For most people, it’s not easy to land a dream job.
Many employees would happily leave an existing position if they found another one better met their needs and suited their strengths.
However, the smartest modern workers aren’t just waiting for their dream job to become available someday. They’re taking the initiative to make changes to their existing jobs to make them more compatible with their own interests, goals, and values.
The term “job crafting” is being used to describe this phenomenon.
So, what is job crafting? Let’s discuss more about how empowered, energetic people are tweaking their official roles to make the most out of their work — and how employers can encourage more job crafting in their own workplaces.
How Employees Can “Craft” Their Own Jobs
Jane E. Dutton and Amy Wrzesniewski have studied job crafting for 20 years in various industries.
In the Harvard Business Review, they explain that as a result of those studies, they’ve identified three main ways that employees can make positive changes to their own jobs:
- Task crafting – This is altering the type, scope, sequence, and number of tasks that make up your job to improve it in some way. For example, an employee could offer to mentor new employees, or to take over the company’s social media accounts.
- Relationship crafting – This is altering the people you interact with in your job, such as by forging new interdepartmental relationships or task forces.
- Cognitive crafting – This is simply changing the way you look at or interpret the tasks you’re responsible for, such as focusing on how your work helps make customers’ lives easier or appreciating your contribution to the big picture of the organization’s mission.
As you can imagine, making these types of changes doesn’t always require formal approval from the HR department. Employees can take the initiative to do this kind of work within or in addition to the scope of their existing job completely with their own initiative. However, over time, the changes they’ve made through job crafting can evolve into official changes in a job description or title, or result in other official recognition such as awards or accolades.
The Benefits of Job Crafting
When employees modify their jobs to make them more enjoyable, both the employee and the employer benefit.
As this piece from The Washington Post sums up: “Job Crafting is a win-win process; research consistently finds it positively impacts a host of outcomes beneficial to both workers and their organizations.”
Here are a just a few of the benefits of successful job crafting:
- Less stress – Doing a job that you don’t enjoy, or that you feel you’re not good at, can wear you down mentally. It can even result in exhaustion and burnout, which can lead to more employee absences and higher employee turnover rates.
- More motivation – Employees who modify their jobs to take advantage of their best talents and abilities will be more engaged with their work, which leads to more productivity and efficiency and more commitment to the organization. Of course, all of that also translates to a better ROI for employers.
- More satisfaction – Happier employees are more likely to stay with your organization long-term. They tend to perform better, too.
What Job Crafting Needs to Work Properly
Years ago, employees may have done well by simply waiting for directions from a manager and then following them. Factories, in particular, need plenty of workers who can do exactly what they’re told, following specific instructions for a precise result, over and over again.
In this market landscape, though, creativity and initiative are generally what workers need to succeed. Beyond just waiting for directions to follow, the best employees make the effort to see the bigger picture and improve their work without waiting for official approval.
Even seemingly inflexible jobs can have surprising room for change and evolution if you get an employee in place who feels empowered to make positive changes — and encouraging job crafting at your own workplace requires encouraging that sense of empowerment.
One way to do that is to be more careful during the hiring process to look for self-motivated employees. You can try to look for motivation by asking potential hires during the screening process or during interviews about times they’ve taken the initiative to make a change or start something new at work.
You can also give potential hires a chance to try to make a few plans or do some work on a trial basis before they’re hired. That can give you a better sense of whether or not they might try to see the big picture and adapt their work accordingly.
Beyond hiring people who are already self-motivated, managers can encourage employees to pursue their own projects at work. They can also continue to make themselves open for employee feedback and listen to employees’ ideas carefully. If employees get the sense that deviation from the standard procedure will be frowned upon, they won’t have as much incentive to try any job crafting techniques.
Finally, it’s the job of company leaders to make sure that each employee is reminded of the impact that their work makes both on clients/customers/users, and in the community and in the world. Those things make it much easier for employees to focus on how their individual roles make a difference.
For more on employee productivity, check out these articles: