Episode 144: Job Crafting for Happiness
How do you feel about your job? Do you enjoy all aspects of your work? The demands of healthcare make it almost impossible to remove the pressure surrounding the job. But with the right combination of resources, support, and an innovative mindset, employees can craft jobs in ways that will make them feel happier at work, and make a surprising difference to their wellbeing.
In this panel discussion episode of You Are Not a Frog, we ask Kirsten Armit, Dr Colin Lindsay, and Dr Daljit Hothi at the FMLM International Healthcare Leadership Conference 2022 to speak about how to craft jobs to suit employees better. We discuss the evidence-based actions and changes you can take to fine-tune your job. Plus, we share simple actions organisations need to do to help others do the same.
If you want to find out what job crafting means, listen to this episode and learn how it can help you transform your work in surprising ways.
Here are three reasons why you should listen to the full episode:
Learn about the Job Demands-Resources Theory.
- Discover how job crafting helps employees avoid burnout and feel better at work.
- Find out how to craft jobs at an individual and systemic level.
[05:38] Job Demands-Resources Theory
‘We’ve got fantastic people who are under tremendous pressure, and we need to find ways to alleviate that pressure.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[09:00] What Work Engagement Means
- Work engagement is an effect of the motivational state of work-related well-being.
- Work engagement has three broad areas: a sense of vigour, dedication, and absorption.
- When people answer questions positively about these three areas, it indicates high work engagement.
- Work engagement is significant to well-being, absence, long-term health conditions, and performance of clinical and other things.
- The only way to stimulate feelings of engagement is to allow people to do more of what they can and craft jobs in a way that mitigates daily demands.
‘There is no communication strategy or vision statement that is going to elicit feelings of vigour, absorption and dedication. Investing in people’s job resources, and mitigating the demands that they have in their day to day work might well produce those feelings of engagement, and that’s good for everyone.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[12:35] The Impact of Investing in People’s Jobs
- The priority must still be to try to reduce the demands on employees wherever we can.
- A sense of autonomy in work stimulates feelings of engagement.
- Initial studies around worker engagement focused on healthcare professionals. There’s a rich evidence base around the topic.
- Recalibrate and refocus investments around HR and the workplace to enhance job quality and work engagement.
- Improving employee autonomy over their work can reduce unnecessary sign-offs and micromanagement and empower them to make their own decisions.
[16:21] What is Job Crafting?
- People can engage in job crafting on their own initiative. The changes can vary in scope.
- The original research on job crafting took place in healthcare about hospital cleaners.
- Job crafting shows up at all levels of employment and often happens unknowingly.
- Tune in to the full episode to hear examples of how people craft jobs and careers over time!
- It’s possible to make small changes even in jobs with specific duties.
‘This is something that people can do of their own initiative, and it could be sort of small changes to sort of larger changes that they might make that may or may not actually be visible to other people.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[20:56] How to Implement Job Crafting
- High-ranking positions have their own sort of constraints and perceptions about what they can and can’t do.
- Lower-ranking positions can craft jobs to their liking by discussing with their colleagues or appealing to their managers.
- Even though job crafting is an individual-level activity, it’s crucial to be mindful of the broader impact that individual changes might have.
- Mix fixed commitments with others where you have some variability and which energises you. At the same time, know when to take a break.
- Be conscious about how you craft your day. Having more autonomy over your day despite your fixed commitments can make a difference in your well-being.
‘Even though this is an individual level activity, it is being mindful of the wider impact that changes that you make might have.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
‘The crafting hasn’t made me less busier. It made me more busier, but actually, I’m energised by it, and so actually, I don’t feel burnt out by it.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[26:23] Job Crafting Supports Employee Well-Being and Productivity
- It’s more difficult to craft jobs for juniors with rigid and constrained shifts.
- It comes down to working with your team. Contract and make decisions as a team to job craft effectively.
- Seek forgiveness rather than permission. Don’t be afraid to be flexible, but make sure you’re bringing the whole team into that journey.
- Job crafting is one of the most effective ways to drive higher levels of engagement.
- It involves three concepts: people feeling empowered to seek resources, seeking additional challenges for growth, and optimising demand.
‘Seek forgiveness, rather than seek permission, just get on and do it, but work as a team and do it. Make sure you’re not the only one who’s always flexible and crafting your day. Bring your whole team onto that journey, and then you’re probably all find you’re enjoying it.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[33:53] How Leaders Can Help their Teams with Job Crafting
- Have developmental conversations on a one-to-one or team basis. Create opportunities to access coaches and mentors.
- The team can also play a role in this by pointing out where people’s particular strengths are.
- Role modelling is essential in encouraging teams to craft their own jobs.
- Support and nurture good practice.
- Have a conversation with people having difficulty with fear of missing out. Encourage them to explore themselves and use it as a development opportunity.
‘Stop saying yes to everything that comes your way.’ – Click Here To Tweet This
[37:08] Job Crafting at a Systemic Level
- Leaders should prioritise supporting employees across many experiences, roles, and tasks to engage in job crafting.
