Preparing to Engage Direct Reports Through Job Design

Why engage our direct reports? Let’s start with the importance of engagement. 

A manager’s drive for performance should be based on more than just the organisation’s needs; otherwise, we’ll overlook an individual’s personal growth and well-being. It’s essential to remember and learn from the unfortunate incidents where employees, especially in certain East Asian countries, face severe health consequences due to excessive work. In People Potential, we champion a holistic approach to job design that ensures engagement and performance while safeguarding an employee’s well-being.

From research and our experience, we suggest a four-step process: Prepare, Design, Deploy, and Refine. Let’s delve into the first step: Prepare.


  1. Evaluate the organisation’s needs.
  2. Identify the individual’s talents and strengths.
  3. Understand their current level of satisfaction.
  4. Assemble an inventory of tasks


1. Evaluate the Organisation’s Needs

Understanding the company’s needs is fundamental in job restructuring. For managers, it’s essential to comprehend what outcomes your team needs to produce to align with the company’s goals. Thankfully, most managers are well-versed with their department’s objectives and clearly understand their yearly targets. Keeping the organisation’s objectives in mind throughout the job design process ensures the team’s efforts align with the broader company goals, fostering unity and driving collective success.


2. Identify the Individual’s Talents and Strengths

Beyond just knowing their name or if they prefer coffee or tea, it’s about understanding their inherent strengths, passions, growth desires, and the challenges that they face.

Talent is an individual’s natural ability to excel in a particular field, whether it’s software engineering, writing, or communication. Consider Mandy, a team member who initially worked in the accounts department. We identified her natural talent for connecting with others and proposed that she explore a customer service position while maintaining her accounts role.

At first, Mandy struggled to manage both responsibilities, prompting a six-month trial where she focused exclusively on customer service and client relations. Following this period, Mandy found her work so gratifying that she opted not to return to her accounting role. She has remained with the company for over two decades and is consistently lauded for her genuine enthusiasm for clients and exceptional service.

While talent is innate, strength comes from effort and experience. Taking Mandy’s example, her expertise with accounting software was a strength developed over time, but her people skills were a natural talent. Recognising this distinction is important because individuals can resist change if they’ve invested significant time in developing a specific strength.

Besides talents and strengths, a good job design will also address the individual’s passions, growth needs and obstacles. More about these in a future article.


3. Understand their current level of satisfaction

When addressing employee satisfaction, determine which aspects of their job bring them joy and which do not. Similarly, understand the degree of challenge provided by their current job. Employees who feel they have mastered their role may need more opportunities for growth and learning. Consider Suzi, who we hired four years ago to manage training programs. After three years, she found herself no longer challenged. Her job had become routine, and Suzi craved new learning experiences. We implemented a new project management system that year, which briefly presented a challenge, but its novelty soon wore off. As the year drew to a close, Suzi expressed her need for something different, something more challenging, and her desire to transition to HR. So we redesigned her role, moved her to HR, and found a replacement to manage the training programs. Now, Suzi once again feels challenged in her work.

Another factor linked to satisfaction is autonomy: the more autonomy a person has, the greater their job satisfaction. In today’s workplace, it is common to use software to monitor employees’ work habits, such as keystrokes or computer usage. This type of tracking limits individual autonomy. As a result, employees may perform menial tasks that the software tracks and neglect more substantive and meaningful work that goes untracked.


4. Assemble an Inventory of Tasks

Creating a task inventory is straightforward. Just ask employees about their current tasks and desired changes. Questions like “What do you want to keep doing? What would you like to do more? What would you like to do less of? And what would you like to start or stop doing?” will offer valuable insights into their job preferences and satisfaction levels.

Redesigning jobs based on preferences will require negotiations among multiple employees, but the reward is overall job satisfaction. Even making a single change can motivate an employee, as it shows that the manager has listened to them.


In conclusion

While job redesign is not the be-all and end-all of your direct report’s career success, it can do wonders for individual employees and the organisation.


To explore our suite of leadership development solutions, head on to our leadership development webpage or contact Mints at [email protected]