Study notes

Hackman & Oldham’s Job Characteristics Model

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, IB

What role does the job (or tasks) that employees are asked to do have on their motivation at work? One theory that tries to address this is Hackman & Oldham’s job characteristics model.

The short video below explains the Hackman & Oldham model, with supporting study notes underneath.

Hackman & Oldham’s Job Characteristics Model

What motivates you at work? Are financial rewards the most important or do non-financial factors such as job satisfaction play an important role too?

Hackman & Oldham’s job characteristics model is based on the belief that the TASK itself is key to employee motivation.

Specifically, a boring and monotonous job stifles motivation to perform well, whereas a challenging job enhances motivation. Variety, autonomy and decision authority are three ways of adding challenge to a job. Job enrichment and job rotation are the two ways of adding variety and challenge.

Their model argues that it is possible to design jobs that add to employee motivation.

Hackman & Oldham suggested that there are five job characteristics that can be studied to help predict job satisfaction:

Skill variety

  • How many different skills and talents does the job require of a person?
  • Are they asked to do a lot of different things, or is it a monotonous, repetitive job?
  • It seems reasonable to conclude that a job that involves a variety of activities and perhaps stretches an employee to develop his / her skills is more likely to be motivating than menial and monotonous work each day

Task identity

  • Is there a clearly defined beginning, middle and end to a given task?
  • Does a worker know what he or she is supposed to do, and when he or she is successfully completed the task?
  • There is no better feeling at work of having completed a task successfully - a clearly-defined task is more likely to create opportunities for employees to enjoy the positive feelings of achievement

Task significance

  • Does the job have “a substantial impact?
  • Will it matter to people, either within the organisation or to society?
  • Is this job/given task meaningful?
  • It can be pretty de-motivating at work if you feel your work has little or no "meaning" or significance. You'd be forgiven for wondering why you bother doing it!


  • How much freedom does an individual have to accomplish his or her tasks?
  • Does this freedom includes the ability to schedule work as well as figuring out how to get the tasks done?

Job feedback

  • Is an employee kept in the loop about their performance?
  • Are they being told when they are doing well and when they are not?


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