Expanding Skill Sets: Exploring the Pros and Cons of Job Enlargement

Job enlargement is key to unlocking employee potential and combating workplace stagnation, but what exactly does it involve? This strategy expands an employee’s task list horizontally, without climbing the corporate ladder. While it promises to break the tedium of daily routines, it’s not without its challenges. This article unpacks job enlargement, guiding you through the benefits, the downsides, and practical steps for adoption.

Key Takeaways

  • Job enlargement is a horizontal strategy to increase the variety of tasks of an employee without altering their position in the hierarchy or increasing pay, aiming to boost job satisfaction and employee performance.
  • While offering potential advantages like enhanced skill development, increased employee engagement, and reduced job monotony, job enlargement may also lead to increased workloads, lower job specialization, and resistance from employees.
  • Successful job enlargement requires strategic planning that includes balancing workload with skill development opportunities, employee collaboration, and continuous adjustment based on feedback to address potential challenges and ensure organizational benefits.

Understanding Job Enlargement

Illustration of a person performing various job tasks

In the constantly evolving world of work, it’s important to define job enlargement as a strategy that has the potential to reshape an organization’s approach to roles and responsibilities. Job enlargement involves expanding the role and responsibilities of an employee by incorporating more tasks. This strategy contributes to skill development and supports the overall objectives of enhancing job satisfaction and boosting employee performance.

But, here’s the twist: unlike promotions, job enlargement adds new roles and responsibilities without an increase in pay or a rise in the organizational hierarchy. This might sound counterintuitive, but it’s part of a comprehensive job redesign strategy, which might also incorporate other approaches like job enrichment and job rotation, with the ultimate aim of making jobs more motivating.

Defining Job Enlargement

When we say that job enlargement expands the number and variety of tasks within a job, what exactly does that mean? Picture an artist adding more colors to their palette. Just as this broadens the artist’s possibilities for creation, job enlargement broadens a job horizontally without necessarily increasing the level of responsibility. It’s like getting more canvases to paint on without needing to create a masterpiece on each one.

In practice, job enlargement involves combining tasks from different positions into one role, and may also include additional tasks supplementary to the core functions. This not only adds diversity to an employee’s role, but it also helps them gain a greater understanding of the business and feel more connected to its organizational goals. It’s like a backstage pass that provides employees with a wider view of the show, enhancing their overall performance.

Job Enlargement vs. Job Enrichment

Having defined the advantages of job enlargement, it’s now time to compare it with another related concept: job enrichment. Both job enlargement and job enrichment are techniques used in job redesign, with distinct goals and outcomes. While job enlargement involves adding similar level tasks, thereby expanding the job horizontally without increasing its complexity, job enrichment adds more complex, significant tasks that lead to greater job satisfaction.

To put it in simpler terms, job enlargement is a horizontal expansion of an employee’s role, and job enrichment is a vertical expansion with more opportunities for personal growth. Think of job enlargement as widening a road, adding more lanes for traffic, while job enrichment is more like paving a multi-level highway, adding layers of complexity and depth. The primary differences between job enlargement and job enrichment can be summarized by their distinct impacts, with enlargement diversifying and enrichment deepening employee roles and responsibilities.

The Benefits of Job Enlargement

Illustration of a man and woman gaining new professional skills

With the groundwork set, we can now explore the potential benefits of job enlargement. This strategy has the potential to bring about significant organizational benefits, from retaining talent and bolstering employee engagement to curtailing employee turnover. In essence, job enlargement maximizes the potential of the current workforce, acting as a catalyst for numerous organizational benefits.

Job enlargement contributes to cost savings through minimized hiring needs, reduced training expenses, optimized resource allocation, and improved operational efficiency. It can also be used as a valuable tool to train multiple employees on the same job or functions that a single employee could not do, ensuring backup capability when an employee takes time off. For employees, job enlargement provides more diverse and fulfilling work, potentially leading to heightened morale. However, that’s just the tip of the iceberg—there are more benefits of job enlargement to uncover.

Enhanced Skill Development

One of the most tangible benefits of job enlargement is also one that enables employees. By providing employees with a wider variety of activities and responsibilities and reducing excessive job specialization, job enlargement helps employees gain new skills. This expansion of capabilities through new or related areas of work gives employees training that contributes to their career growth.

Imagine a customer service representative broadening their skills in communication and digital marketing with social media management tasks, or a marketing coordinator developing their analytical and strategic abilities by conducting research and compiling campaign data. Although job enlargement can lead to heightened workloads during the initial learning period, this time is crucial for employees to reach productivity levels that reflect their newly acquired skills.

Increased Employee Engagement

employee engagement illustration of diverse and challenging tasks

Job enlargement not only boosts skill development but also propels employee engagement. By introducing a wider array of tasks, job enlargement can:

  • Prevent employee boredom and disinterest
  • Enable a more meaningful and less routine engagement with work
  • Foster a sense of ownership and control for employees over their work
  • Result in enhanced engagement and motivation

Consider a chef who not only prepares meals but also gets to plan the menu and source the ingredients. This broader scope of tasks and responsibilities could provide employees an increase in motivation through the challenges and professional growth opportunities presented by job enlargement. This intensified engagement, in turn, can lead to increased productivity and increased job satisfaction. By incorporating these strategies, employers can effectively increase job satisfaction among their workforce.

