Designing effective jobs requires executives to consider 5 principles; span of control, accountability, responsibility, autonomy and influence.  Effective job design will also incorporate the organizational goals and values and align the job responsibilities with them.  These five job design principles relate to each other and all of the below principles need to interact to design an effective job.  Considerations for executives are discussed within each principle.

Span of Control

Span of Control is an aspect of job design that is measured by the range of resources and the number of subordinates that report directly to a manager.  Throughout this recent downturn, Alberta oil and gas companies and other industries have been moving towards a wider span of control.  Organizations are eliminating unnecessary positions such as middle-level managers, which results in a wider span of control.  How do you determine which span of control is appropriate for your organization?  Executives should consider how value is delivered to their customers.   Organizations whose customers value local tastes and customized products will require regional business managers to have a wide span of control.  For these types of organizations, regional business managers take direct responsibility for sales, product development and distribution.  Within these same organizations the managers at head office have a span of control that is comparatively narrow.


The span of accountability is the range of tasks that an employee is responsible for delivering.  All employees need to be held accountable for their tasks and responsibilities.  An executive will need to consider the requirement of their employees to be entrepreneurial and resourceful.    If more entrepreneurial thinking is required, then setting the span of accountability wider than the span of control will help foster an entrepreneurial culture.  Determined employees that take their accountability seriously will become creative and resourceful when working with different business teams.  Articles on fostering entrepreneurship and supporting a business manager on becoming an entrepreneur are good references for executives.


The job description will outline the responsibilities of each role.  The purpose of designing effective jobs with clear responsibilities is that the employee will clearly understand where their work will make an impact.  Once the employee understands their responsibilities, they can fully participate in issues that affect their work and will own their decisions.  When responsibilities are well defined it is also easier to hold employees accountable on their deliverables. As an executive it is important that each employee understands the significance of their work and how it fits into the purpose of the organization.


Autonomy is an important aspect of job design.  Employees need to have decision making abilities and ownership over their ideas.  There are three types of autonomy; employee, team and managerial autonomy.  Employee autonomy is important in the workplace as it improves workplace function and creates better working relationships with a greater degree of trust between management and employees.  Autonomy and responsibility are two factors of job design that go together. During the job design process, the amount of discretion each employee has over deciding how to make decisions is important.  Having employees that are autonomous can lead to an increased level of job satisfaction because they have greater responsibility for the quality of their work.  When employees are given increased autonomy their personality traits have a strong impact on job performance.  The two traits, conscientiousness and extroversion were shown to positively impact job performance the most.  Executives should review each role and consider if an increased level of autonomy could lead to better decision making and increased job satisfaction.


Span of influence is the aspect of job design that an employee can affect when determining where they collect data, ask for new information and attempt to influence the work of others.  Executives have a variety of considerations with regards to the span of influence.  If the desired result is to widen the span of influence for each role, then the job needs to be designed to allow for work across functional teams or the role could report to two different bosses.  An executive can also change the level or difficulty of the goals that are set for the role.  When the goals are set higher, the employee will begin trying to influence additional aspects of the business that could assist in helping to reach that goal.

The span of influence and the amount of responsibility over an employee’s work, are complimenting job design aspects.  Employees who have increased levels of responsibility over their work must also have an increased span of influence.  When both of these levels are met by the employee, productivity will increase and be sustained.

The five principles of job design; span of control, accountability, responsibility, autonomy and influence are required for executives to design effective jobs.  What other considerations do you make when designing effective jobs?

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