- Leaders must support and model the behaviours that encourage people to job craft.
- Introduce people to the concept in itself. It can result in a light bulb moment for people to start thinking about their roles, strengths, and passions.
- It’s about thinking beyond day-to-day clinical work, broadening people’s skills and insights and developing leadership.
- Create a context where people know it’s okay to ask. Plan how to respond to more likely requests.
[42:06] What to Do When there are Limited Resources Available
- It’s important to understand that not every request is actionable.
- There are spaces where minimal investments in leadership and management practice can significantly impact how people feel about job crafting.
- Have a conversation about the kind of space where it’s possible to support people to craft. Then, encourage them to enter or create that space.
- Align what is realistic and actionable within the organisation.
- Simply asking questions and having conversations about yourself with a range of people can be an effective way to understand yourself more.
[45:01] Top Three Tips to Promote Job Crafting at Work
- Everything is an ask and an investment.
- Engage in your craft if you want to do more of what you like and what matters to you.
- Think about the most meaningful and enjoyable aspect of your work today. Then, think about what you could do to make that aspec possible.
About the Panel
Kirsten Armit is the Director of Research and FMLM Applied and the founding manager of the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management. She oversees the organisation’s operational delivery and manages its strategic activities. Kirsten has over a decade of experience in operation and programme management of various leadership development programmes in the UK and Australia.
You can reach Kirsten through her LinkedIn.
Dr Colin Lindsay is a Professor of Work and Employment Studies at the University of Strathclyde. For over two decades, Dr Colin has been working with employees and leaders in the public and private sectors on issues relating to workplace practices for employee engagement, well-being, and innovation.
You can reach Dr Colin through his LinkedIn.
Dr Daljit Hothi is the Director of Leadership, Development, and Education at the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management. She is also a Consultant Paediatric Nephrologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Dr Daljit has expertise in Quality Improvement (QI), leadership development, and coaching individuals, groups, and teams.
You can reach Dr Daljit through her LinkedIn.
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Colin Lindsay: My argument would be the only way you will stimulate those feelings of engagement and people, and therefore mitigate the risk of exhaustion. The only way to do it is to invest in people’s jobs. There is no communication strategy or vision statement that is going to elicit feelings of vigour, absorption and dedication. Investing in people’s jobs, resources, and mitigating the demands that they have in their day to day work might well produce those feelings of engagement, and that’s good for everyone.
Rachel Morris: How do you feel about your job? Do you enjoy your work? Do you wish you could make it better? With the levels of stress and burnout in healthcare at a very high level, you may well think that the only way to solve issues is to reduce demand and workload. But we know that this is easier said than done, and it’s going to take a long time. Fortunately, there’s another strategy to help beat burnout and to help people love what they do again, and that is job crafting.
But what is job crafting, and how do we do it? Well, now while it may seem counterintuitive, that helping people do more rather than less will make people happier and enjoy their work. There’s a growing body of evidence that it actually works. So this podcast episode is a live You’re Not a Frog panel discussion recording, which took place at the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management International Online Conference in November 2022.
I’m joined by a panel of guests to discuss how to help people make their own jobs better. So listen to this episode to find out what job crafting actually means and how it can help you feel more positive about your work. The evidence-based actions that you can take to craft your own job, and some surprisingly simple actions you can take in your own organisation to help other people craft their jobs too.
Welcome to You’re Not a Frog, the podcast for doctors and other busy professionals in high stress, high stakes jobs. I’m Dr. Rachel Morris, a former GP, now working as a coach, trainer and speaker. Like frogs in the pan of slowly boiling water, many of us don’t notice how bad the stress and exhaustion have become until it’s too late, but you are not a frog, burning out or getting out are not your only option.
In this podcast, I’ll be talking to friends, colleagues and experts and inviting you to make a deliberate choice about how you live and work so that you can beat stress and work happier. If you’re a training manager or clinical lead and your teams are under pressure and maybe even feeling overwhelmed, we’d love to share our shapes toolkit training with you. Our practical tools are designed by a team of doctors and practitioners who know what it’s like to work in a stretched and overwhelmed system.
With topics like how to take control of your time and workload, deal with conflicts and managing stress, from team away days and half day sessions to shorter workshops and webinars online or face to face, we’d love to find out how we can help your team work calmer and happier. We work with primary care training hubs, ICS wellbeing teams, new-to-practice GP fellowships, hospital trusts and lots of other health care providers with staff on the front line.
To find out more, drop us an email or request a brochure at the link below. Hello everybody and welcome to this live podcast panel session all about job satisfaction, job crafting and how to find joy at work at the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management Online International Healthcare Leadership Conference 2022. This is also going to go out as a You are Not a Frog podcast recording.
I’m your host, Dr. Rachel Morris. I host the You are Not a Frog podcast. I’m an executive coach, and I’m a former GP and medical educator. I help doctors beat burnout and work happier, and that is what the podcast is all about. In this session today, we’re going to be exploring the science of joy at work. We’re going to look at how job crafting can help with this in healthcare, and we’ll be discussing how individuals can dramatically change how they feel about their work by making some small changes. Then, we’ll finally finish off by thinking about what organisations need to do to enable this. So first of all, I’d love to introduce you to our esteemed panel today.
