute to meaningful work: skill variety, task identity, and task significance.
  • Skill Variety: Skill variety refers to the extent to which a job involves a range of different activities that require various skills and talents. When a job demands multiple talents, it becomes more meaningful and inherently motivating for individuals.
  • Task Identity: Task identity measures the extent to which a job involves completing a whole and identifiable piece of work, from start to finish, resulting in a visible outcome. When employees can understand how their work fits into the bigger picture and contributes to the overall completion of a product or service, it enhances their sense of purpose and motivation.
  • Task Significance: Task significance gauges the degree to which a job has a significant impact on the lives of others, whether it's within the immediate organization or the broader world. Jobs that positively influence the well-being of others can fulfil employees’ esteem needs and contribute to a greater sense of satisfaction.
  1. Feedback: Guide your team towards success. Feedback is the compass that keeps employees on track. Providing timely and constructive feedback can boost performance, increase self-efficacy, and enhance engagement while reducing absenteeism and employee turnover rates. By offering clarity and support, you'll foster a culture of continuous improvement and motivate your employees to reach new heights.


By understanding and optimising these various aspects, organisations can cultivate vibrant and stimulating work environments that foster intrinsic motivation and overall job satisfaction. So, embark now on this journey of empowering employees and unlocking their full potential!

About the author

Stavy Papasotiriou is an organisational psychologist and the visionary behind Work Unlocked — a leading HR consultancy on a mission to revolutionise employee engagement, performance, and retention in businesses worldwide. With a profound understanding of HR practices, Stavy leverages psychological principles to unleash the untapped potential of workforces. At Work Unlocked, Stavy crafts bespoke strategies that are grounded in research and tailored to each organisation's unique needs. These strategies are designed to yield remarkable results while requiring minimal resources.


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