The nature of work is changing rapidly, the world over.
Globalization of talent and opportunities has increased competition, the advent of a gamut of technologies has transformed the workplace and mechanized several economic activities. Job roles are increasingly shaped as one-size-fits all, and job descriptions are increasingly becoming confined to specific responsibilities and job skills.
Amidst serious pressure and expectations to make the right career decisions, jobs cannot be simply a means to an end, but should be personally or professionally fulfilling milestones- especially for students just starting out.
Moving from one job role to another is challenging, given the economic climate- as is finding the perfect fit. Every individual is more than the sum of the skillsets on their resume, so it may be time to move away from a black and white concept of the passion for work- and move towards empowering yourself in a given, fixed situation.
Rather than thinking of a job as a list of set tasks and responsibilities, is it possible to create a mindset that allows shaping a current job to make it more fruitful than futile?
A growing body of research says yes; try job crafting.
What is Job Crafting?
In 2001, Professor Amy Wrzesniewski from Yale School of Management, and Professor Jane Dutton from University of Michigan conducted a now well-known study on how people in unglamorous jobs coped with their “devalued” work or seemingly menial job description. They chose to interview the cleaning crew at a Midwest hospital to study the different ways, individuals experienced the same job.
As expected, some janitors reported burnout and low job satisfaction, complied with as much as was expected of them, interacted with people only as necessary and were basically only there for the monetary compensation. However, the study also revealed surprising results; another set of cleaners reported finding their work highly meaningful and satisfying!
Why did they have such differing perspectives about the same job?
This second group reported routines that were above and beyond their job description. They mentioned behaviors and tasks that added meaning to their job, such as providing encouragement to visibly upset patients, walking visitors out and getting to know patients and families in small ways such as by offering them water. In essence, these employees expanded their job through extra tasks and interactions, feeling purposeful and positive as an extended part of the healing team at the hospital. This perspective made an enormous difference.
The term “job crafting” was coined to describe the art and science of creating customized, meaningful work. It is the reframing of work by an employee- physically, socially and cognitively. It is “…what employees do to redesign their own jobs in ways that foster engagement at work, job satisfaction, resilience and thriving.” Employees are transformed from passive consumers of tasks to active co-authors of their experience at work.
Research is now entering a terrain beyond motivation theory (based on self-interest) to the heart of job crafting; the salient facts that forming meaningful connections, and feeling purposeful in providing benefit to both self and others are very important to humans.
Job crafting has been called “revolutionary” both in the inspiration behind it, and the perspective it provides. In contrast to employee engagement and job redesign activities, job crafting is a “people first”, bottom-up activity that starts with the employee rather than the employer. It can be an important process for connecting the job description to your personal identity, and is concerned with finding ways to add value beyond what is required.
In this way, it is beneficial not only to the employee, but for their team, organization and customers too- and this is why innovative companies like Google are letting employees craft their own jobs.
Job Crafting Techniques
Professor Dutton and her former student, Professor Berg, co-created the Job Crafting Exercise, used by numerous companies such as Logitech and VMware, and individual employees worldwide.
It provides a visual plan to segment different elements of your work and reconfigure them to end up with a more meaningful job, better suited to your talents and interests. Adding personal touches to each element can provide a greater sense of control, and an outlet for self-expression. This in turn increases both satisfaction and performance- as you can play to your strengths and downplay your weaknesses.
Job crafting is based on the following subsets:
- Task Crafting: Changing formal responsibilities by adding or subtracting tasks. For example, studying up on power reading can decrease the total time spent on a mundane task like reading reports, and free up time for more interesting tasks.
- Relational Crafting: Changing relationships to personalize level of interaction with others. For example, an extrovert may feel more motivated to work by collaborating with others on a task, whereas an introvert may choose to limit interaction during certain periods to avoid draining energy.
- Cognitive Crafting: Reframing perspective on job description and interactions to explore new opportunities for fulfillment. For example, reminding yourself of the greater good you are helping create, or creating a gratitude journal of the pros of this job, can help make this job more meaningful for you.
The beauty of this strategy lies in open-endedness and subtlety. If you are in a rigid, traditional organization where you are unable to make even the smallest change to your formal tasks, such as making a ritual out of meeting a friend (relational crafting) for lunch, or going for a short stroll (task crafting) can enhance your engagement at work.
The Benefits of Job Crafting
Job crafting should be the first step for any employee who is dissatisfied with their current job, as it provides relief in the form of two positive outcomes.
At the job: Doing more meaningful work results in greater emotional well-being, creativity, increased work commitment, satisfaction and attachment, improved job skills and performance. By changing the perspective of your job description, job crafting helps reclaim a positive relationship with the same job.
Beyond the job: In analyzing different permutations and combinations of different tasks and skillsets, job crafting indirectly allows you to explore different positions and careers to suit your needs and dreams- and opens up avenues for mobility.
In providing greater autonomy, mastery and purpose, the benefits of job crafting are truly limitless. In a world where control over external factors is low and limited, it is time to internalize a habit of active introspection to achieve greater alignment between work, talents, interests and strengths.
It is truly a positive strategy, one which is solution-oriented rather than problem-specific.
The scale of change that can be affected is irrelevant; even a small outlet for self-expression can make a job very fulfilling. Reframing possibilities exist in any and every occupation and situation. The first step towards being poised to add value to the world in your own unique way is to adopt a proactive mindset. Success is always, at its core, simply a matter of lateral thinking.