So I’m really pleased to be joined by, first of all, Kirsten Armit, and Kirsten is the FMLM Director of Research. She’s the Director of FMLM Applied, and she’s also a PhD candidate at Bayes Business School at the University of London.
I’m also joined by Colin Lindsay. Now, Colin is a professor of Work and Employment Studies at the University of Strathclyde. He holds a PhD in Employment Studies and spends much of his time working with employees and leaders both in the public and the private sectors on all sorts of issues relating to workplace practices for employee engagement, wellbeing and innovation. So welcome, Colin. It’s brilliant to have you with us.
I’m also incredibly grateful and very pleased to have Dr Daljit Hothi with us. Now, Daljit is Director of Leadership Development and Education at the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management, and she’s also a consultant paediatric nephrologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Daljit jumped in last minute to join the panel, so thank you so much, Daljit.
So first, Colin, I’d love to ask you, most of us think in healthcare, at the moment, in order to find joy at work and to be happy, you just need to make the job better. You need to make the job easier to do and cut down on the workload. Now, I know that you have a slightly different take on this. Is that right?
Colin: That’s partly right, Rachel. The first thing I want to say and I think I can speak for all of us on this discussion, no one would detract from the idea that NHS professionals, leaders, managers, and healthcare managers across the sector are under tremendous pressure. Personally, I vote yes in terms of more resources for the sector and better pay for everyone, and less demands and pressure on people.
However, maybe to give a little bit of background, I spend a lot of my time working with public but mainly private sector organisations, who also face incredible pressures. The crisis is kind of the new normal in all sorts of sectors. So many of the organisations I work with start from the same starting point. We’ve got fantastic people who are under tremendous pressure, and we need to find ways to alleviate that pressure.
However, reducing the demands on those people is really challenging because of the types of services or products that we deliver. Me and my colleagues, we end to trying to think about those kinds of problems is to think about how we can balance job demands and job resources. That’s a very well established research agenda that basically says, If you want to know why people burn out or experience exhaustion in the workplace, it’s basically about their job.
Job demands are things like having too much work to do, having very restricted time in which to do that work, and having cognitively challenging work, and also being pulled in different directions. None of these statements will be foreign to NHS leaders and professionals, and all of those are probably common experiences.
What we know from a lot of research over the last 20 years, much of which I’ve been involved in, is that if we don’t do something to alleviate the pressures of those kinds of job demands, burnout and exhaustion is a real risk. But then what do we do if we don’t have resources and ways to reduce the demands on our people to argue that the answer again lies in people’s jobs, and we call it the job demands resources theory because our argument is if people feel under excessive demands through their jobs, too much work to do, too little time to do, pulled in different directions that can lead to strain and burnout.
However, if we invest in people’s what we would call job resources, that mitigates the risk of employees burning out and that includes employees in the health and care sectors. Job resources, it’s a kind of jargony phrase that basically just means good quality jobs and good top quality people management. By job resources, we mean things like you feel supported by your team. You feel backed up by your line manager.
Do you feel that you get good feedback on your performance? Do you feel that you have a good sense of autonomy and control over your work? Do you feel that you have the opportunity to be developed as a person? There’s a substantial evidence base that says even people experiencing significant job demands are less likely to promote and more likely to deliver innovation and high performance in organisations.
If we can balance job demands, we can reduce them. It’s great. But if we can balance them with investments in job resources, really great feedback, really great learning really great support, then we can mitigate the risk of burnout, and actually, we can arrive a more engaged workforce.
Rachel: Tell us, if you don’t mind, what you mean by employee engagement cause it’s a term that’s bandied around a lot, and I never really quite understood what it actually means until I spoke to you a few weeks ago.
Colin: So there’s a big industry out there selling sometimes relatively dubious employee engagement tools. What we mean by employee engagement, we actually use the term work engagement, and we would argue that that’s actually a very robust conceptualisation and robust evidence base around the concept of work engagement. What do we mean by work engagement?
By working engagement, we mean, sorry for the jargon, an effect of motivational state of work related well-being. What we really mean by that is we’re asking people about how they feel inside when they go to work in the morning. So the way that we often break that down is to ask questions of people in three broad areas. One is do you feel invigorated by your work. Please stay with me.
I know NHS managers and leaders and employees under pressure. If I ask a question, which is one of the questions we ask, when you get out of bed in the morning, do you feel energised by the idea of going to work? Maybe depends what morning we’re talking about. But we asked a series of questions around this idea that work creates a sense of vigour and energy between people, so that’s part one of work engagement.
Part two is the idea that you feel dedicated to your work because it’s meaningful. So you have a sense of being able to get your arms around your work and understand why it’s important to do this work well, so we would call that dedication. Then, the last component of work engagement, we would call absorption, which the way that I often describe this as I happen to have a great job.
