Skip to content

The Art of Job Crafting: Creating a Dynamic and Engaged Workforce   - by Tyler Allred

“I just don’t like my job anymore.” 

Once, while consulting with Justin, a staff member at a non-profit student organization, I encountered a common yet overlooked workplace challenge. Justin was planning to leave his job despite his belief in the organization's mission. His reasons? Feeling trapped in a job structure that seemed rigid and stifling. He still liked the community and was seen as a strong leader for the organization, but seemed to have a bit of that “grass-is-greener” syndrome.

What shocked me most was that he had resolved to give his two weeks' notice without any backup plan or next step. Somehow, the specific tasks and structure he had made for himself had become so stifling that he decided jumping with no parachute was better than any alternative. 

Justin's Journey: A Catalyst for Change

Justin believed his role offered no room for personalization or creativity. However, I knew the organization he worked for actually valued flexibility in job roles. I encouraged him first to imagine what aspect of his job he truly enjoyed, what tasks were truly life-giving, and what his job description could be while still pursuing the organization's bigger goals. He gratefully agreed and decided to give it another six months to see if he could craft an approach to the work that would reignite the passion he initially had. 

This process, unknown to us at the time, was a classic example of "Job Crafting."

What is Job Crafting?

Job Crafting, a concept introduced by Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton in 2001, is the process of employees reshaping their job roles to enhance engagement and satisfaction. This approach allows individuals to adjust their tasks, relationships, and perceptions of their jobs, aligning them more closely with their strengths, passions, and the needs of the organization. 

We might contrast this with “Job Design,” which can be seen as a more top-down approach where organizational leaders design a job description and then search for the perfect person to fill that role. Job Design, of course, still has an important role, but encouraging the practice of Job Crafting can enable a long-term sustainable and thriving culture. 

Cultivating a Culture of Job Crafting

Encouraging Job Crafting in teams can lead to a more dynamic, engaged, and satisfied workforce. But it requires a cultural shift—a move towards seeing jobs as fluid and adaptable. Leaders and managers play a pivotal role in facilitating Job Crafting. First, they can clarify the biggest rocks, the fundamental goals, and the outcomes that teams need to pursue. With those in place, by endorsing flexibility and being open to dialogue about role adjustments, they can foster an environment where Job Crafting thrives. 

Equity Without Being Oppressive

It's essential to encourage Job Crafting in a way that's equitable. This means ensuring all team members, regardless of their level or role, have the opportunity to tailor their jobs. Regular check-ins, open communication, and workshops can help in identifying and supporting employees’ crafting needs. 

However, we don’t want to turn into that scene from Office Space. I’m thinking of Jennifer Aniston’s character when her boss reprimands her for only wearing the bare minimum 15 pieces of “flair” on her waitress uniform. She quits on the spot and tells him just what he can do with her “flair.” The problem was that by mandating his employees go above and beyond, this restaurant boss inadvertently created an oppressive rather than equitable environment. 

It can be a tough balance to strike, but as leaders, we want to find ways to encourage flexibility in Job Crafting without mandating our employees take extra initiative beyond what we are paying them to do. Regular check-ins that seek to find a balance between being flexible and not working for free are important. We want our people to craft their own meaning in their work, and we shouldn’t have to micromanage team spirit to do it. 

Practical Steps for Fostering Job Crafting:

Here are a few ideas to start encouraging this in your teams. 

Task Reimagining Workshops: Conduct sessions where teams can creatively think about current projects and roles, encouraging them to propose changes that align with their strengths.

Mentorship Programs: Pair employees with mentors who can guide them through the process of reshaping their roles.

Recognition of Crafted Roles: Publicly acknowledge and celebrate when employees take the initiative to craft their roles, reinforcing the value of this behavior.

Flexibility in Role Definitions: Encourage a mindset where job descriptions are seen as starting points rather than strict boundaries.

Job Crafting represents a shift from a traditional view of roles to a more dynamic, employee-centered approach. It’s about empowering individuals to align their work with their personal strengths and interests, thus fostering a more engaged and productive workforce. By embracing Job Crafting, organizations can create a culture of continuous growth, innovation, and job satisfaction.

Instill's Role in Facilitating Job Crafting

Instill's Culture Operating System™ can play a pivotal role in facilitating Job Crafting. By providing insights into team dynamics and individual strengths, it helps leaders identify opportunities for role adjustments and supports employees in aligning their roles with their interests and the organization's needs. With Instill, you also have access to real-time data about the levels of psychological safety and trust within your organization, giving you crucial insights into how open your people are to taking more initiative and crafting their experiences on the team. 

Blog comments