Recraft Your Job To Make It More Meaningful

job crafting

In the last post, I mentioned Dr. Hartwig’s TEDx talk and his advice to spend less time trying to find meaningful work and more time making work meaningful. This concept ties to an idea of job crafting that Rebecca Fraser-Thill, a psychology instructor at Bates College, discussed last year in an article she published in Forbes. In the article, she recommended recrafting existing jobs to improve a sense of meaning and purpose at work. By identifying what is personally meaningful to us in our current job, we can increase the amount of time we spend on those activities.

What is job crafting? Researchers at Yale University, University of Michigan, and Stanford Graduate School of Business define job crafting as:

“What employees do to redesign their own jobs in ways that foster engagement at work, job satisfaction, resilience, and thriving.”

Job crafting reframes how we relate to our jobs to make work more engaging and meaningful. For example, when researchers studied university hospital cleaning staff, they observed two distinctly different ways employees engaged with their work. Some cleaners simply viewed themselves as room cleaners. They disliked cleaning, saw it as a low-level skill, and performed the minimum required activities.

The other cleaners reframed their work and considered it critical in healing patients. They added more tasks to their jobs that were outside the formal job description and cleaning responsibilities. They engaged patients in conversations to brighten up their day and showed visitors around the hospital. They were attuned to patients’ needs and paid special attention to when patients were experiencing pain, fear, or loneliness. This made nurses and clerks’ jobs easier and helped running the daily shifts more smoothly. Cleaners who cognitively crafted their jobs in these ways and viewed their work as highly skilled reported finding a greater sense of meaning in their jobs.

Job crafting can include task crafting, relational crafting, and cognitive crafting. One practical approach that may seem unusual to most organizations is job crafting swap meets. During these meetings, team members talk about their job responsibilities, what they would like to do more, and which job responsibilities they would prefer to offload. It is not uncommon for one team member to express a strong desire for a job responsibility that another team member dreads. Job crafting swap meets are collective and creative ways to design roles collaboratively that work for the entire team.

Google is an example of a company that regularly conducts job crafting exercises. Google’s People Analytics Director said that job crafting enables their team members “to more clearly define how their values, strengths, and passions connect to what they do on a day-to-day basis. This insight has really helped people identify who they are and tap into what is most important to them at work, which has made a tremendous difference for us.”

The Center for Positive Organizations, based at the Michigan University Ross School of Business, now includes Job Crafting Exercise as one of its tools to help bring out the best in people.

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