Towards a new approach to job design research within modern manufacturing : the investigation of employee work orientations
In this thesis it is argued that examining the work orientations' of shopfloor employees represents a new and much needed dimension to contemporary job design research. This focus arises from developments in manufacturing where, to attain a competitive advantage, organisations are increasingly introducing various new initiatives. Successful implementation of these initiatives, collectively referred to as 'Integrated Manufacturing' (IM), is deemed to require change in employee work orientations. Two main propositions were investigated in a series of field studies. The first is that the change required in work orientations (i.e. the development of broader, more proactive, and strategic orientations) is contingent upon the introduction of autonomous forms of work design. Considerable support for this proposition was found. In an initial study, employees within a traditional company had narrow orientations and this appeared to be, at least in part, a product of their simplified jobs. In the second study, where an IM initiative was introduced without concomitant change to job control, there was no change in employees' orientations. In the third and fourth studies, cross-sectional and longitudinal evidence, respectively, was presented to suggest that introducing IM with enhanced autonomy results in the development of new and more appropriate orientations. The second research proposition is that, within autonomous IM settings, employees with broader, more proactive orientations will be better performers. This was investigated in the final study using supervisors' ratings and skills scores as measures of performance. Orientations were shown to consistently predict scores on these indices, and change in one orientation measure predicted change in supervisors' ratings. An exploratory aim of the thesis was to investigate the influence of non job design factors on work views. Drawing mostly on qualitative data, organisational factors (e.g. payment methods) and personal factors were found to influence the development of orientations. Implications of the findings are discussed in relation to both job design research and issues in modern manufacturing.