By definition, the division of labor refers to separating each part of production into different tasks with a different employee responsible for each individual task. Therefore, the final product is the summation of a lot of employee tasks in order instead of one employee doing all of the parts of the production procedure.
The concept of the division of labor isn’t a new one. Adam Smith wrote about the concept in 1776 showing how separating the tasks required to make pins could be split into different tasks performed by different people. In his writing, Smith discusses the still held belief that breaking down production actually makes production quicker and more efficient than one person performing it alone.
Advantages of Practicing Division of Labor
As employers have realized for centuries now, the concept of division of labor carries many advantages for the company and the employer when it comes to streamlining the production process. Some of the advantages a company experienced in this practice include:
Any employer, no matter the industry, is looking for the most efficient way to get the job done. By dividing labor, the process of getting the job done becomes a lot more efficient because each employee is focused on tasks instead of constantly switching between tasks. With the division of labor, taking time to find needed materials, preparing any equipment needed, or moving around the workspace is eliminated.
Additionally, dividing the tasks allows employees to work on a task they are most proficient in. For example, if multiple employees are dividing the task of creating a strategic marketing plan, each member of the team can find their niche in that process that will ensure competency.
Being able to combine efforts on a project from different specialties creates an infinitely stronger product. Each person brings their own unique knowledge and skills to their piece of the project. This variety in the collaborative team means you are pulling together resources from different areas instead of one person who may be good at some parts of the project but weaker in others. All collaborators bringing their strength to their part means a more successful and diverse project.
Thoroughly training a new employee is vital but can be an expensive and time-consuming task. When dividing labor, employers actually speed up this process since an employee only needs to be trained on one skill at a time. Giving them fewer skills to master means they are on the job quickly while reaching mastery at a faster rate than if they were trained on the entire process.
Additionally, if positions become vacant, it’s quicker to train a replacement so that production doesn’t slow down until someone permanent can be found for the opening.
Smarter Use of Employees
Finding one worker with the skill and aptitude needed for one task in the process is far easier than finding an employee who can “do it all.” This concept doesn’t just apply to manufacturing or production. Finding single people who can perform specialized tasks means you are creating a process that is more likely to execute a satisfactory outcome.
For example, large companies usually organize their workforce by dividing tasks between departments. They then have an easier time finding someone perfect for a specialized task such as social media rather than someone who specializes in social media and human resources and whatever other departments are created.
Examples of Division of Labor
Once you know what the concept means, it’s easy to find all kinds of examples of what division of labor would look like in the workplace. Some examples include:
- The Assembly Line - Probably the first thing many think of when thinking of dividing a process into tasks, assembly lines are now a standard feature in the manufacturing process. Assembly lines entail one person completing a single part of a task before the entire project moves to the next person.
- Large Companies - Companies that employ hundreds of people usually have highly strategic organizations to help them recruit talent for different roles. In this model, a great accountant doesn’t also have to learn to be a great graphic designer.
- Supply Chains - are systems where organizations, people, activities, and resources are all involved in supplying a product or service to a consumer. This chain includes everyone from the farmer who grows wheat, to a baking facility, to the trucking company that delivers bread to your grocery store.
- Construction - A lot of specialized skills are required in building, and very rarely is one person a jack of all trades. Architects, engineers, electricians, and plumbers are just a few of the specialized people needed to create a safe and high-quality structure.
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