Job Crafting: Making Work More Meaningful and Enjoyable

By May 23, 2022Purpose

Experience with Job Crafting 

I consider myself to be one of the lucky people who get to say that I had a really great boss for a significant period of my career. Looking back, the most exciting conversations are the ones where we’d talk about what my work should look like. We would sit down, look out into the future and see where we wanted our department to go. Then I could share what I found most interesting, where I could grow my capabilities, and what my best contribution would be to our team. At one point, I wrote my own job description for a promotion.

Josh Bersin recently shared a point of research stating only 1 in 10 employees are actually involved in the organizational design/structuring process. So, again I feel lucky. I didn’t get to pick and choose all of my favorite tasks and only do those, but I was able to continue having a part in making my work feel meaningful and enjoyable. This is what it can look like to “job craft.”  

What is Job Crafting?

Job crafting is a process where employees sit down with their leader and/or team and make adjustments to their work so that it’s more meaningful and enjoyable. No, you don’t need to let everyone write their own job descriptions every year (you can take a breath, HR folks). In many cases, simple tweaks can be made to even the most standardized jobs and make a huge impact.

Marcus Buckingham has been researching what it means to “love your work.” In a recent HBR article, he cites a Mayo Clinic report suggesting doctors and nurses experience elevated stress levels at a much higher rate when less than 20% of their work involves something they really enjoy. So, not every task and every moment needs to be work that people love. 

Rob Baker at Tailored Thinking has done a lot of work in this space and has identified 5 areas that should be explored when making shifts or changes to jobs: 

  1. Tasks: Should anything change related to tasks performed? 
  2. Relationships: Can relationships with co-workers, external partners, customers, etc. be shaped differently? 
  3. Purpose: Is there a way to reframe the impact of our work so that it feels more significant? 
  4. Skills: Are there any new skills to develop that could help in this job? 
  5. Wellbeing: Can we improve our mental and physical health in the work we do? 

Tailored Thinking provides workshops that explore these areas further. 

What Does Job Crafting Look Like?

These are the kinds of areas that can be explored when leaders sit down (virtually or in person) with their people to co-create jobs that provide meaning and enjoyment. We’re talking about a few meetings, with some homework in-between. Here’s how it can look: 

1. Define What Matters Most

This is where a leader can spark some thinking with the team member to help them define their strengths, passions, interests, dislikes, etc. With this clearly defined, everyone can explore new possibilities with a shared focus. 

  • What parts of your job are most enjoyable? 
  • What are your current strengths?
  • When are you at your best? 
  • What work is most meaningful to you? 
  • What are we all trying to work toward as a team (what’s our overall purpose)?

Homework for the team member might involve spending a week or two journaling or tracking the times when:

  • the team member is most enjoying their work
  • they do something they feel used their strengths
  • they felt like what they did really mattered

Keeping a log of these items will help move to the next stage of the process.

2. Job Craft and Experiment

Here the team member can begin to suggest some ways that they feel their job could be tweaked. Looking at the 5 areas listed above can help spark some ideas about what could help the work experience. Everyone is different, and everyone will have different answers. 

The team member can suggest ways of integrating their ideas into their current job, even if it is in 10-minute increments per day.

A few examples:

  • This might mean that a tax professional that loves educating their clients hosts a Q&A session with clients to inform them of new laws or programs that could help their clients.
  • Or, a machine technician who cares deeply about safety leads a daily safety check of their assembly line. 

For areas that might involve larger roles and responsibilities, it may require looking at new skills that need to be learned, or collaborating with new departments to shape new business strategies.

For example, a Talent Attraction professional identified new tools that were being developed by LinkedIn to help source candidates. She then researched and learned about the tools, and integrated them into her job to make it faster to find the best candidates to speak with (the part of her job she loves the most).

Leaders should be supportive of the suggestions and bring their own ideas to the table as they often see a broader picture as well. 

3. Critique and Continue  

I mentioned in the beginning that a yearly process felt right for me. Perhaps leaders make a point to check in on a quarterly basis to track progress and assess if any additional changes or tweaks need to be made.

Simple questions can help guide these conversations: 

  • What worked and what didn’t work?
  • What have you learned?
  • Who can support you and what support do you need?
  • What’s next?

By checking in, and then circling back to future job crafting conversations you can create an agile and ongoing method to helping team members contribute their best in ways that are meaningful and enjoyable. 

Job crafting does not need to require organizational restructuring, or drawing up new job descriptions every year. It does signal a commitment from leaders to the team members that they are the most important customer in the grand scheme of things.  The best organizations are able to adapt to change, innovate, improve, and attract great people. Job crafting supports all of these aspects, and it’s what being human-centered is all about. 

For additional insight on job crafting, check out this podcast by Dr. Michelle McQuaid and Amy Wrzesniewski

At Thrive at Work, we’re fortunate to be working in all of these areas. We’d be happy to chat further with you about your own ideas, or new ones that you’d like to pursue.

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Evan Ishida

About Evan Ishida

The work I love is designing solutions and experiences that help people learn, collaborate, create, and innovate together. As a proud Ohio University Bobcat, I began my career as an internal consultant, and team leader in large global Fortune 200 corporations where I focused on learning and development, instructional design, communities of practice, and learning technologies.