Hackman & Oldham – Job Characteristics Model (JCM)

The Job Characteristics Model (JCM) was developed to specify when people will generate excitement and commitment for their work and to define what kinds of employees this works best for. The JCM is specifically for use in planning and carrying out changes in the design of work.

The JCM proposes relationships between three classes of variables:

  1. Core Job Dimensions (CJDs)
  2. Critical Psychological States (CPSs)
  3. Affective Outcomes (AOs)

The JCM is measured through a diagnostic tool called the Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS) which is a questionnaire that extracts information about the person’s thoughts and experiences in their work.

Core Job Dimensions

Hackman and Oldham (1975) identified five core job characteristics that drive the positive psychological states required for a happy productive worker:

  1. Skill variety - Skill variety is the degree to which a job requires a variety of different activities that utilize the use of different skills and talents.
  2. Task identity - Task identity is the degree to which a job requires a variety of different activities that utilize the use of different skills and talents is the degree to which the job requires completion of a whole and identifiable piece of work-that is doing a job from beginning to end with a visible outcome.
  3. Task significance - Task significance is the degree to which the job has a substantial impact on the lives or work of other people, whether in the immediate organization or in the external.
  4. Autonomy - Autonomy is the degree to which the job provides substantial freedom, independence, and discretion to the individual in scheduling the work and in determining the procedures to be used in carrying it out (Hackman & Oldham, 1975).
  5. Feedback - Feedback from the job is the degree to which carrying out the work activities required by the job results in the individual's obtaining direct and clear information about the effectiveness of performance.

Critical Psychological States

The theory is based on three psychological states that determine a person’s motivation and satisfaction at work:

  1. Experienced Meaningfulness: The person must see their work as worthwhile based on their values. Three characteristics that affect this variable are skill variety, task identity and task significance (Hackman & Oldham, 1975).
  2. Experienced Responsibility: The person must feel they are personally accountable for the outcome of their efforts. The variable this impacts is autonomy.
  3. Knowledge of Results: The person must be able to tell if the outcomes of their work are satisfactory on a regular basis. The variable this impacts is feedback.

When all three conditions are present the person feels happy when they perform well and this in turn prompts them to try to continue to do well. This is defined as ‘Internal Motivation’ which is the state of feeling good about oneself and what a person is producing as well as obtaining a sense of accomplishment. When one has high internal work motivation, feeling good about one-self is closely tied to how well he or she performs on the job (Hackman & Oldham, 1975).

When all three of these states are high then internal work motivation, job satisfaction and work quality are high and absenteeism and turn over are low.

Affective Outcomes

The third major section of the JCM is the outcomes. The outcomes include high internal motivation, high growth satisfaction, high general job satisfaction and high work effectiveness.

  1. High internal work motivation indicates the amount of motivation and satisfaction a worker will get from the job.
  2. High growth satisfaction is gained from self direction and from learning, and from personal accomplishment at work.
  3. High general job satisfaction is the satisfaction or feeling of satisfaction with the overall job performance.


The final section of the JCM is composed of the moderators. They are knowledge and skill, growth need strength, context satisfactions and relate to overall motivation.

  1. Knowledge and skills deal with a worker having adequate knowledge and skill to perform a job adequately.
  2. Growth-need strength is the need for considerable self-direction, learning, and personal accomplishment at work.
  3. Context satisfaction is a variable that looks at how a person feels about their surroundings at work. This deals with such things as pay, job security, supervision, co-workers and other relationships at work (Hackman & Oldham, 1975).

According to Hackman and Oldham (1975), motivating potential score (MPS) is the combination of the five dimensions above into a single index reflecting the overall potential of the job to prompt self-generated work motivation in job incumbents.

MPS = (skill variety + task identity + task significance/3) X autonomy X job feedback

Limitations of the Theory

Pierce and Dunham (1976) point out researchers should not assume the dimensionality of the JDS and the rationale of the JCM without first making empirical evaluations of their own. Others back up this view e.g. Harvey et al (1985), Idaszak and Drasgow (1987), Kulik et al (1988), Salancik and Pfeffer (1978) and Roberts and Glick (1981). All discovered anomalies with JDS and theory of work motivation.

The Job Characteristics, as measured by the JDS, are not independent of one another. When a job is high on one characteristic (such as skill variety) it also tends to be high on one or more others (such as autonomy and/or feedback).

The positive inter-correlations among the job characteristics may reflect problems in how they are measured in the JDS.


Casey, R. J. and Robbins, J. (2010) The Hackman and Oldham Job Characteristics Model: Implications from Four Industries. International Journal of Business and Public Administration. Volume 7, Number 2, Fall 2010 11

Hackman, J. R., Oldham, G., Janson, R. And Purdy, K. (1975) A New Strategy for Job Enrichment. California Management Review. Summer, 1975, Vol. XVII, No.4, pp. 57-71

Hackman, J.R. (1975) Is Job Enrichment just a fad? Harvard Business Review. Sept – Oct 1975. pp. 129-138

Hackman, J.R. (1978) The Design of Work in the 1980s. Organizational Dynamics. Summer 1978. pp. 3-17