You are here

Job crafting: five ways staff can better design their own jobs

Published 8th March 2017 by Melissa Farrington
Modern office desk with stationery and laptop

People job craft all the time but don’t realise they’re doing it!

In fact, researchers Wrzesniewski and Dutton (2001) said that the things employees have to do at work - work tasks - are the “raw materials” they use to construct their experience at work [PDF].

All the time, employees are shaping the boundaries of tasks, both cognitively and physically, as well as the nature of relationships they have at work.

Job crafting benefits

Job crafting has many benefits. Researcher Paul Lyons, for example, found positive and significant correlations between job crafting and self-image, perceived control and readiness to change.

Meanwhile, Berg, Dutton and Wrzesniewski (2007) found various positive outcomes were driven by job crafting, including engagement, resilience and job satisfaction [PDF].

Job crafting techniques: 5 ways staff can do it

Emphasise the tasks where your passions lie

Most jobs have rote tasks that have to get done, such as admin, and more enjoyable tasks that more closely align to the worker’s sense of being. This type of job crafting sees employees pay more attention to, or spend more time on, the areas of the job that really ‘get them going.’

Example: A customer service agent who particularly enjoys brightening up a caller’s day may spend more time on each call but make fewer calls during the day than other agents who don’t feel as passionate about that aspect of the role.

Impact others you care about

The research is clear: people feel good when they help others. That’s why people often job craft to emphasise the parts of the job that are relational and altruistic. This is common in customer service roles, but it’s possible in many, and it’s not just about interactions with clients, but with anyone the employee interacts with. It can be directed at everyone, or a specific group they particularly empathise with.

Example: a caretaker at a hospital may develop strong empathy with patients and stop to chat so they feel better before surgery, or a teacher may be specifically motivated to support single parents.

Reframe the job role and purpose

What do you actually do at work? Well, there’s the practical side of what you do, but what you think your purpose is really changes the way you approach work. By re-framing the importance of your job role, and your overall aim, you can motivate, empower and discipline yourself and come home from work feeling very good about what you’ve achieved.

Example: a park guide who runs walks for children may see their role less about showcasing plants and streams and more about raising the next generation to care deeply about the future of our planet.

Tailor services to meet specific customer needs

This is a common method of job crafting and involves changing your approach and method to suit specific people. This could be internal (influencing an ego-driven leader versus a collaborative leader) or external (being more communicative to suit a demanding client).

Example: a greengrocer will give six apples for £2 to a family that she knows is well-off but always slip an extra two apples into the bag for the family she knows is struggling.

Change the physical boundaries of the job

This is a job crafting technique strongly driven by personal preference. An office worker may wish to work only in the office (and may insist on a desktop computer rather than a laptop to help meet this desire) so that she never takes work home to interfere with family life. Another office worker may insist on a laptop so she can take advantage of flexible working and meet a personal need for variation in the working day.

Example: a mobile hairdresser may decide to get space in a salon to meet a need for more stability and less driving, or a pre-sales consultant may ask their manager to widen the territory they cover to improve their chances of earning more money.

Job crafting tips to remember:

  1. It happens. This is apt for employers to remember. Everyone job crafts based on their self-esteem and their personal strengths and weaknesses. Job crafting can either occur subconsciously, without design, or consciously, with design and optimisation, so it’s important to support and empower staff.
  2. It’s positive. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s a deviation from the job description - a job description is a moment in time, designed for a robot, not a living breathing person. People always mould their environment to suit them. When done well, it supports their own unique needs and the needs of the organisation.
  3. Do it with others. The more we involve others in job crafting the more we take into account the context in which we work and the more we impact our own lives and those of others. A nurse, for example, may do his own research on communication to help calm his patients, but if he and all his colleagues do this and share tips and outcomes, the effect will be multiplied across the hospital.
  4. Link it with organisational objectives. Think about how you can make the job more enjoyable while also improving your ability to meet organisational objectives. You are more likely to get support from your line manager and senior leaders for job crafting if you can build a robust business case.