So there are lots of times where, for instance, at the end of this working day, I’m sure I will say, oh, my goodness, where did the working day go? I’ve had so many interesting things to do, including this podcast and this discussion that the time has just flown. I’ve become absorbed in my work. When people answer questions positively around the sense of vigour that their work provides the sense of dedication and meaning that their work provides, and the sense of absorption that their work provides, then that is being highly engaged in the workplace.
Those measures include questions I ask people around that have been asked to thousands of employees across many sectors, including many NHS employees over 20 years. We know that how you answer those kind of questions around worker engagement is really important to things that we all care about, like well being, absence, long term health conditions, and performance of clinical and other teams.
My argument would be the only way you will stimulate those feelings of engagement in people, and therefore mitigate the risk of exhaustion, which is another great output of high levels of work engagement, the only way to do it is to invest in people’s jobs. There is no communication strategy or vision statement that is going to elicit feelings of vigour, absorption and dedication.
Investing in people’s job resources, and mitigating the demands that they have in their day to day work might well produce those feelings of engagement, and that’s good for everyone.
Rachel: Yeah, that is so interesting. Because certainly, I know that when people ask us to maybe go and do some wellbeing stuff, often it’s because they’ve done an employee engagement survey, and it’s come out really bad. So please, can you come in and make the employee engagement survey better? You say, well, actually, one-off training is not going to do that.
But what you’re saying is, if you help people with getting better feedback, better learning and support that will increase employee engagement. Now, I’m sure that actually reducing the other demands, like actually reducing workload, will as well. But when you’re in a very difficult situation, and that is very tricky and almost impossible. If you start investing in their job, then you can actually take the equation in a little bit of a different direction as well. Have I got that right?
Colin: Exactly right. Of course, our priority must be to try to reduce the demands on employees wherever we can. In lieu of that, no, and we have a very strong evidence base that says all other things being equal. The job demands that people are under will have less impact on their well being and burnout risk if we make the right kinds of investments and drop resources around feedback and learning and development, and a sense of control and autonomy and your work stimulate feelings of engagement that we just talked about.
You feel absorbed in your work. You feel dedicated to it, you actually want to get it right, because you have control over it, and you have an understanding of it. You feel invigorated by the work, because of high levels of job quality. Invest those resources, they’re gonna increase people’s wellbeing and engagement, and that mitigates the risk of burnout.
Rachel: Does this actually work in health care? Does the evidence come from healthcare environments as well as corporate?
Colin: We’ve been doing this for 20 years. A lot of research, the very initial studies around worker engagement were, perhaps unsurprisingly, often focused on health professionals because they were at high risk of burnout 20 years ago, as well, and perhaps always have been. So we do have quite a rich evidence base from public organisations from the NHS and from other health care providers.
Perhaps the demands on these employees are substantial compared to any other sector, but so is the evidence that these kinds of investments can actually make a difference.
Rachel: So Colin, what sorts of interventions have you seen that actually does help invest in these job resources to increase feedback, learning and support? What advice is your organisation giving people about this?
Colin: I would constantly say to my students, it’s jobs that really define people’s experiences in the workplace. So what we tend to do with businesses is to try and recalibrate and refocus investments around HR and the workplace to focus on enhancing job quality and the kind of measures that we’ve already discussed. All of this isn’t rocket science.
If you’ve got people who are expressing the idea that they don’t receive adequate feedback, in terms of feedback about how they perform and the contribution that they make, there are some relatively straightforward fixes, and we work with businesses on to try and improve the regularity, the quality and the consistency of the feedback the people receive. There are some areas of jobs you’ll see that are rather more tricky and take a little bit more thought in terms of how we make, design, and better job quality.
Clearly at one, that’s really tricky and challenging often. There’s a sense of control and autonomy that people have in the workplace. We know that if we can create a greater sense of control and autonomy over people’s work, if we can reduce any unnecessary sign offs and micromanagement and empower people to make their own decisions and solve problems collaboratively, those are the kinds of interventions that may have a payoff in terms of work engagement.
We can also maybe talk about a concept that we use called job crafting, which is basically saying, if you don’t have the job resources, if you’re not happy with the feedback, or learning opportunities, or design of your job, to what extent do people have the scope to craft, shape, change their job from the bottom up? What can managers and leaders do to empower people to take control and craft their own work?
Rachel: I think this concept of job crafting is so interesting and so important, and I’m sure that people that are listening and watching this, some may feel that they are able to craft their job much more than others. But I just like to bring Kirsten in here because, Kirsten, I know that you actually teach about job crafting. How would you define job crafting in the context of health care?
Kirsten Armit: I think it perhaps doesn’t necessarily matter about the context, because this is a very individual level activity with the support about managers and organisations, and everything can play an important role. But because this is something that people can do, I guess, of their own initiative, and it could be sort of small changes to sort of larger changes that they might make that may or may not actually be visible to other people, particularly if it’s small crafting, but this happens in a variety of ways in healthcare.
As Colin rightly points out, the original research actually took place in healthcare. They weren’t looking for job crafting. It was just something that they appeared when they were looking at the experiences and the relations that hospital cleaners actually had in a hospital in the States. So this shows up at all levels right from hospital cleaners to various senior leaders, and it’s often happening, unknowingly.
