True innovation stems from the ability to break down existing structures and arranging them back in a more meaningful manner. It is the ability to break down complex systems into smaller bits, identify and remove the aspects those are not necessarily beneficial to the achievement of the overall purpose and to then successfully putting back the relevant parts. The concept of job crafting seeks to address a similar way of looking at job structures; if you take parts of your work and reconfigure it, you’ll end up with a more meaningful job to better suit your talent and interests.
Organizations have traditionally expected employees to adapt to fixed job descriptions rather than the other way round. This often ends up stifling creativity and individuality that people bring to the table. It forces employees to automate their work, albeit sometimes on a more intrinsic and unconscious level, and in the long run ends up making employees passive contributor to their work. This significantly impacts the engagement and contribution levels of the employee. But off late, companies are referring to a decade-old study that can tackle this very problem of jobs becoming repetitive and mundane; job crafting. Based on the work done by a Michigan professor Jane Dutton and student Amy Wrzesniewski, now a Yale professor, in the early 2000s, Job crafting has now become a detailed science. “We started looking at everybody from cleaners to engineers to cooks,” said Jane. “Across the whole gambit of work we saw people altering the boundaries of their job descriptions in ways that made their jobs more meaningful.” The emphasis here was on the word meaningful. During their research, both found, that in addition to self-interest as a motivating factor, employees would often find joy in connecting and serving others as well. This would then go on to form a basis of would eventually develop into the theory of job crafting.
In a report by the two researchers along with Justin Berg, another one of Dutton’s student, they explain what a 'jobs crafting exercise' entails. According to them, job crafting captures the active changes employees make to their own job designs in ways that can bring about numerous positive outcomes, including engagement, job satisfaction, resilience, and thriving. To put it in simpler terms, job crafting is way approaching job description designing which puts the employee in the driver seat. This would help employees proactively restructure the boundaries of their jobs and reframe how they would relate to their job and think about their contribution to the organization. To look at the larger purpose of our work and who it might benefit.
Job crafting can be basically done with the help of three different techniques: task, relational, and cognitive.
- Task crafting: Allows employees to alter their set of responsibilities given in a job description by adding or removing tasks, alter the nature of tasks. Employees are given the option to chart their own activities and day-to-day tasks.
- Relational Crafting: Involves changing the experience of employee interaction to better execute their jobs. It attempts to revamp the employee’s relationship with others to change their perspective on why and how they need to do a certain job.
- Cognitive Crafting: Involves employees changing the way they perceive the tasks and relationships that make up their jobs. Job crafters may reframe the cognitive boundaries that ascribe meaning or purpose to the tasks and relationships that comprise their jobs. We refer to this as ‘‘cognitive crafting,’’ and it consists of employees’ efforts to perceive and interpret their tasks, relationships, or job as a whole in ways that change the significance of their work.
A handy tool for managers
But most employees tweak their work according to individual preferences. So what is the need of an explicit Job crafting Exercise? Because self-customization of ones day to day activities might make the employees compromise their performance by choosing activities which are comfortable for them to do but it comes in conflict with what the organization is trying to achieve. While the idea of job crafting evokes images of positive benefits (to the employee and the organization employing that individual), it’s worth noting that job crafting can also be negative for the organization. Job crafting is positive when the altered meaning of work and the new identities lead to behaviors that align an employee’s work patterns with the organization’s objectives. “However, if job crafting altered connections to others or task boundaries in ways that were at odds with organizational objectives, job crafting could harm rather than enhance organizational effectiveness,” said Amy Wrzesniewski in a report. This is where the role of the manager becomes vital.
By working together with the employees and running a Job Crafting Exercise. Dutton emphasizes the importance of managers sharing the organization's vision and working with employees to craft their job, in accordance with the larger picture of the company. The manager can help employees identify opportunities and people to connect with in order to ensure that the work redistribution takes place in a manner where, instead of ensuing chaos, synergies are created. The employees, on the other hand, are also required to build trust with their supervisors and managers. This is to ensure that managers are convinced of the fact that the rearrangement of job priorities and tasks will affect productivity but in a positive manner. Berg and Dutton correlated the Job Crafting Exercise that has now been used by dozens of companies, such as Logitech and VMware, with thousands of employees worldwide. Even companies like Google have successfully integrated principles of job crafting with their Google’s People Analytics data to help their employees customize their jobs.
For most employees the learning curve flattens after a period and people who cannot find a new dimension, a new meaning in the work that they are doing, mostly become disengaged and in the process end up leaving the organization. In the current struggle of organizations to attract and retain talent, the attrition companies face due to disengagement and low motivation becomes an impediment to growth. Managers and HR professionals working together to provide quality job crafting experience to their employees can help the employee get a better grasp over the work that they do. And for the most bits employees look for such options. An option where they have a say and an agency over what they do within their organization. By allowing them the freedom and creating conditions within the organization to support job crafting, an employee can be engaged and motivated to drive growth.