The SMART Work Design Model - man thinking at chalk board

The SMART Work Design Model – An Introduction.


By now I’m sure you’ve heard of SMART goals, (if you haven’t head over here) but many may not have heard of the SMART Work Design model. Work Design encompasses quite a lot in our working life and refers to the organization and content of one’s work tasks, activities, responsibilities and relationships.

Work Design also applies to the characteristics of the job such as the cognitive side, physical, biomechanical and psychosocial aspects. This area of human resource management is massive as the way our work is designed affects how we might feel about our job and greatly influences our feelings of motivation, engagement, boredom and stress in the workplace.

From an organizational perspective, work design can impact the organization goals. A well designed work contributes to increased productivity, lower rates of absenteeism, and in turn financial growth.


The SMART Work Design model


The SMART Work Design model can be used by employers and employees alike when it comes to the consideration of the psychosocial aspects of the workplace and addressing any psychosocial risks.

The model identifies five themes of work characteristics which deliver positive outcomes.

  1. Stimulating – The work involved needs to be interesting, varied and have meaningful tasks aligned to it.
  2. Mastery – Mastery in the workplace comes from knowing and having a clear understanding of what your role is, knowing how you are doing on a given task and knowing how your specific work fits into and affects the overall organizational goal or bigger picture.
  3. Agency – Agency in a job specifically means having a sense of autonomy and control over how and when you complete your task. Along with this is being able to make decisions about your job. Agency also includes being supported when you’re consulted about organizational change or departmental decisions.
  4. Relational – This theme recognises the need for people to have support and connection in the workplace. Examples of this are being part of a team, knowing how your work impacts others and having the support of your supervisor and peers.
  5. Tolerable – This refers to the demands at work and the tasks you’re expected and required to do are not overwhelming. Examples of tolerable demands are having reasonable work hours, not being micro managed or tightly monitored and having consistent and reasonable expectations for performance.


The benefits of good work design


Decades of research in this area has shown that well-designed work has positive impacts on individuals, teams and companies. A good work design will produce positive outcomes through enhanced well-being, increased productivity and harm minimization.

Harm minimization refers to an employee’s entitlement to work that protects them from harm. In this case work that reduces the risk of psychosocial or physical harm before it occurs. Examples of risks would be very long hours, lack of support, lack of control, lack of clarity and negative relationships.

A well designed work can mitigate against these and reduce any stress, ill health, depression or anxiety. Using the SMART model will allow you to clearly identify any areas which need work to ensure harm minimization.

A well designed work will protect against risks like I mentioned above but simultaneously it can lead to an enhanced well-being. Employees who experience this positive state or enhanced well-being are more likely to be:

  • More committed to the organization,
  • See in a increase in creativity,
  • Are more engaged,
  • High performing,
  • Innovative.

When a workplace is optimally designed it creates conditions for high performance, growth and connections which will allow employees to flourish and thrive.

A few examples of that enhance health and well-being include:

  • Having flexible work practices that allow employees to decide when and where they want to work.
  • Foster an inclusive and diverse workplace so that all employees feel valued, respected and safe.
  • Create opportunities for employees to pursue their professional development.

Enhanced productivity is another benefit of a SMART work design which obviously has significant financial benefits to organizations. This enhanced productivity is a direct result of the previous two benefits I’ve mentioned above. Thus an organization who spends the time to create a well designed workplace for their employees can gain a competitive advantage in their market.

A well-designed work environment for example:

  • Increases confidence and self-efficacy in employees which in turn enhances their performance.
  • Increases proactive work behaviors, such as their need to “make things happen”. It also enhances their individual entrepreneurial spirit with organizations.
  • A commitment to safety which leads to harm minimization and in turn makes work safer.

So, there you have it a brief introduction in the SMART work design model and the benefits it can bring your staff and organization.

Finally, if you’d like to know more about how WorkCompass’s performance management software can unlock the potential of your employees. Feel to get in touch and request a demo with one of our team.