Job Crafting: Unlocking better job performance and happiness

I recently studied material from the Positive Organizational Scholarship initiative that is sponsored by the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. Jane Dutton, senior professor at that school was interviewed for a Globe and Mail video series on management by Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University.

In the interview, Jane Dutton and Karl discussed a process of job crafting, a set of tools designed to help people “re-vision their jobs from within” and to “help people see new possibilities – again, unlock hope, unlock confidence – things that keep people more motivated and engaged at their work by helping them find positive meaning in the work – by helping them think about ways to do their work that will cultivate more positive emotions.”

This exercise is more than a way to help individuals engage for positively with their work. Dutton makes the case that in tough economic times and when so many organizations need to perform better, faster, and with fewer or constrained resources, anything that helps to get the best out of each employee is important.

Says Dutton:

We have very concrete tools, actually, for helping people do this. Again, what’s exciting about this is it doesn’t take much. It’s really helping people see things differently through new glasses, through different eyes. So, for example, with job crafting, we have a tool that allows people to visually map out the way they’re currently thinking about their job and, then, we have them visually and materially re-vision their work by changing both how they slice different job tasks but also, importantly, how they connect them to certain things that are meaningful in their life, certain things that are meaningful in the organization and – not myself, but three other researchers have just completed this really amazing study that shows that we have sustained effects on performance and happiness from people working with this job crafting tool that takes, basically, one hour.

Six months later, you have sustained and improved degrees of happiness and performance. So, the kinds of things that we’re talking about that unlock resources from within are not things that are big changes, they’re actually small changes that alter how people see possibilities in their current situation.

We really are talking about small changes in the way people see things that actually changes the trajectory of improvement or capability-building. So, we’ve done work with engineers, with hospital cleaners and people in the full spectrum of work and found that, if we can help them connect the way that they see their work to things that are transcendent or meaningful – for example, the hospital workers seeing themselves as healers, for example, as opposed to just people who are keeping the hospital safe – again, that puts them on a different trajectory of, both, the will to learn – a different trajectory of performing in the different aspects of their job. So, small moves can make a really big difference.

The video of her interview is found here:

An overview of the job crafting process on the Center for Positive Organizational Scholarship is found at:

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