So when you tell people about the job crafting theory and explain it a little bit, often people go, oh, that’s what I was doing. Okay, now I’ve got a name to attach to it. But you can also be a bit more explicit about, I guess, teaching and giving people insights and having those conversations with people to help them think through as individuals how they might craft their role, but actually, also how you might do that on a team basis.
People come up with some fantastic examples, ranging from things that they did in terms of the relationships that they build. For example, one of the students I was talking with recently talked about being asked to redesign a particular patient pathway. She could have done that from a desk, potentially maybe having a conversation with a few people, but instead, what she did is use that as an opportunity to develop greater insights and relationships about that whole patient journey.
So she went out, and she followed ambulance staff and spoke to ambulance staff who spoke to ED staff. She spoke to primary care. She spoke to others out there in the system. She spoke to doctors, nurses, a range of other people, and what that has done is obviously helped with the particular piece of work that she was asked to do in designing that pathway, but it’s actually given her much greater insight and a range of relationships across that organisation, which are actually proving very useful to her now.
But then there’s also examples of how people might move stuff in and out of their portfolios at work. So for example, clinical leaders taking on IT as part of their portfolio of work, because they’ve got an interest in how IT is actually rolled out across the organisation and the clinical leadership that’s necessarily behind that. Then, people might make choices about joining particular committees or task groups or taking on greater responsibility for educating and training because that’s within their areas of interest.
So there’s numerous examples, and I’m fairly sure that people that are listening on this webinar could probably cite some of their own examples of how they’ve crafted their own roles and careers over time.
Rachel: Kirsten, we’ve got a question. Is it possible to job craft when there are very specific job descriptions in the healthcare environment? So if you know your job, you know exactly what you’re gonna be doing from dawn till dusk, and there doesn’t seem to be any flex. How does job crafting work in that sort of a role?
Kirsten: Yeah, I mean, I guess this harks back to some of the original research as well, where there was some fairly tight job descriptions that might have been put around those cleaning staff that were being interviewed in that research, but they found little ways of, I guess, sort of job crafting. So they might have very strict instructions, for example, about actually what they were supposed to clean, but what they found was that people were taking a real interest in the patients.
They wanted to make sure that the patient experience was really good. The relatives were looked after. So they were doing things like making sure that relatives got to their cars okay after visiting a patient. They did things like changing this artwork that was on the walls to sort of change things up occasionally and create a nice environment. So there are possible little things that can be done that actually have a significant impact to individuals.
There is a piece of research that looked at how people do this in both high ranking positions, and then low ranking positions. They found that in high ranking positions, they had constraints as well, even though you might perceive that people have more autonomy at senior levels. They also sort of have their own sort of constraints and perceptions of what they can and can’t do.
But for people in a sort of lower ranking position, they were able to job craft by having conversations with their colleagues or with their line manager appealing to them and showing out what are their strengths, and what would they potentially add by doing this additional task or doing something differently, or developing new relationships that would actually add to the particular team, the service or the organisation in some way.
So it’s one of those things where, I think, if there’s a will, there’s a way, but it does lead to a very important point, that if everyone decides that they want to job craft in a particular team, and then there’s not enough people to actually get the work done, then that can cause problems as well. So even though this is an individual level activity, it is being mindful of the wider impact that changes that you make might have.
Rachel: That’s a really good point. I just like to come to Daljit now. Daljit, have you got any examples of when you, as a clinician, have crafted your own job?
Daljit Hothi: Yeah, I currently hold four roles, so I have crafted my work if you like. I think for me, it’s all goes to what I really like in life. I like change. I like new opportunities. I sort of get drawn into these opportunities and jump in, and new opportunities lead to other opportunities, and that’s true for me. But we will have those opportunities, you have to make choices. There’s only so much time you have in a day.
So you have to then start making some key decisions about what things are take on it simultaneously. So I’ve always tried to do things where there’s a fixed commitment, and you can’t really change what’s expected or the timetable if you like. Mix with ones where you’ve got some variability. So for example, one of my roles as a coach and I can then put in the coaching around some of the other fixed commitments that I might have.
So in some ways, the crafting hasn’t made me less busier. It made me more busy, but actually, I’m energised by it, and so actually, I don’t feel burnt out by it. I know there’s times when I need a break, and so choose to have regular holidays and things so that my energies are sustained. The other area, I think, is crafting the day and being really conscious about how you craft your day.
I know that we all have fixed commitments that we have to do, but in how we choose to do them there is a degree of autonomy control you can exercise. Just even having that little bit of autonomy control can make such a difference in terms your well being. I mean, certainly during COVID, I remember saying to our juniors, when do you want your break. Just that one decision, that sense of autonomy really made a difference to their sense of well being on that shift.
So in terms of crafting my day, for example, I won’t open my emails until 9, 10am. So I’ve got an hour or two hours in the morning to do some exciting stuff like designing classroom activities, or to do something interesting in which we are most energised, where I can just get things done and not be distracted by hideous emails that are coming through. Other things I’ll do is I’ll make sure I puncture my day with regular breaks, and they use five minute breaks.
