Turn the Job You Have Into the Job You Want with Job Crafting

What if your supervisor told you that you don’t have to do the job you were hired to do?

We often think of our job as being constrained within the rigid framework of our position description, but these days, with rapid change and shifting expectations now the norm, many roles can’t adapt quickly enough to remain relevant…nor to keep employees inspired and fulfilled at work.

When it comes to work, the way to find fulfillment may be to change how you work, not what you do. Every one of us has our own ideas, natural strengths and a desire to learn new things. Job crafting — a mindset and skill — allows you to shape and redefine your current role in ways that can foster job satisfaction, increased engagement, and greater resilience and thriving at work.

What job crafting is (and what it isn’t)

Traditional job design theory focuses on a top-down process of supervisors designing jobs for their employees. Oftentimes, employees are naturally motivated to customize their roles to better fit their motives, strengths and passions. Job crafting is a way to engage with this process with purpose and intention, utilizing opportunities to actively adjust your tasks and interactions with others.

You still must contribute toward your organization achieving its objectives. You still must complete your work in order to get paid. However, with job crafting, your work will feel more meaningful.

Job crafting is not a one-time event

Job crafting is a fluid process that you engage in over time. It typically falls into three stages.

  1. You’re motivated to craft your job due to one or more factors. For example,
    • a desire for more control of your job or greater meaning for your work
    • a need for meaningful interactions with the people who benefit from your work
    • fulfillment of your passion for an occupation other than your current role
  2. You identify any available crafting opportunities and enact one or more ways of crafting your job, actively adjusting one or more of the following areas:
    • Processes: the number, type or nature of your work tasks
    • People: your interactions with others
    • Purpose: your perception of your work
  3. The crafting techniques you employed then lead to associated outcomes, including:
    • Changes to the meaning of your work and your work identity
      • alignment with personal expectations
      • fulfillment of a valued identity
    • Positive experiences
      • achievement
      • enjoyment
      • meaning
    • Resilience
      • increased competence
      • personal growth
      • ability to cope with future adversity

The 3 Ps: Process, People and Purpose

When job crafting, you’ll want to spend time focusing on step #2 above, particularly taking time to examine if and how you can adjust the “three Ps” of Process, People and Purpose.

Process

Have you ever complained about not enjoying your job and received a response along the lines of, “Of course you don’t like it. That’s why it’s called work?” Yes, there will likely always be aspects of your job that feel boring or mundane, but having a negative attitude toward your work quickly leads to feelings of burnout and disappointment.

Instead, seek out the purpose in your work. Try taking the initiative to bring an exciting new task — no matter how large or small — into your work.

Consider: How do I use my strengths to bring more of myself into my work?

People

Although you typically can’t choose your coworkers, you may still be able to re-craft the quality of your relationships with them. One idea? Share a story of gratitude to build connectivity. Write an email to a colleague describing a memory of a time they used their strengths and skills to make a special contribution to your work or your organization. Be sure to include a lot of details.

Consider: How can I improve my relationships at work so they are more inspiring? How can I interact more with colleagues who inspire me, rather than detract from my quality of life?

Purpose

Don’t wait for someone else — whether it’s your supervisor or your stakeholders — to give you a sense of purpose at work. Purpose is about understanding your impact on others, and developing a story about why you do what you do. Your purpose is a story you tell yourself, and you have the power to craft that story.

For each of your work tasks, ask yourself, “Why do I do this?” You may find you aren’t inspired by your answers. If that’s the case, try to personalize the purpose of each task to discover its larger meaning and purpose.

Consider: What story do I tell myself about why I do my job? How can I make the narrative more inspiring?

Discover the value and meaning of your work

You may assume work satisfaction is primarily about what you do, but more often than not, it’s also related to how you do it. Job crafting can help you learn to see value and meaning in all aspects of your work.

Annie McKee, author of How to Be Happy at Work, explains, “Happiness at work comes from the inside out. It’s something we create for ourselves. A lot of people will lose or leave a job and go somewhere else and find that they’re just as unhappy.”

Take the time to apply job crafting principles, and you may discover that your current job offers greater meaning and satisfaction than you thought. Resources to help you get started with this process are included below, and MSU HR’s Organization and Professional Development department can also offer further guidance at prodev@hr.msu.edu.

