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Work characteristics and work performance of knowledge workers

Tomislav Hernaus (Department of Organization and Management, Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia)
Josip Mikulić (Department of Tourism Faculty of Economics and Business, University of Zagreb, Zagreb, Croatia)

EuroMed Journal of Business

ISSN: 1450-2194

Article publication date: 26 August 2014




The purpose of this paper is to investigate a specific pattern of relationships among various task, knowledge and social characteristics of work design and work outcomes. It clearly shows how particular work characteristics influence task and contextual performance.


The empirical research was conducted through a field survey of the largest Croatian organizations with more than 500 employees. A cross-sectional and cross-occupational sample of 512 knowledge workers from 48 organizations is analyzed by applying the partial least squares structural equation modeling technique.


The results confirmed the existence and importance of the interaction between work characteristics and work outcomes. However, the findings suggest that only knowledge characteristics of work design exhibit a significant effect on both dimensions of work behavior, while task and social characteristics showed different effects on task and contextual performance, respectively.

Practical implications

The research findings clearly show that work design efforts are not straightforward but rather context-specific, and with diverging performance effects. Organizations can significantly enhance their bottom-line performance by designing challenging and cognitively demanding configurations of work tasks for their knowledge workers.


The paper extends previous research by capturing a broader set of work characteristics of knowledge workers. The results suggest that different categories of work characteristics have different effects on task and contextual performance. By revealing the nature of work design in the central and eastern European context, this study indicates the existence of possible differences in work design practices in various backgrounds.



The authors are grateful to the Editor-in-Chief and the two anonymous reviewers for their insights and recommendations. The authors also thank Marylene Gagne and Nina Pološki Vokić for valuable feedback on earlier drafts of this work.


Hernaus, T. and Mikulić, J. (2014), "Work characteristics and work performance of knowledge workers", EuroMed Journal of Business, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 268-292.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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