Job Crafting in my role in the NHS enabled me to better connect with patients and colleagues.
Lasting ideas from the European Conference of Positive Psychology 2018
In late June, I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the European Positive Psychology Conference in Budapest. The conference brought together researchers, practitioners and pioneers of Positive Psychology from across the globe.
As ever, there was a richly packed and diverse programme of keynotes, seminars and workshops.
All the sessions I attended were thought provoking and of a really high standard, but there are a few ideas and talks that have made a lasting impression. I wanted to share these.
I also wanted to highlight resources that I’ll be exploring further, so you play along at home. You'll find these in the links throughout the blog and a section at the end.
To be clear, this is a narrow and personally biased selection. For those who want a comprehensive overview of ECPP 18, I recommend checking out the conference programme and/or the abstracts submitted.
1) Moving from an individual to a systems perspective
A, potentially fair, criticism of positive psychology is that to date, the majority of research undertaken and constructs developed have focussed on flourishing at an individual level. Arguably, the field sometimes fails to account for the complex systems and networks of social relations and structures within which people are embedded.
In a symposium chaired by Margaret (Peggy) Kern it was refreshing to hear a number of presentations on the need to consider system informed positive psychology which applies the holistic lens of systems science with the strengths-based lens of Positive Psychology. As Paige Williams suggests this enables us to consider issues and ways of working from inside out and outside in.
Lindsay Oades offered that one explanation for our individualistic focus was the, perhaps unrecognised, influence of liberalism ideals and principles. Lindsay argued that it might be useful for researchers and practitioners to deliberately explore other political philosophies such as communitarianism.
My, perhaps simplistic, understanding of communitarianism is that good society is based on the successful interplay between liberty and social order, individual rights and social responsibility.
Shifting our focus from enabling individuals to reach their highest potential to enabling us all to make our highest contribution is certainly something I will be reflecting on and exploring further. It reminded me of some of the sentiments expressed in the pioneering Benefit Mindset work developed by Ash Buchanan.
2) Making art from broken pieces
Itai Ivtzan highlighted both the need and the opportunity for positive psychology as a discipline area to broaden its focus beyond positive emotions and experiences and in particular move more attention to the study of how people successfully live through, and grow and transform from, negative experiences.
Described as a ‘second-wave” of positive psychology, Itai outlined a future for the field which encouraged and enabled people to embrace and recognise the ‘dark side’ of life.
From a personal perspective, I have always seen positive psychology attending to both negative and positive experiences, but I recognise the potential need for greater balance in the research.
To illustrate the opportunities to grow from challenge, set-back and adversity, Itai introduced us to Kintsugi. This is the Japenese art of repairing pottery which celebrates and recognises, rather than conceals, breakage and restoration. The literal - and quite fantastic - translation of Kintsugi is 'golden repair'.
I loved this concept. As humans we continually build and grow from our imperfections, mishaps and failings, as well as our strengths and successes.
3) Using the Job Demands and Resources Model for energy and engagement
A number of talks, symposia and posters used the Job Demands-Resources (JDR) model as a mechanism for considering how to influence energy and engagement. Whilst primarily applied in the context of work, I also saw the model being used for coaching, personal development and education.
Whilst I was certainly familiar with the JDR model and the positive torrent of research of this model led by Arnold Bakker and Eva Demerouti amongst others, I’ve not seen it make such a leap into positive psychology.
In particular, it was interesting to see JDR models which highlighted the importance of building and drawing from personal resources, such as mindset, behaviours and beliefs and the linkages with job crafting.
4) Learn it, Live it, Lead it, Embed it.
As a father and someone who has worked in the Higher Education sector, I’m always drawn to understanding how positive psychology is, and can be, applied within schools, colleges and universities.
Charlie Scudamore delivered a fantastically candid and insightful session on the lessons learnt from nurturing and embedding a positive educational culture at Geelong Grammar in Australia.
The key idea that I took away from Charlie’s session didn’t relate specifically to positive education but more about the factors which were critical in embedding and supporting change.
Charlie was clear that in order to build truly transformative approaches to wellbeing across the organisation people needed to:
- learn about the concepts – the science behind them and the practical application
- consolidate this learning by applying their personal lives - living the concepts,
- leading and (in the case of schools) teaching these new approaches
- spot and lead opportunities to embed the ideas into new ways of working.
I really liked the Learn, Live, Lead & Embed approach. From personal experience I have seen so many initiatives fail to reach their partial or full potential because some, or all, of these different stages haven’t been reached.
5) Interest and research in Job crafting is growing
From a personal and professional perspective, I was really pleased to see a growing interest in job crafting. Job crafting refers to pro-active changes that individuals make to the tasks, relationships and the way they think about the meaning and value of their work.
To my knowledge, Gavin Slemp, Peggy Kern and I were the only group to present a paper on job crafting at the European conference in Angers in 2016. This year there were at least 5 presentations that referenced the potential benefits of crafting work and personalising our thoughts, tasks and relationships.
Wilmar Schaufeli highlighted research showing the positive relationships between job crafting and engagement, wellbeing and performance. Machteld van den Heuvel gave a masterclass on how to deliver job crafting interventions. Håkon Tveiterås and Benedicte Langseth-Eide gave a number of practical examples of how job crafting could, and had been, used as part of leadership and employee enrichment initiatives to enable better health, functioning and performance. Bente Alsos from Wideroe Airlines gave practical examples of how job crafting had been used by people, including airline cabin crew to frame the benefits of their work.
