Google just invited business leaders everywhere to steal their ideas -- well, at least in the domain of people management.

The company has launched a new site called re:Work offering "the nitty gritty, the details, the programs and practices" of how it does things, so that others who want to make their teams perform better and be happier at work can try them out themselves.

So what are the first suggestions offered by the tech giant? Check out the site to see for yourself, but here's one idea. Why don't you let your team design their own jobs?

Job crafting: good for employees, good for the company

This might sound like craziness, but the idea springs from the work of Yale researcher Amy Wrzesniewski and her colleagues, and is backed by sound science. We're covered Wrzesniewski's research here on Inc.com before. She's known for her studies of what set happy and motivated hospital janitors apart from those who view their work as just drudgery done for a paycheck.

Turns out the answer is something called "job crafting." In a video on re:Work, Wrzesniewski explains the term, but it's pretty much what it sounds like -- when an employee reimagines her job both mentally and in actuality, taking on new tasks and jettisoning others, to make it more in line with her values and preferences.

Examples include one janitor who described herself as a healer because of her role in creating sterile spaces, or another who voluntarily starting shifting artwork between patients' rooms in hopes that a new view would speed recovery. But job crafting doesn't exclusively happen among low-skilled workers. Wrzesniewski also talks about a lawyer who takes the initiative to visit the product team at his company, shifting his job from reacting to legal challenges to proactively helping avoid them.

The bottom line: job crafting happens everywhere. And it's likely happening at your company, whether you like it or not. So Wrzesniewski (and Google) say, it's far better to bring it out of the shadows and support it. Not only will you save yourself a fruitless battle, but studies also show job crafting increases happiness, work satisfaction, commitment to the job, and employee performance. In short, it's good for the organization as well as the individual.

How can you encourage job crafting?

So say the data has convinced you. Great! What, practically, can you do as a leader to help your employees retrofit their jobs without causing total chaos? Wrzesniewski offers four suggestions.

  • Boost autonomy -- You set the goals, but do you need to be so prescriptive about how your team reaches those goals? As much as possible, let them choose the means to reach the ends they're given.
  • Use performance reviews to discuss job crafting - Performance reviews are lousy at boosting performance (or even evaluating it), research shows, so if you have to have them, why not use them as an opportunity to discuss tailoring team members' jobs to suit them better?
  • Communicate your the goals - You're still the boss, so you still need to set a vision and communicate goals and priorities. If you invite your team job craft, they will probably find more creative ways to reach those ends than you could have dreamt up yourself.
  • Hold job crafting "swap meets" - One person's dread task is another dream to-do list item. Help your team turn one person's trash into another's treasure by organizing opportunities for them to talk about what responsibilities they could swap.

Are you sold on letting your team craft their own jobs? Let us know why or why not in the comments.

Published on: Nov 10, 2015
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