How Job Crafting Can Work for Your Business

Employee wellness is a trending topic for good reason. According to workforce sustainability expert, Bob Merberg, a mentally and physically healthy workforce translates to increased productivity. In this fourth and final post in the Beyond Health Habits series, we turn our attention to job crafting.

  1. Replace Stress Management with Best Management
  2. Job Design: The Missing Link for Employee Well-Being
  3. What Employers Need to Know about Job Burnout
  4. How Job Crafting Can Work for Your Business

With job crafting, an employee is empowered to make subtle, yet meaningful adjustments to the scope of their role. Doing so fosters a sense of purpose in their work. Job crafting can be thought of as a "bottom-up approach to job design" in that it's driven by the employee.

Two Types of Hospital Cleaners

To better understand job crafting, we turn to hospital cleaning staff. In a seminal study, Crafting a Job: Revisioning Employees as Active Crafters of Their Work, researchers Amy Wrzesniewski, New York University, and Jane E. Dutton, University of Michigan, interviewed cleaners and found that two people with the same job experienced and thought about their work differently. These differences were separated into two groups.

Group one placed strict boundaries with their job. “I’m not going to do anything that’s not in my job description,” was their mantra. They didn’t interact with anyone if it wasn’t necessary. For these employees, they did not hold their role in high regard. It was merely a cleaning job. And it's fair to say that they didn’t care much for their job tasks.

Group two tweaked their job tasks based on what needed to be done for the hospital to fulfill its mission. They also did what fulfilled them within their responsibilities: seeking positive interactions with patients, visitors, and co-workers. They added simple but meaningful tasks such as refilling a patient’s water glass, adjusting a picture hanging on the wall of a room to make the environment nicer, or initiating friendly chit-chat with stressed-out visitors to their responsibilities.

Group two genuinely liked their jobs and tied their roles to a higher purpose. They viewed themselves as part of the care team and referred to themselves in those terms.

Job Crafting in the Wild

Related research, What is Job Crafting and Why Does It Matter, indicated that employees craft their jobs even in settings where they’re prohibited to do so. This behavior applies across all occupations, industry studies, and across different organization levels. Some companies engaged in job crafting include Google, Logitech, Burt’s Bees, and smaller businesses like police departments, schools, chemical plants, and among health care clinicians in the US, Europe, and Asia.

At this point, you might wonder: If employees are doing this on their own, what am I supposed to do about it?  Should I be getting the non-crafters to craft or getting the crafters to stop crafting especially if it's not allowed?

3 Forms of Job Crafting

To know how to deal with job crafting, you need to understand how it happens. Job crafting occurs in three types:

1.Task Crafting

Task crafting refers to changing certain tasks of the job or specific aspects of these tasks. Employees change the number of their tasks, the scope of their responsibilities (expanded or contracted), and how they go about their tasks. For example, consider the marketing coordinator who takes on event planning because of the enjoyment and the increased value it gives to the company. This additional task also adds to their job satisfaction.

2. Relational Crafting

Relational crafting occurs when an employee changes their relationships at work, particularly the scope or nature of these relations. Think of the hospital cleaners in group two who sought out positive interactions with patients, visitors, and staff. Or consider a maintenance technician choosing to help others learn the job. It's an opportunity to increase job satisfaction through mentoring--and add value to the organization.

3. Cognitive Job Crafting

Cognitive job crafting is when an employee changes how they think about the job. It's a mindset shift that allows them to view their job holistically. Like how some hospital cleaners saw their job as part of the care team. Another classic example is the janitor at NASA who told President Kennedy that his job helped send a man to the moon.

All these changes show that people get the best results when they do a task, relational, and cognitive crafting. Think about how you have crafted or how you can craft your own job. Changing certain aspects of your job helps resolve the tension in a person-job fit, and thus helps prevent burnout. It can also help in reducing turnover.

Job Demands and Resources

In Multiple Level in Job Demands-Resources Theory: Implications for Employee Well-being and Performance, Arnold Bakker and Evangelia Demerouti connect how working conditions influence employees, and how employees influence their own working conditions.

Job demands impair health. Examples include job insecurity, work/life spillover, workload, time pressure, ambiguity, and time pressure.

Job resources enhance motivation. Think appreciation, autonomy, good leadership, social support, coaching, team harmony, and task variety.

Demands and resources are becoming more predominant in understanding stress, engagement, burnout, job motivation, and how employees engage in job crafting. We need to remember that employees need enough resources to meet their job’s demands. And both demands and resources must also be craftable.

The Glad Tidings of Job Crafting

The changes employees proactively make to their own job designs foster greater work engagement, job satisfaction, and resilience. Additional good things that come from job crafting include:

  • Increased well-being
  • Better job performance
  • Smoother adaptability to change
  • Increased work engagement
  • Greater happiness
  • Less psychological distress that includes anxiety, depression, and sleep problems

Cultivate Crafting

Theoretically, job crafting can go sour if an employee tweaks their job in a way that’s at odds with the organization. So it makes sense for you to be proactive in promoting positive job crafting. But how exactly will you do this?

In Design Your Own Job Through Job Crafting, Evangelia Demerouti offers this advice:

Motivate employees to craft their jobs, give them the freedom to do so, but also specify what "good" crafting looks like by creating an open climate in which individual needs are discussed, attention is paid to best practices of crafting behavior, and where the supervisor acts as a role model with his/her own crafting behavior.

5 Ways to Get Going

Encourage employees to re-envision tasks and relationships based on their personal strengths, where they find meaning, and how they can add value to the organization.

  1. Boost autonomy and support
  2. Build into developmental plans
  3. Communicate strategic goals in a way that involves employees
  4. Hold job crafting swap meets
  5. Offer job crafting workshops

It's important to realize job crafting isn't a one-time effort. But if your company puts in the work, you’ll be creating something based on the evidence-based opportunities that impact employee well-being, work engagement, productivity, resilience, and adaptability to change.

For more insights and practical guidance on employee well-being, check out the Beyond Health Habits on-demand webinar by workforce sustainability expert, Bob Merberg.

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