So it’s usually just walking down the corridor and getting a coffee, but it’s still a little break and it’s taken me away from that work. So those kinds of things can make a real difference. I also recognise when my energy’s down so 7 PM, it’s taking me twice as long to do something really simple. So I’ll do as much as I can and then stop. There’s no point me then spending an hour doing something that it normally takes five minutes.
I’ll get up early in the morning. I’ll have it done in five minutes. I can move on to the next activity. So it’s just to get to know yourself, understand your energy levels and mix the good and the bad like always give yourself work that you really enjoy, so don’t have a day of just of abysmal work. There’s always gonna be elements of your work that you don’t enjoy, which has to be done as part of your job.
But there’s also elements that you really enjoy, so that’s what energises you and restores that balance. So I think with time and practice, I have learned to craft my day or my commitment. So yeah, it’s not easy, and you often have to give yourself permission to do it. It’s not something that people will give you permission to do, so you really have to make the time and effort to do it.
Rachel: Yeah, I completely agree. It’s all about permissioning yourself, isn’t it? Taking that locus of control for yourself. I must admit, as you were talking, I was thinking, how does this work if you’re a trainee or a junior doctor, and someone has put in the chat here. I hope that job crafting and autonomy can be prioritised more for junior doctors rather than getting those opportunities once you’re a consultant.
But I guess as a consultant, you’ve got a lot of responsibilities as well. So you do also have quite a lot restrictions as a consultant that what have you noticed in your junior colleagues has been ways that they have been able to job craft that has been successful and helpful for them, even within the constraints of a training role, where you are largely doing service delivery.
You’re on the wards, and you’ve got to just see those patients, and you’re very much timetabled and rostered in. How can people jump off then?
Daljit: Yeah, it’s only what Kirsten said earlier about the rank high or low rank, it can be quite difficult to craft to be honest. I think for juniors, yeah, especially when they’ve got shifts, it feels like it’s all very rigid and constrained, and that’s the only thing you can do. Often, I find that I will often come across juniors, who are struggling, who then ask for the flexibility rather than proactively asking for some of that flexibility, and I think that’s a real problem as well.
I think one of the things I always say to juniors is contract amongst yourselves, as a team contract. When do you know you need to have a little break, who’s gonna do what work? So actually, there is something about being a team player and working as a team and making those decisions, and I think leaving these small elements of choice can make a difference to the day. Don’t be afraid to say, I’m exhausted. I need a break.
Give me five minutes, I’d be back. So I think there is something about saying to the juniors, perhaps seek forgiveness, rather than seek permission, just get on and do it, but work as a team and do it. Make sure you’re not the only one who’s always flexible and crafting your day. Bring your whole team onto that journey, and then you’ll probably all find you’re enjoying it.
Rachel: I love that, seek forgiveness rather than permission. You heard it here first, people. Colin, I’d love to bring you in here because we’ve been talking about crafting a role and doing different roles, and that was looking, that doing some coaching and doing some teaching and doing some leadership, but that’s not all there is to job crafting. There’s other things involved in job crafting, isn’t there?
Colin: So the first thing to see is job crafting is really important. Over the last few years, I’ve worked with 30 organisations, some public sector, a lot of private sector, and we’ve asked a lot of questions about job crafting and other areas of workplace practice, L&D and opportunities for career development and all sorts of other things. When we throw all that data into a very sophisticated statistical model that happily I don’t have to do it, I have a colleague who does that for me who has a PhD in Maths, what comes out as one of the most important factors explaining variance and worker engagement.
Those feelings that we talked about that are really important in terms of invigoration and dedication and absorption that we know are really important for long term performance. We want to know what kind of practices support people to feel engaged and well and productive in public and private sector workplaces. Crafting is one of the most powerful ways that we can drive higher and higher levels of engagement, it seems.
Maybe we can think of that more about what does job crafting actually look like and what make the different components of job crafting be. The classic way are thinking about it from a job resources perspective. I dropped the mantras was his perspective is that job crafting perhaps involves three types of activities. One is people feeling empowered to seek resources. Again, apologies for my jargon here.
As I said earlier, by job resources, all we really mean are things like learning opportunities, having more control over your work, having the opportunity to get really great feedback and support. One thing that can fall into job crafting is to seek more resources, to basically feel that you have you have the permission to give yourself that permission. That if you’re not content with your feedback, to ask for more or different feedbacks.
If you’re not content with your learning opportunities, to ask for more learning or different learning opportunities, to ask for the opportunity to build networks or work within different interdisciplinary species. Some forms of resource seeking are very basic. If you feel you haven’t got the right cat to do the job related to PPE or IT or anything else, a crafting behaviour might be to say to your line manager, I really need the additional resources to get this job done well.
So that’s one area, we call it seeking resources. The second set of questions that we ask in the same area of job crafting practice, sometimes asking for more challenge and seeking more challenges can be an important component of job crafting. I’m sure I’ve got NHS and healthcare professionals and leaders saying, Colin, are you really suggesting I should be encouraging my people to ask to do more. No way.
