Skill Variety

How Skill Variety Enhances Positive Work Outcomes

Skill variety (within the context of job design Opens in new window framework) reflects the extent to which a job requires an employee to use a range of different skills to complete their work.

By definition Skill variety refers to the degree to which a job challenges the jobholder to use his or her skills and abilities. It involves the extent to which the work necessitates a variety of different activities that require diverse skills and talents.

When a variety of skills are necessary to complete a task and those skills are perceived to be of value to the organization, employees find their work to be more meaningful.

Consider, for example, how a production manager and a mailroom clerk might feel about the meaningfulness of their work.

The production manager’s job requires the use of a relatively diverse and highly valued set of skills and abilities. That manager may therefore perceive the job to be quite meaningful.

The job of the mailroom clerk, in contrast, is narrower in terms of skill variety and usually of less perceived value to the organization than the production manager’s job. As a result, the mailroom clerk may feel that the job is less meaningful.

Most of the work of teams requires skill variety. Typically, teams take on complex, system-based work that involves a variety of skills, talents, and competencies to be successfully completed.

Compared with task variety, which is believed to be more attractive to younger workers, skill variety may be beneficial for older workers in their mid and late careers to the extent that it allows them to draw upon accumulated skills.