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The building blocks of job crafting

By Nicola Murray - Posted on 7 September 2023

Dr Nicola Murray explores the basics of job crafting and here shares some examples of what it can look like in practice as well as the research evidence for why it matters. 

Job crafting is a bottom-up, employee driven approach to job design that can complement more traditional top-down, manager led approaches. At the PrOPEL Hub we’ve put together a range of evidence-based exercises, tools and techniques that can help structure each of the steps in the job crafting process.  

The Building Blocks of Job Crafting 

There are a number of different streams of research that talk about job crafting, but today we’re just going to focus on one of them – job crafting according to Job Demands-Resources (JD-R) Theory. This theory has been used by researchers to build up a considerable evidence base on job characteristics that influence issues including the motivation, health and wellbeing of employees. 

Without going into too much detail, there are two key building blocks of the theory that are useful to understand. As its name suggests, these are ‘Job Demands’ and ‘Job Resources’: 

Job demands are easy to understand intuitively – they are simply aspects of a job that are taxing on the employee. These might include things such as difficult customers, high workloads or mentally challenging tasks. 

Job resources on the other hand are aspects of the job that help the employee cope with these demands in order to achieve work goals, they may also promote personal growth and learning. These might include things such as receiving valuable feedback from a manager, training and development opportunities or practical things like improvements to your workspace. 

An interesting thing to note is that job demands aren’t inherently negative, they’re actually really important in order for people to feel challenged and engaged at work. Even though it may sound appealing, it probably wouldn’t take long for you to feel bored if you had no demands at all in your job! Problems arise however if there is a lack of job resources to support an employee to meet the demands they face. The key lies in finding a balance where individual employees are adequately challenged in their jobs whilst having the resources to support them to meet the demands they face.   

So, where does Job Crafting come in?

Job crafting can be defined as: 

“a specific form of proactive behaviour in which the employee initiates changes in the level of job demands and job resources in order to make their own job more meaningful, engaging, and satisfying.” 

Job crafting takes account of the fact that everyone is unique and therefore the composition of demands and resources, as well as the sorts of activities that individuals find interesting and engaging, are likely to be different too. 

According to Job Demands-Resources Theory, there are three key ways employees can ‘craft’ their jobs: 

1. ‘Seeking Resources’ – where employees take actions to increase the amount of job resources available to them 

2. ‘Seeking Challenge’ – where employees look for additional job demands that are in alignment with their interests and/or career aspirations (in turn making their jobs more interesting/engaging) 

3. Reducing or ‘Optimising Demands’ – where employees explore ways of reducing the job demands they face (e.g. through optimising processes or swapping tasks with team members – see below for further examples) 

Some Job Crafting Examples 

So, what might the three types of job crafting look like in practice? Here are some examples. 

1. Seeking Resources might look like asking for more, better or different:

  • Mentoring
  • Learning, training and development opportunities
  • Feedback (e.g. from managers or other team members)
  • Networking opportunities with other disciplines/teams
  • Autonomy over day-to-day practice and tasks
  • Workspace improvements
  • IT, tools and equipment 

2. Seeking Challenges might look like asking to: 

  • Join new inter-disciplinary meetings
  • Develop proposals for improvement (e.g. in ways of working)
  • Learn new processes to take on different roles
  • Volunteer for a special project
  • Lead a team or activity
  • Implement new approaches
  • Learn for future career development
  • Feed in information of benefit to the team’s performance 

3. Reducing or Optimising Demands might look like asking to:

  • Redistribute/swap tasks with colleagues
  • Streamline/make tasks more efficient to spend less time on them
  • Reduce steps for efficiency
  • Eliminate unnecessary sign-offs
  • Suggest efficiency improvements to line managers/team leaders
  • Benefits of Job Crafting 

One of the main selling points of job crafting is its potential to create a win-win situation for organisations and their employees. By crafting their jobs over time employees can create roles that are tailored to their interests and career aspirations which in turn can lead to a range of benefits for their organisations. 

Job crafting has been explored by lots of different researchers and has also been put into practice in countless workplaces. It has been found to have benefits for both employees and the organisations they work for including: Satisfaction at work; Employee wellbeing; Career competence, motivation, satisfaction; Employability; Vigour, absorption, dedication; Performance; Reduced burnout, job strain and depression; Organisational commitment; job engagement. 

Enhancing Job Crafting Opportunities in your Organisation 

While job crafting can seem like a simple idea, in reality lots of things influence the extent to which members of an organisation feel able to engage in this behaviour, these include areas such as organisational culture, senior leaders, line managers, processes/procedures and other team members. There are, however, steps you can take in your organisation to enhance the opportunity for employees to craft their jobs. 

PrOPEL Hub can offer a range of free in-person and/or online workshops to help senior leaders, line managers or frontline employees explore opportunities for job crafting. If you would like to find out more about job crafting and how it could work in your organisation please get in touch at propelhub101@gmail.com

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