If the more that we are talking about, as the kind of more that people feel like they’re taking on a challenge that grows them as a professional and as a person, so that may be attending different kinds of meetings or forming, joining additional kind of networks or taking a leadership role within a team that maybe at a higher level, but you’re kind of stepping up to take on or taking the responsibility to feed in intelligence and information and to shape the practice of your team.
All of that is essentially taking more and more work, and to some extent, it’s taking on more work, but it’s really about taking on more challenge. As counterintuitive as it seems, we have a strong evidence base that suggests that where if people feel it’s okay for them to step up, to take on more challenge that actually increases their job resources and can have an positive impact on their work engagements.
Again, we caveat all of this by saying we fully acknowledge that people are under tremendous pressures, and we must try to manage those demands and pressures as much as possible. But that second year, we have job crafting a feeling that it’s okay to step up and take on additional challenges seems to be really important for people’s growth, engagement and well being. So we’ve got seeking resources. I’d like more of different feedback.
I’d like more learning opportunities. I’d like more mentorship. We’ve got seeking challenges. I want to grow into additional challenging activities. Then, the last area of job crafting, some people call it reducing demands. We tend to use the language of optimising demand, so that’s basically saying, if something’s not your favourite part of your job, is there a way to reduce the amount of time and energy that you put into that?
Can you swap parts of your job with other people? Can you streamline parts of your job to get things done more efficiently over the kind of activities that Daljit talked about in her own practice? So those three areas of personal activity, seeking to take on more challenges and a way that grows you as a person, and seeking to optimise or just control the demands of your job are really important areas of job crafting practice.
Rachel: You make some really good points there, Colin, just thinking about that, asking for more challenge. We had a podcast episode recently all about what to do when you’re bored and stressed. I think many people in healthcare are really stressed because they’ve got so much better to do. They’re also quite bored, because it’s quite repetitive. It’s the same, same, same, same same.
We know that one of the ways to wellbeing is learning, and we know Maslow’s hierarchy of self actualisation is really important. If you are learning something or being challenged, often that’s where you get into flow, and we know flow is absolutely brilliant, isn’t it, for wellbeing, for enjoying stuff, and just for a life satisfaction actually. So that absolutely ties in very well with a lot of the well being evidence, all the stuff around happiness at work, too.
I’d like to come on and ask what leaders could do, because I think in the audience with people who are working and are also leaders, and I think all of us have got a bit of both, haven’t we? Kirsten, when you teach leaders about job crafting, what advice you’d give them about how to help their teams with this?
Because I know a lot of it has to come from the person themselves, but a lot of the objections people will have. will say, they’ll say, I’d love to do that, but my boss won’t let me or my team is all full always, so constrained in what we have to do. I’m just a trainee. I’ve got all these tick boxes. Nothing will ever change if they’re not going to help.
Kirsten: Often people do have examples of things that they’ve done themselves, and often, I guess that some of those examples range from leaders and managers actually having those developmental conversations with people on a one to one or even on that sort of team basis.
I also think sometimes what’s helpful, and I guess developmental conversations lean into this around coaching conversations, but where there’s opportunities for people to access coaches and mentors themselves, whether formal or informal, asking those questions and encouraging people to think about their work. I guess, and sort of, just go back again, to actually having this open conversation amongst your team.
Actually, the team can lean into this a little bit as well by pointing out where people’s particular sort of strengths are, and how the team could be supporting them with freeing up their time if that’s what it is to be able to sort of undertake a different piece of work. So those are a couple of ideas.
Rachel: Daljit, what do you do with your teams to encourage them to take more autonomy in craft their own jobs?
Daljit: Role modelling is a really important one, isn’t it, because of the reality is if I’m burnt out, if I’m not job crafting, if I’m just on this monotonous cycle and not actively talking about scenes and making, they will just see that as what they should be doing. I think the second is to really support and nurture good practice. Starting the day with what times people want breaks, like, how do you want to work today? Who’s going to do what?
So you kind of help people to understand why we’re having those conversations and really trying to nurture, encourage that, so bring in some of those practices into the shop floor. So actually, it becomes just the way they do things as opposed to this another thing that crazy Dallas decide to do today. I think the third thing is the number of times that I’ve had conversations and juniors who have FOMO, so fear of missing out.
Stop saying yes to everything that comes your way, and so on, say, did you not say yes to me last week and the week before and the week before. We started challenging back a little bit. Actually, when people are having difficulty saying no, or when people are having difficulty with FOMO, then actually start having a conversation with them about it rather than ignoring it. I also think there’s a element of identity in this, isn’t there?
We all have a version of our identity that we want to maintain, and so encouraging the juniors to explore what’s going on for themselves and to use it as a new chip or stroke development opportunity and say that, do you understand your energy? Do you understand your strengths? Do you understand what makes you tick? What’s important to you? What matters to you?
So yeah, use it as an education awareness and development opportunity as well. So I think those are three things that I’d probably think about.