Recommended Resources

elevateU Monthly Featured Topic: Job Crafting

Job Crafting Questionnaire

OPD Personal Development Courses

YouTube Video: Job Crafting

Sources

https://hbr.org/2021/02/turn-your-boring-job-into-a-job-youll-love

https://medium.com/big-self-society/how-to-be-happier-at-work-without-changing-your-job-3050c8ba4e61

https://positivepsychology.com/job-crafting/

https://positiveorgs.bus.umich.edu/wp-content/uploads/What-is-Job-Crafting-and-Why-Does-it-Matter1.pdf

Employee Engagement in a Rapidly Changing Workplace

Written by Jennie Yelvington, MSW, ACSW, Program Manager, MSU HR Organization & Professional Development 

Recent research analysis (Quantum Workplace, 2020) seems to indicate that employees are feeling more engaged now than prior to the pandemic. While that certainly isn’t true for everyone, there are a number of variables in this situation that have led many employees to rate their engagement as higher and their leaders as better than in the previous year, including increased communication and a focus on wellness.

Engagement during this time is complicated though, and efforts must be intentional and thoughtful as people struggle with a variety of new challenges.

Here are strategies that can help. 

Frequent, Honest Communication 

When times are ambiguous and rapidly changing, some leaders pull back, gloss over issues, and avoid decisions, which can cause more difficulty. “Cognitive biases, dysfunctional group dynamics, and organizational pressures push (leaders) toward discounting the risk and delaying action.” (Kerrissey 2020). Being straightforward with people about what you know and don’t know is essential, and it can include warnings that the direction could change as new information comes to light.  

Action Step: Share information frequently. Consider brief meetings with your team multiple times per week. This allows all to touch base, ask questions, and share new information. Don’t make them any longer than they need to be and make sure you ask “how” people are doing, not just “what” they are doing. 

Demonstrate Empathy 

The combination of direct honesty noted above must be combined with deep caring. When you do meet with others, make note of their behavior and level of interaction. If they don’t seem like themselves, check-in to see if they’re ok. Without the social contact we usually have, we rely more than ever on our work colleagues for compassion and the sharing of our human experiences. Taking a bit of time to do this helps to increase trust and the sense of being “in it” together. Also, be aware that people may be juggling multiple, additional responsibilities (such as helping kids with schoolwork) while doing their job. As much as possible and if the role allows, consider flexibility in schedules so that people can work when they are most able to focus.  

Action Step: Reflect and support. Take time to think about how individuals who report to you are being impacted by this situation. When people share good news, join in that celebration. Consider what they might be struggling within their individual situation and how you can empathize and offer support or resources. Make sure people are aware of the MSU Employee Assistance Program services available to them. For resources related to flex schedules, childcare, elder care, and more, check out the WorkLife Office. 

Keep an Inclusive Eye to Innovation 

Engage your team in a fresh look at the work before you. What has changed? What has continued? What could benefit from being done differently? You may find that some of your employees have untapped skills that are now very useful or inventive ideas that might successfully move forward in this environment. Create a safe space for people to bounce around ideas and take some ownership in reinvention. Make sure you are listening to ideas from all team members, not just those who think like you. Diversity of thought and experience is what drives innovation. Empower your team to work together to solve new challenges, rather than having them passively waiting to be told what to do. 

Action Step: Set the expectation that all team members stay up on best practices and future trends for their area of work. Set regular meetings (monthly or bimonthly) to share and brainstorm ways to integrate what they are learning. 

Manage Performance and Support Development 

The pandemic has resulted in many changes in how we approach and bring forward our work. Are you and your team prepared to meet the demand? Have you reviewed processes and expectations given the shifting environment, and made the expectations clear to your team? Be aware that employees might need help in developing new skills to carry out the work effectively in the new world. It is not uncommon for people to feel awkward or embarrassed about this need. 

Action Steps:  

  • Consider what materials, equipment, and training employees might need to be effective in this environment. If working from home, talk to employees about their home set-up. Is there something they could get from the office to aid their effectiveness, such as a desk chair or a second screen?  
  • If they are now coming into work, how are things going from a safety and process perspective? Frequently assess the situation. Make a plan to address any unexpected barriers and follow through. Be prepared to address non-compliance with the MSU Community Compact
  • Normalize the learning curve that exists and explore training programs and/or assistance from a colleague that might be helpful. Check out programs available from Organization & Professional Development, AANIT Services, Broad Executive Development Programs and elevateU

Difficult times can often provide opportunities to draw people together around the mission and culture of the organization. Spartans have long been hard-working, problem solvers and there are countless examples of how our teams have risen to the occasion despite shifting ground and tight resources. When leaders exhibit honest, compassionate communication, flexible support, inclusive problem solving, and the ability to respond to changing needs, people are likely to be engaged, even during tough times. 

