Job Crafting: What HR Professionals Need to Know

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Job crafting can be a great way for employees to customize their job until it fits them like a glove. But how exactly can they do that? What role does HR play in this? That’s what we’ll take a look at in this article. We’ll also share a few job crafting examples and how to get started. Here goes!

Contents
What is job crafting?
Job design vs. job crafting
Examples of job crafting
What role can HR play?
How to get started with job crafting
Measuring success
FAQ

This article is a round-up of a fascinating conversation I had with Rob Baker, during a recent episode of AIHR Live. If you rather watch the video, you can find the entire interview here:

What is job crafting?

Job crafting refers to individuals proactively making small changes to their job. If you think about your job like a semi-tailored suit or dress, the basic design is there for you and you can’t change it, but what you can do is make some changes to the size and dimensions of it to make it a better, more comfortable fit for you. As a result, when you wear it, you feel better and it feels like a better representation of you.

Job crafting, in a nutshell, does the same thing for your job. You’re not redesigning your complete job from scratch, but what you are doing is taking the job you already have and making changes to it that are improvements to you and make it a better fit for you as an individual. By doing so, you feel better and you’re more likely to perform better and to be more engaged in what you’re doing.

From an organizational perspective, job crafting enables companies to tap into the power of these experiences and the strengths that their employees have across the organization.

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Job crafting is employee-driven, it’s not something that you tell people to do. It is, however, something that HR, leaders, and managers can nurture, encourage, and enable.

The power of job crafting lies in the fact that it allows individuals to actively seek, identify, and find the changes that they want to make in terms of their role. If they feel that it’s something that is being imposed on them, they’re unlikely to feel that element of autonomy and the motivation that you get from job crafting when you’re driving it by yourself.

Job design vs. job crafting

Job crafting is a relatively new concept and can sometimes be confused with job design. While both methods aim to improve people’s jobs for the benefit of both the organization and the employee, the philosophy behind them isn’t exactly the same.

RB: Job design is often something that is top-down. The word ‘design’ itself implies that jobs are being designed for someone (by someone, i.e. the organization). I think, however, that there is space for people to co-create.

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In terms of job design, what we often see is that it’s either top-down (the organization does it) or bottom-up (the employee does it) and I think job crafting can be the space in-between. Coming back to this idea of the tailored suit; you might design 90% of the role and allow 10% of space for people to shape it in a way that reflects their talents and interests.

Examples of job crafting

The image below shows the job crafting model (click on the image to enlarge it).

Job crafting model
The job crafting model
Baker, R., 2020, Zhang, F & Parker, S. K., 2019; Lee, J.Y. & Lee, Y., 2018.

RB: The heart of this job crafting model is the why of job crafting. The what of job crafting is about how people tend to craft. They tend to do this in five different ways:

  1. They make changes to their tasks & activities. This can be as simple as blocking half an hour at the start of your day to reflect on what you want to achieve that day and start on a piece of work or a project that is important to you rather than diving straight into your tasks, answering people, firefighting, and losing control over your day.
  2. They develop their skills. For instance by deepening them or learning new skills.
  3. Purpose crafting. This can be about how you think about the value and purpose of your job or to what extent you are able to show in your job the things that matter to you as an individual.
  4. Relationship crafting. This is about how you interact with other people which can be your colleagues, your customers, or anyone you interact with within your job. Here again, crafting is about how can you amplify certain relationships, how can you maybe reframe certain relationships that aren’t working for you, or perhaps even how can you diminish certain relationships.
  5. Wellbeing crafting. This is around how can you make your job healthier for you from a physical and mental perspective.

The interesting thing when people job craft is that they find that there may be unintended consequences. Every employee can probably do experiments that will make their job better in unexpected and unknown ways. Job crafting is about letting people tap into unknown and unseen ideas and explore them for their jobs.

What role can HR play?

RB: The first question that needs answering is whether or not, as an organization, you want to look into job crafting. As an HR function, it’s important to think about what you can do to support a job crafting initiative and to what extent you are able to let people experiment and tap into their strengths and talents.

