Agricultural Leadership, Education & Communication Department


Date of this Version

Winter 12-1992


A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College in the University of Nebraska

In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Arts Major: Adult and Continuing Education Under the Supervision of Professor John M. Dirkx


The literature provides ample evidence that state Extension programs across the country are introducing new or modified program development approaches and reorganized work units as they attempt to remain responsive to the public's educational needs. Implementation of such innovations, in many instances, represents change in Extension agent roles and responsibilities which could be characterized as a redesign of Extension work. Research on the effects of job redesign has consistently found evidence that workers' perceptions of certain core dimensions or characteristics of their jobs influence their satisfaction with that job. Given the changing organizational climate within Extension and the findings of job redesign research, the present inquiry explored whether the introduction of organizational innovations changed Extension agent job perceptions and job satisfaction. Data from prior research with Nebraska Extension agents established a baseline of perceptions about the level of skill variety, task identity, task significance, autonomy, feedback, personal satisfaction, and context satisfaction present in the job of agent. These observations, obtained before program development and work unit changes were implemented, were contrasted with agents' current perceptions of the same factors following introduction of organizational changes. The study findings suggested that agents (n=103) saw the job dimensions as unchanged and experienced no change in personal satisfaction. Further, new agents (n=33) who had joined the organization after implementation of the innovations did not appear to perceive the job dimensions and personal satisfaction differently from their experienced colleagues. Satisfaction with compensation and supervision improved, while satisfaction with co-worker relations declined, among those agents experiencing the work modifications. In addition, these agents were more satisfied with job security, compensation, and supervision than were their newer colleagues. It was concluded that, over the five-year period, implementation of issues-based programming and clustered work units had not altered Extension agent perceptions of core job dimensions or levels of job satisfaction, but may have affected some aspects of satisfaction with the work context.