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Job crafting - the way ahead for employee engagement?

February 13, 2012

It's not much talked about by HR professionals, but 'Job Crafting' represents a practical way to increase employee engagement. In a very recent article, Tims, Bakker and Derks describe their own research that confirms that Job Crafting "... correlate(s) positively with … work engagement, employability, and performance."

So what is job crafting?

Wrzesniewski and Dutton who first introduced the term back on 2001 define it as "the self-initiated change behaviours that employees engage in with the aim to align their jobs with their own preferences, motives, and passions."

In other words, job crafting is what employees choose to do when they have the opportunity to exercise control over what they do (at work) and how they do it. Critically, job crafting is something which is done at the initiative of the employee.

For people in many job roles however, especially those lower in the organisational hierarchy, job crafting is probably not seen as an option, something only those with high levels of autonomy can do.

Tims et al argue, however, that any job can be ‘crafted’, suggesting that there are three possible strategies for restoring the balance between the job demands and resources i.e.

  • Increasing job resources: proactively finding ways to help the employee to meet the requirements of the job. For example seeking additional training to develop greater skills.
  • Increasing the level of challenging demands: jobs that are boring can (and almost certainly do) lead to absenteeism, dissatisfaction and thence high turnover. Most employees in such roles could, if asked, suggest ways to increase the level of interest or challenge in what they do.
  • Decreasing the number of demands that hinder performance: if the demands made on individuals become overwhelming, employees will not be able to perform. They may begin to suffer stress or burnout; they will be more likely to leave. In such cases, employees would invariably be able to see ways to relieve the pressures on them.

They cite the example of nurses who became swamped with the pressures of dealing with large numbers of patients. One way they found to increase resources (and thereby limiting the demands that hinder performance) was to enlist the help of family members in the caring process.

Another case was that of hairdressers who felt they were on an unstoppable production line: here the individuals concerned decided to become more open with selected clients and to seek more information about their clients’ personal lives.

At Employee Feedback we’re very excited by this research because it confirms the validity and potential usefulness of a new product we’re developing. The product, called EngageMe, provides real-time data on the relationship (ie the balance) between individual employees’ engagement, job demands and resources. This information, presented via a smartphone or PC based dashboard, can be used by employees and their managers to craft changes to jobs. This can be done at any level within the organisation and the results can be measured – again in real-time. EngageMe is not a subsitute for 'traditional' engagement surveys. It is a completely new tool for monitoring and facilitating real changes in engagement in any organisational setting.

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