Reduced Monotony and Boredom

Illustration of a person engaged in diverse tasks

In the 1960s and 1970s, job enlargement was popularized to address the monotony of work on mass production assembly lines and offer more rewarding work experiences. Just as a varied diet can prevent nutritional deficiencies, a varied job description can help in reducing job monotony. By introducing a broader range of activities, job enlargement reduces repetitive tasks, increases skill variety, and can lead to a dynamic work environment that sustains employee interest.

Think of a factory worker who, in addition to their regular assembly tasks, is also involved in quality checks and packaging. The addition of these tasks through job enlargement contributes to a more engaging work experience by providing variety, which is crucial for employees seeking diversity in their daily tasks.

The Drawbacks of Job Enlargement

Despite the numerous benefits of job enlargement, it’s worth mentioning that it also brings certain challenges. Like any strategy, it comes with potential drawbacks such as lower efficiency and quality, increased workload, and potential skill dilution. Job enlargement can lead to elevated stress levels and the possibility of burnout, with the addition of new tasks and responsibilities potentially overwhelming employees.

Moreover, with the addition of new tasks and responsibilities, there may be a decrease in job specialization and expertise. Initiatives aimed at enlarging job roles can encounter resistance from employees, who may be uneasy about the changes being implemented. Implementing job enlargement can also bring about increased training costs to ensure employees are equipped to manage their broadened range of duties.

Nevertheless, our exploration shouldn’t end here. We need to delve further into these potential pitfalls.

Increased Workload

The path to job enlargement can sometimes lead to ‘job creep’, which is the gradual increase in workload as more tasks are added, potentially making the role unrealistic and overwhelming. Imagine a teacher who, in addition to educating students, is also tasked with administrative duties, leading extracurricular activities, and maintaining the school website. The workload can quickly become overwhelming, leading to stress and potentially impacting the quality of the teacher’s core responsibilities. In such cases, taking on more responsibility can be counterproductive.

To prevent this, it’s essential to ensure that new tasks assigned through job enlargement are within the employee’s core skills, and that both employers and employees understand the complete workload of tasks. Job enlargement should be planned carefully to avoid overloading employees, and tasks should be redistributed among team members based on skills and availability to manage workload effectively. With job enlargement comes the need for additional training and development to help employees adapt and excel in their expanded roles. Some key considerations for implementing job enlargement include:

  • Ensuring that the new tasks align with the employee’s skills and abilities
  • Assessing the workload and redistributing tasks accordingly
  • Providing additional training and development opportunities to support employees in their expanded roles

By following these guidelines, you can successfully implement job enlargement and maximize the benefits for both employees and the organization.

Decreased Job Specialization

Job enlargement can also lead to decreased job specialization, which may negatively impact the efficiency and quality of employees’ work. A jack of all trades is often a master of none, and a reduction in specialization due to job enlargement can decrease overall work efficiency, as employees might not perform as effectively when multitasking compared to focusing on a single task.

The lack of deep engagement with a single aspect of work may result in lower efficiency and quality because workers do not develop a high level of expertise in any one area. Moreover, job enlargement may dilute the sense of responsibility and ownership that an employee feels over their particular scope of work, possibly leading to less drive for improving and innovating within that area.

Resistance from Employees

Like any change, job enlargement can face resistance from employees, especially if it involves adding tasks without providing necessary resources or support. Employee resistance may be fueled by job dissatisfaction or a perceived lack of fair compensation or recognition for the additional workload brought on by job enlargement. Employees may resist changes to their job scope due to concerns over their capability to succeed, fueling a reluctance to embrace additional responsibilities.

Additional training demands and the associated costs can also cause resistance to job enlargement from both employees, due to the time and effort required, and employers, due to budgetary constraints. Acknowledging and addressing these concerns is crucial for successful job enlargement implementation.

Implementing Job Enlargement: Strategies and Best Practices

Job enlargement isn’t a universal solution. Implementing it successfully requires strategic planning, careful execution, and continuous monitoring. Horizontal and vertical expansion are effective strategies for implementing job enlargement in an organization, and it’s crucial to balance the increased workload with opportunities for personal growth.

Furthermore, successful job enlargement initiatives often require collaboration with employees, taking into account their feedback and insights. We need to examine these strategies more closely.

Horizontal and Vertical Expansion

Horizontal expansion, also known as horizontal enlargement, involves widening the scope of a job by incorporating additional job activities at the same skill level into an existing role. For example, a sales representative might be asked to manage accounts for an additional region, thereby increasing their current task load without a change in the complexity of work. On the other hand, vertical expansion entails the addition of tasks to an employee’s role that increase their control over the work process, granting them enhanced responsibility and autonomy.

