One Hundred Years of Work Design Research: Looking Back and Looking Forward

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Abstract

In this article we take a big picture perspective on work design research. In the first section of the paper we identify influential work design articles and use scientific mapping to identify distinct clusters of research. Pulling this material together, we identify five key work design perspectives that map onto distinct historical developments: (a) sociotechnical systems and autonomous work groups, (b) job characteristics model, (c) job demands-control model, (d) job demands-resources model, and (e) role theory. The grounding of these perspectives in the past is understandable, but we suggest that some of the distinction between clusters is convenient rather than substantive. Thus we also identify contemporary integrative perspectives on work design that build connections across the clusters and we argue that there is scope for further integration. In the second section of the paper, we review the role of Journal of Applied Psychology (JAP) in shaping work design research. We conclude that JAP has played a vital role in the advancement of this topic over the last 100 years. Nevertheless, we suspect that to continue to play a leading role in advancing the science and practice of work design, the journal might need to publish research that is broader, more contextualized, and team-oriented. In the third section, we address the impact of work design research on: applied psychology and management, disciplines beyond our own, management thinking, work practice, and national policy agendas. Finally, we draw together observations from our analysis and identify key future directions for the field.

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