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Investigating knowledge workers’ productivity using work design theory

Investigating knowledge workers’ productivity using work design theory PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to examine the suitability of job and work design theory for investigating knowledge workers’ productivity. The review is a response to recommendation and adoption of the motivational human resource management approach by a number of knowledge management researchers. The authors show that the existing literature on this topic overlooks key criticisms of HRM job and work design theory itself. The authors suggest modifications.Design/methodology/approachThe paper proceeds by outlining knowledge management researchers’ arguments rejecting the application of traditional measurement approaches to investigating knowledge workers’ productivity. The review develops to examine the various arguments for adopting work design theory and considers the key contributions and critiques in this field. Drawing on the insights of key HRM work design critics, the paper concludes by offering suggestions for a model suitable for examining the drivers of knowledge work productivity in process.FindingsThe principle finding is that Morgeson and Humphrey’s (2006) Work Design Questionnaire (WDQ) stand as the most conceptually consistent and methodologically considered human resource management work design theory. However, this model must itself be modified to include a category of organizational contextual work characteristics. For application to the filed of knowledge management, WDQ must also be expanded to include knowledge sharing, role breadth self-efficacy and employee well-being as key work design mediators and outcomes.Research limitations/implicationsGreater consideration needs to be given to the distinction between knowledge sharing as a work design mediator and as a work design outcome. Morgeson and Humphrey themselves note that the “common method variance” problems arising in psychometric research have been reduced but not completely eliminated from their model.Practical implicationsSurvey instruments based on the recommended model potentially provide a valuable means for understanding and enhancing productivity in a variety of knowledge intensive service industries. The pronounced benefit of this model is that it is applicable in cross-industry and cross-occupational contexts, unlike many existing knowledge worker productivity models. This is an advantage, given the centrality of the inter-connectivity of different types of activities and industries in knowledge work.Social implicationsWork design prioritizes employee motivation and support and links this to the quality of work and the well-being of clients. The benefits of well-designed knowledge work extend well beyond the generation of specific innovations and macroeconomic productivity improvements.Originality/valueJob design and work design theory have been applied in the field of knowledge management. However, the applications have largely overlooked key critiques of the established models in the human resource management literature. The paper fills this gap. Its original suggestions for modifying Moregeson and Humphry’s (2006) WDQ reflect the authors’ in-depth analysis of the literature. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png International Journal of Productivity and Performance Management Emerald Publishing

Investigating knowledge workers’ productivity using work design theory

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
1741-0401
DOI
10.1108/IJPPM-08-2016-0161
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

PurposeThe purpose of this paper is to examine the suitability of job and work design theory for investigating knowledge workers’ productivity. The review is a response to recommendation and adoption of the motivational human resource management approach by a number of knowledge management researchers. The authors show that the existing literature on this topic overlooks key criticisms of HRM job and work design theory itself. The authors suggest modifications.Design/methodology/approachThe paper proceeds by outlining knowledge management researchers’ arguments rejecting the application of traditional measurement approaches to investigating knowledge workers’ productivity. The review develops to examine the various arguments for adopting work design theory and considers the key contributions and critiques in this field. Drawing on the insights of key HRM work design critics, the paper concludes by offering suggestions for a model suitable for examining the drivers of knowledge work productivity in process.FindingsThe principle finding is that Morgeson and Humphrey’s (2006) Work Design Questionnaire (WDQ) stand as the most conceptually consistent and methodologically considered human resource management work design theory. However, this model must itself be modified to include a category of organizational contextual work characteristics. For application to the filed of knowledge management, WDQ must also be expanded to include knowledge sharing, role breadth self-efficacy and employee well-being as key work design mediators and outcomes.Research limitations/implicationsGreater consideration needs to be given to the distinction between knowledge sharing as a work design mediator and as a work design outcome. Morgeson and Humphrey themselves note that the “common method variance” problems arising in psychometric research have been reduced but not completely eliminated from their model.Practical implicationsSurvey instruments based on the recommended model potentially provide a valuable means for understanding and enhancing productivity in a variety of knowledge intensive service industries. The pronounced benefit of this model is that it is applicable in cross-industry and cross-occupational contexts, unlike many existing knowledge worker productivity models. This is an advantage, given the centrality of the inter-connectivity of different types of activities and industries in knowledge work.Social implicationsWork design prioritizes employee motivation and support and links this to the quality of work and the well-being of clients. The benefits of well-designed knowledge work extend well beyond the generation of specific innovations and macroeconomic productivity improvements.Originality/valueJob design and work design theory have been applied in the field of knowledge management. However, the applications have largely overlooked key critiques of the established models in the human resource management literature. The paper fills this gap. Its original suggestions for modifying Moregeson and Humphry’s (2006) WDQ reflect the authors’ in-depth analysis of the literature.

Journal

International Journal of Productivity and Performance ManagementEmerald Publishing

Published: Jul 10, 2017

References