To manage expanded roles successfully, it is crucial for job enlargement to be accompanied by adequate training and support in order to help employees develop the necessary competencies. It’s not simply about adding more responsibilities — it’s about equipping employees with the skills and knowledge to perform these tasks effectively through proper human resource management.

Balancing Workload and Skill Development

As we’ve seen, job enlargement can potentially lead to an increased workload. Thus, it’s critical to balance this with opportunities for skill development. Job enlargement should ensure tasks are aligned with the employee’s core skills to prevent dilution of expertise. It’s also important for organizations to carefully consider the realistic capabilities of employees and employ effective workload management to avoid stress and job creep.

Ongoing monitoring and feedback are vital to assess and adjust the balance of workload and skill development in job enlargement initiatives. Additionally, recognition and reward for new responsibilities can create a positive environment and encourage skill development, helping to increase job satisfaction. Workload can be balanced by redistributing an employee’s tasks to other employees while at the same time adding the job enlargement responsibilities.

Collaborating with Employees

Employee collaboration is a cornerstone of successful job enlargement. Initiatives should involve employees in the process to understand their interests and concerns, as lack of involvement can lead to resistance. Employee participation in decision-making, or empowerment, is a crucial aspect of job enlargement, increasing their investment in the employee’s job and the organization.

Involving employees in discussions about changes to their roles ensures that the job enlargement aligns with their career goals and areas of expertise. Including employees in the initial stages, such as user interviews and drafting design criteria, benefits both the employees and the organization when enlarging job roles. Listening to employees and responding to their concerns, as well as providing examples of job enlargement or case studies of other departments or organizations that successfully implemented similar job enlargement programs, can help ease the transition.

Real-World Examples of Job Enlargement

Customer service representative handling social media inquiries

Job enlargement isn’t merely a theoretical concept; it’s a practical strategy that has proven successful across various roles and industries. Job enlargement can be a game-changer for:

  • Customer service representatives
  • Restaurant servers
  • Social media managers
  • Content writers
  • Registered nurses

Let’s zoom in on two specific roles to see how job enlargement can be applied to an existing job in real-world scenarios.

Customer Service Representative

A customer service representative’s role can be significantly expanded through job enlargement. This could involve the addition of new tasks that are of the same complexity level as their current duties, such as conducting customer satisfaction surveys, which allow for direct feedback and service improvement. This not only adds diversity to the representative’s role but also enhances service quality and customer relations by better understanding customer needs.

Another dimension of job enlargement for customer service representatives could be handling social media’s customer inquiries, requiring them to engage with customers on its various social platforms. This new avenue of interaction not only broadens the scope of their role but also allows them to develop new skills and understandings of the customer experience.

Marketing Coordinator

Let’s turn our attention to the marketing department. A marketing coordinator might experience a job enlargement benefit by engaging in new social media platforms. If managing Facebook campaigns is part of their current role, job enlargement could add Instagram or Twitter to their wheelhouse. This not only widens the scope of their role but also allows them to gain expertise in different platforms, enhancing their skill set and value to the organization.

In addition, a marketing coordinator could compile reports in different ways to show the success or failure of specific campaign types, adding another dimension to their role. Incorporating digital marketing methods to the company’s mix, such as email marketing or case studies, are also good examples of job enlargement for the marketing coordinator.


Job enlargement, when effectively implemented, can create a win-win situation for both employees and organizations. It offers a strategy for professional and personal growth, providing employees with a diverse range of tasks that can enhance their skill sets, motivate employees, and increase employee engagement throughout. At the same time, organizations can reap the benefits of increased productivity, employee satisfaction, and cost savings.

However, like any strategy, job enlargement comes with its challenges. Careful planning, execution, and monitoring are crucial. It’s vital to balance the increased workload with opportunities for skill development, and to consider the potential for decreased job specialization and resistance from employees. Employee involvement is key, and monitoring and collecting feedback are crucial for its success.

As we move forward in this era of rapid change, job enlargement increases the opportunity for enhancing job satisfaction, boosting employee performance, and ultimately driving organizational success.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is meant by job enlargement?

Job enlargement means expanding the scope of a job by adding tasks and responsibilities at the same level, allowing employees to take on more diverse activities within their current role. This helps broaden their job without overburdening their schedule or changing their current job title.

What are the pros and cons of job enlargement?

Job enlargement helps employees gain a broader range of skills, reducing monotony for employees. However, it may also cause excessive stress and lower morale. Overall, it can enhance job satisfaction while demanding careful management.

What is job enrichment vs job enlargement?

Job enlargement involves adding more tasks to an employee’s role to increase variety, while job enrichment adds motivators to existing jobs to increase depth and challenge.

What is an example of job enrichment?

Job enrichment involves adding dimensions to existing jobs to make them more motivating, such as giving employees more autonomy and freedom in their responsibilities. For example, a product designer may have the autonomy to decide the design elements and paths for visitor conversion. This can lead to increased job satisfaction and employee motivation.

  • Amber Schneider

    Amber Schneider has a broad background and significant experience in HR and staffing. Her position as HR Generalist at Formrite, a Division of G3 Industries, keeps her in the forefront of HR management, issues, and trends.