What HR can do:

  • They can create opportunities for people to craft in a thought-out and positive way. Research has shown that whether you allow it or not, some people will job craft no matter what, they will simply do it secretly. That, however, won’t benefit the organization. Other individuals don’t have the confidence and may need a little encouragement to craft their jobs. This means that job crafting is not something that can equally be distributed across the organization.
    HR leaders can help with this by enabling job crafting conversations within the organization. This can be done through workshops or sessions with individuals where you encourage them to actively think about how they can make their job better and how they can job craft.
  • They can introduce job crafting conversations and personalization conversations through check-ins and employee review discussions. One organization I recently worked with introduced a different job crafting theme every quarter. One quarter we talked about people’s tasks and activities, where we asked people what they liked about their job, what they didn’t like, how much responsibility they had in their job on a scale from 1 to 10, and how much responsibility they ideally would like to have.
    These kinds of initiatives are encouraging people to have crafting conversations with their managers, ideally, and in plain sight. This means that it can benefit the individual, the team, and the organization.
  • There’s a third way in which companies use job crafting and that’s around team crafting. You get your team together and they talk about the elements of their job that they like and don’t like. Perhaps there are things that one person loves doing that another person doesn’t love doing and that can be redistributed. You basically swap certain elements of the job. That doesn’t mean that things have to stay like this forever, you can do it for a month or a couple of months and see if it works.

How to get started with job crafting in your organization

RB: There are two things you can do to get started. The first one is to have conversations with people and invite them to think about how they can make their job better. As a starting point for your listening, though, the best thing you can do is probably to try it for yourself first. If you have stories and examples of how you’ve crafted for yourself or within your team, it’s easier to convince others of this.

The second thing you can do is to experiment and test the concept. I think often in HR, and I have done this myself, we feel that we have to go ‘big bang’ on something and cascade it to everyone. We turn the tap fully on. I think what we can do with job crafting, particularly since it’s a new concept, is actually test it out with some pilot groups.

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I often recommend to pick three teams within the organization: maybe one team that’s very supportive of the job crafting initiative – perhaps the HR function. Then a more skeptical team that might not be receptive to crafting and see if it works for them, we often find those are the IT team or finance team, I don’t know why but that’s the case.

And then perhaps try and find a team of which you simply don’t know if they are going to like it or not. Work with these groups, test the concept, and see what the results are. Hear the stories about what people have changed. Collect data in terms of whether or not people think it has actually made a difference or not. This doesn’t have to be sophisticated data, just test it, and collect some evidence. I think within the HR team these are things that we can do relatively easily and relatively quickly.

How can you measure the success of a job crafting initiative?

RB: When I work with organizations, I often encourage them to think about success measures before they get started. There may be a number of different reasons why they look at introducing job crafting.

It could be from an inclusion and diversity perspective in terms of tapping into a diverse experience and talents of people. It could be from an engagement perspective to increase employee engagement. It could be from a performance perspective in terms of increasing performance or it could be from a wellbeing perspective.

Depending on the reason why an organization looks into job crafting, the metrics they use will differ.

There is, however, a simple measure which is just asking the individuals themselves questions like: do you find this useful, can you describe the changes that you made, would you recommend this to colleagues, and is this something you’d like to continue to do? These are simple questions but they can be pretty powerful especially when, as an organization, you want to encourage people to try something new.

FAQ

What is job crafting?

Job crafting refers to individuals proactively making small changes to their job. As such, it allows individuals to actively seek, identify, and find the changes that they want to make in terms of their role.

What are examples of job crafting?

People job craft in five different ways: they craft their tasks and activities, their skills, their purpose, their relationships, and their wellbeing.

What’s the difference between job design and job crafting?

Job crafting is employee-driven while job design is often top-down. Both methods aim to improve and optimize jobs but job design tends to put the organization first where job crafting puts the employee first.

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