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What Is Job Enlargement?

Job enlargement might also be known as multitasking.
Complaints of boredom by employees gave rise to job enlargement.
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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 16 July 2014
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Job enlargement refers to a human resource management term defined as adding tasks to an employee’s duties that represent work at the same responsibility and skill level. It is often called horizontal expansion by personnel management departments. Another way to describe this concept might be multitasking, when one person takes on the responsibility for several jobs previously outside his or her job description. Job enlargement typically saves the employer money because additional employees are not needed. It is also used as a tool to motivate workers.

The practice of job enlargement surfaced after studies showed the number-one complaint from employees focused on boredom connected to the type of work they performed. By giving workers additional tasks, human resource managers hope to make jobs more interesting, which might increase productivity and job satisfaction. It may include increases in pay and benefits for employees.

This management tool might be used during economic difficulties when companies downsize. An employee might see job enlargement as an alternative to being laid off. He or she may not have a voice in the decision or any control over the added duties. A worker facing job enlargement might worry about keeping up with additional tasks and his or her job security.

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Human resource departments commonly use two related tactics to motivate employees. Job rotation trains workers to perform other jobs and acquire new skills. Typically, the added tasks do not increase the levels of responsibility, but expand employees' knowledge of company operations. Job rotation might help workers understand how their duties contribute to the overall success of the company. Cross-training may also put employees in line for promotions when they become available.

Job enrichment is often confused with job enlargement. The two concepts share similarities because both techniques increase an employee's workload. Job enrichment, however, increases personal responsibility and is often called vertical expansion. It assigns tasks done by a manager to a lower-level employee to aid his or her personal growth and spark interest in a supervisor's work.

This human resource term centers on motivating the employee to contribute ideas that benefit the company and make decisions based on his or her abilities. Job enrichment programs are typically evaluated, which might motivate an employee to increase productivity. Sometimes, job enrichment improves morale and results in less absenteeism than job enlargement.

Disadvantages of this concept include the cost of training employees to take on management duties. The cost might be offset by less turnover and increased productivity. In some companies, especially those with technical positions, it might not be feasible to transfer management decisions to other employees.

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