Sources:

Kerrissey, M. J., Edmondson, A. C., (April 13, 2020) What Good Leadership Looks Like During this Pandemic. Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://hbr.org/2020/04/what-good-leadership-looks-like-during-this-pandemic 

Quantum Workplace (2020) The Impact of Covid 19 on Employee engagement. Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://marketing.quantumworkplace.com/hubfs/Marketing/Website/Resources/PDFs/The-Impact-of-COVID-19-on-Employee-Engagement.pdf?hsCtaTracking=1f30c83e-71cc-46e6-b9eb-9d682de56835%7C42c75679-4e54-4ddb-8a6f-87d61a43608b 

How to Build a Strong Remote Work Culture While Working in Virtual & Hybrid Teams

Written in collaboration with Kathie Elliott, Senior Learning and Organization Development Specialist for MSU HR’s Organization and Professional Development department

With remote and hybrid teams now an essential part of MSU’s workforce, it’s important to regularly take time to evaluate how well your team is functioning and gauge the quality of your workplace culture, no matter where your team members may be working. Rapid change is now status quo, and it’s not uncommon for the culture of our workplace to also shift as a team’s shared set of values, social norms, goals and practices may now be drastically different than they were even just a few months ago.

Successful collaboration with coworkers can be challenging while working remotely or in various locations, but it is still possible for employees working in virtual and hybrid teams to develop a positive and inclusive work culture that ensures the same level of quality and productivity as if the team was entirely in person.

Why Is Remote Work Culture Important?

“The 9-Step Definitive Guide For Building Remote Work Culture in Virtual Teams” describes remote work culture as an unconditional feeling of connection coworkers experience when they’re bonded by similar priorities, interests, and attitudes (Bell 2020). When people are not able to see each other on a regular basis, this feeling of connection can dwindle. Strong remote work culture is equivalent to how strong your workplace culture already is. By creating a strong remote work culture in addition to what your virtual or hybrid team might already have had in person pre-pandemic, employees can continue to feel united around a shared sense of purpose while being on their own.

Even if you are unaware of it, your team does have a culture that is influenced by the work you do, your work location, your team’s composition and your individual team members’ histories. Having a strong remote work culture doesn’t require team members to be in the same location if you are aware of the priorities, interests and attitudes your team shares.

How to Develop a Strong Remote Work Culture

There are many ways to go about developing a strong remote and hybrid work culture, but one of the most impactful ways to do so is through effective communication. It is easy for misunderstandings to occur while employees are working together virtually, causing the quality and timeliness of the team’s work to suffer. By practicing methods of effective communication, you can strengthen your individual relationships with your team members in hopes of creating a unified and cohesive remote work culture with your team as a whole.

  1. Frequently inquire about your employee’s social and professional needs. Knowledge and information sharing may be inconsistent due to business, lack of attention, misunderstanding what information is valuable to the team (and why). Information sharing may be imbalanced (for some) due to such factors as work style or personality differences, supervisor or co-worker preferences or bias toward certain employees (whether or not consciously known), or technology access and skill differences of team members.
  1. Ask specific questions using multiple formats. Frequently ask specific questions, using multiple formats. “How is it going?” is not going to get a fulsome response from many employees. But, “Do you feel the communication you receive from me is frequent and thorough enough, timely and helpful? What can I do to improve my communication with you?” is very specific.
  1. Discuss and set standards for scheduling meetings, work hours, time off, etc. What sort of communications require visual meetings, phone, text, email, messaging? Is there a priority or urgency assigned to the methods? For example, is a phone call only used when an immediate response is needed? Do all messages need to be acknowledged? Within what period? Are there “blackout” hours or days when you won’t send work-related communication unless necessary. (Use the delay send feature in an email if you think you may forget.)
  1. If something isn’t working, try something new! Whether it’s approaching a work task differently or planning a unique social event, mix it up and look for ways to keep things fresh and use this time to grow as a team. Look for ways to build in relaxing or fun team activities; identify other units or colleagues that might appreciate support or outreach “just because”.

Additional Resources

OPD Instructor-Led Workshops

Building Cohesive Teams | October 12, 2022

Managing and Leading Across Locations | August 23 OR December 13, 2022

Performance Management for Hybrid Teams | September 14 OR December 6, 2022

elevateU Self-Directed Learning

Working Remotely: Curated Resources

Rapid Change and Transitions

Being an Effective Team Member

MSU Remote Work Policy

Guidance for Employees and Supervisors

Sources:

Bell, Ashley. “The 9-Step Definitive Guide For Building Remote Work Culture in Virtual Teams.” SnackNation, 2020, snacknation.com/blog/remote-work-culture/.

“The 2020 State of Remote Work.” Buffer, 2020, https://lp.buffer.com/state-of-remote-work-2020.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-woman-waving-at-the-laptop-8546749/