tailored working

Creating a tailored approach to work


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?