Aside from her presentation on the power of communications training to build high quality relationships, Belen Varela generously shared her own ideas and research of how she is encouraging job crafting in Spain and beyond.
It was also a pleasure to share my research and thoughts, which I had developed with Gavin Slemp, on the new concept of “micro” job crafting. We found that when analysing examples of job crafting in action which we had collected the majority of crafters appeared naturally drawn to making very small, micro, job crafting changes in their work (5 - 12 minutes a day).
I argued that encouraging more job crafting at a micro-level might be the key to encouraging more of us to personalise our approach to work.
ECPP in Iceland 2020
I would really recommend the European Conference of Positive Psychology for anyone researching, applying or exploring the concepts in this field. The sessions were accessible, the delegates warm and welcoming and the passion for the discipline area was palpable.
See you at the in Reykjavic in 2 years time. And if you want to discuss or explore any of these ideas further then get in touch. I'd value the opportunity to think about and explore them further.
The personalisation of goods, services and activities appears to becoming ever more prevalent and popular. From the comfort of your sofa, you can now personalise your trainers, order made-to-measure clothes and even add your own lable to chocolate and hazelnut spread.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the possibilities for greater personalisation spilled over to the world of work? Where rather than being asked to fulfil a specific job, task or activity, you were encouraged to tailor and tweak aspects of your role based on your personal strengths, passions and interests.
I have been exploring this concept with organisations through my job crafting workshops. Job crafting enables employees to take a more personal approach to their work. I discovered job crafting through my Masters studies at the wonderful Centre of Positive Psychology at the University of Melbourne and it became the focus of my capstone research.
Job crafting is a process where employees actively change or tailor how they approach, undertake or think about their work to better suit their own personal strengths, preferences and interests. The concept was first outlined by Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton in a 2001 research paper and studies within the field have been steadily growing.
I was drawn to job crafting as research has shown that job crafting behaviour is related to a number of positive outcomes for staff. Specifically, a number of studies have found a correlation between active job crafting and reported levels of happiness, wellbeing, engagement and job satisfaction.
There are three main types of job crafting:
· Task crafting refers to tangibly changing aspects of how we undertake our work including designing, adding or removing tasks.
· Relational crafting refers to shaping how we relate and engage with others, including building and adapting our relationship with co-workers.
· Cognitive or perception crafting describes the reframing of how we think about our work in general including the value and significance it plays to us personally and to others.
Through my workshops, I provide an overview of job crafting and outline how it is can be nurtured amongst the workforce using examples from innovative organisations such as Google and Logitech amongst others.
In addition to exploring the concept of job crafting we discuss different approaches and opportunities to personalise work and attendees share stories of when they have job crafted previously.
I am always impressed with the vast array of examples given by different groups in respect of when they had tailored or changed the physical, relational or perceptive elements of their jobs.
These examples include an IT technician who described how he had incorporated a love for testing and trying to crash and break software before its wider release into his role and was now the “go to guy” for this work. A student recruitment manager at a University became tearful describing a personal passion for outreach work driven by personal circumstances for was pivotal in her deciding to start an outreach program within the Faculty they worked in.
There have been smaller or “micro” examples of how individuals shaped or changed their approach to work. A number of participants recognised that they became more energised and engaged when they had a personal connection with colleagues and had sought out opportunities and scheduled catch-ups with clients and co-workers by phone or in person rather than relying on email.
Others described how they used images and pictures to remind themselves of the importance and significance of their work, including theatre workers having photos of past performances pinned to their walls or customer support teams having letters of thanks from clients and colleagues that they had helped.
These examples vary in size and scale, but they all count as job crafting as they are personal changes made by the employee themselves to aspects of their role or working lives with no obligation or requirement to do so. Indeed this autonomy and agency in making the change is argued to be one of the key factors which explains the positive benefits of job crafting. Simply stated, it enables us to bring a sense of control to aspects of our work.
I am always careful to collect meaningful and objective feedback from my workshops to understand whether they are making a difference. In collaboration with Dr Gavin Slemp and Dr Peggy Kern from the University of Melbourne I have formally investigated the impact of a number of workshops that I have run, analysing whether they have led to changes in job crafting behavior and made a difference in their approach to work. Together, we presented preliminary findings at the 2016 European Conference of Positive Psychology and are in the process of writing these up for formal publication.
I look forward to sharing more details of these results in the future. It will shine further light on the benefits, and any limitations, of job crafting and some of the barriers and obstacles which employees face in trying to actively craft their roles.
If you don’t want to tackle an academic paper, there are also some excellent articles available across the web including this one in the Harvard Business Review. You may also want to check out this video of Amy Wrzesniewski giving a presentation as part of a re:Work sponsored event at Google.
In the meantime, if you are curious about job crafting and want to know more then get in touch.
For those organisations which are committed to embracing opportunities to maximize the diverse talents, interests and passions of their employees, job crafting has powerful potential. Who wouldn’t want to work and stay at a company which took a positively distinctive and tailored approach to how they encouraged and supported their staff to thrive at work?