A lot of our behaviours in the workplace originate from the job descriptions we’re given when we join a company. These descriptions often form the basis of both our pay, our bonuses and of course our performance reviews.
As a construct however they tend to be very rigid, and often ensure that employees barely scratch the surface of their knowledge and ability. Due to their influence over pay and appraisals they also encourage employees to stick to a very narrow range of tasks, often therefore passing over opportunities to lend their insights to areas and problems that are not in their job descriptions.
An interesting alternative is suggested by Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton, from Yale and the University of Michigan respectively. Their concept of job crafting takes a slightly more innovative approach to job descriptions that sees employees add tasks and responsibilities that more closely match their personal interests and values.
Amy and Jane have created a job crafting exercise to help you do this. It involves creating a picture of how you currently spend your time and energy, before then creating a visual ‘after’ diagram of how you’d like to modify your job in the future.
Putting crafting to the test
A recent study set out to test whether job crafting actually improved both employee performance and wellbeing levels. The researchers examined an implementation of job crafting in a Dutch healthcare provider. The research suggests that it can have a positive impact by allowing employees to shape their own environment at work.
The study consisted of two experiments, the first involving doctors and the second nurses. Before each, participants were given a 3-hour job crafting training seminar that taught them both the principles of job crafting and how they could remodel their work day around these principles. The training revolved around three distinct job crafting strategies: seeking challenges, seeking resources, and reducing demands.
Each participant was then tracked, with surveys completed every three months. The surveys aimed to understand whether they were adopting the various job crafting techniques. Were they seeking new challenges for instance, or reducing the demands placed on them? The surveys were also aiming to gauge job performance and engagement levels, as well as overall health and wellbeing.
When the data was analyzed, it emerged that doctors would often utilize the ‘seeking challenges’ technique, whilst nurses were more inclined to seek resources. Neither group appeared to utilize the ‘reducing demands’ technique.
“Organizations should encourage employees to craft their jobs and provide them with opportunities to “fit” their jobs to their strengths, skills, and working preferences,” the authors explain, although they are at pains to point out that the different strategies used by the doctors and nurses highlight the importance of a tailored approach.
The results suggest a virtuous circle can be formed however, with engaged employees changing their work environment, and changing the work environment helping to boost engagement levels.