Rachel: I love that. I’ve got a colleague who was a consultant, and she said that whenever juniors came up to her and asked her about doing audits, she’d always say, well, you have room for one big project at the moment. If anyone asks you to do anything more, you say, well, I’ve got this one project. It’s going to finish here.
Would you like to drop that and focus on yours? Or do you want to carry on? Colin, is saying no part of job crafting? Is that a sort of recognised aspect of it? It seems a bit negative, but it might be really important.
Colin: Absolutely, and I think that third component of job crafting it in terms of optimising the demands that your job places on you is one way that employees can sort of get a sense of control over the demands that the either accept and embrace, or may have to see not until I’m finished this, or what would you like me to drop? So I think saying no, sometimes, is an important part of it.
One of the risks, I think, around job crafting is that there are people out there who are perhaps wired in a way that they’re going to be more proactive and engaging in these kinds of activities. My argument is that, I think it’s it should be a priority for leaders and line managers to support employees across a range of experiences and roles and tasks to engage in this kind of crafting activity, because some people won’t do it on their own, unless we create the opportunity set for our people to do it.
Hopefully, we’re not adding to the workload of managers and leaders. Hopefully, we’re crafting the workloads of leaders and managers. But I think one thing that we have to think about as senior clinicians and leaders in healthcare, as has been discussed, are we modelling the kinds of behaviours to encourage people to draw craft? Are we putting the support in place for our people so that they think it’s okay to do that?
Rachel: What would you be advising a department who was thinking, right, we need to put that support in place to allow people to job craft if you were to go in and say, guys, this is what you could do? What are the basics that you would try and to put in a system level there to help people with this?
Kirsten: I think there is something about actually introducing people to the concept in itself, because actually, that often there’s a bit of a light bulb moment for people to be starting to think about their own roles, what their interests are, their strengths, what are they passionate about, where they might want to go potentially in terms of their career, and having that open conversation with colleagues.
I think there are probably particular things that could be developed to support sort of leaders and managers to have those conversations. So this is not just to benefit the individuals. It’s actually to benefit everyone, and I think it also has knock on effects in terms of retention of staff as well.
Because actually, if you’re given those opportunities, while you’re in training at a particular institution, you think, well, gosh, when it comes to applying for consultant positions, I’d really rather like to kind of go back there. It’s thinking beyond just the day to day sort of clinical work. It’s actually thinking about broadening people’s skills and insights and developing that leadership,
Rachel: Colin, what have you seen in other organisations, not just healthcare, that has worked it’s system wide to try and embed this?
Colin: The conversation I often have with businesses around investing is framed by the question, is it okay to ask? Because before we get to the ability of people to draw profit, I think we have the challenge in organisations is that very often, leaders and managers don’t communicate to people that it’s okay to ask for their stuff, so that’s the first question to ask yourself, as a leader or manager.
Before we get to a conversation about the cost benefit and the business case for investing in mentoring or different forms of L&D, or different forms of feedback, do people feel it’s okay to ask if they’re not happy with those job resources? Do people feel it’s okay to ask for challenge? The example I often give to private sector organisations is what would happen if a junior member of your team said in this board meeting, I know it’s well above my paygrade.
I might learn something. That’s basically asking to do more work for free. It’s asking for more challenge to grow yourself as a person. There are lots of businesses out there and organisations out there, where such requests are not welcomed and not encouraged. I think that would be my first thing, create a context where people know it’s okay to ask, and then the second thing, I think, is be prepared to respond.
Because we sometimes see a big problem as where employees are encouraged to job craft, and then request the mentoring or the development or the additional challenge, and then the organisation hasn’t actually put the resources in place to deliver that for them. So if you’re going to ask people to do that, then have a plan about how you’re going to respond to the requests that people make.
Rachel: Just a reflection Colin, I’ve worked with a lot of leaders and managers that do worry about letting people ask, because they feel that if someone is allowed to ask for more resources, and then they have to provide them. Then it’s going to be more work for them, and so they get very worried about even raising it or letting anybody asked for this stuff, because they feel so responsible.
What would you say to someone that was a leader or manager, who thinks they don’t have any reasonable resources? There is nothing I can do. So telling them that it’s okay to ask would just be a complete disaster?
Colin: I hear you. As I was saying, I think this conversation is to make it clear to people that we don’t have a magic money tree and not every request is going to be actionable. But for instance, a particular employees comes and says, the way that we do feedback in our team really doesn’t seem to work for me or other team members. That’s a minimal investment for leaders to rethink about how are we doing feedback the most effective way or could we do it differently.
So I think there are spaces where minimal investments in leadership and management practice can actually have really important impact on how people feel able to craft their work. So I accepted that there are resource constraints there.
If we can have a conversation about the kind of spaces in which it’s possible to support people to craft and then encourage people to think it’s okay to craft into those species so that there’s an alignment between what is realistic and actionable within the organisation or team, but at the same time, we’re not removing that all key to ask.
Rachel: It strikes me that in order to job craft, well and efficiently, you do really need to understand yourself and what would make you happy and bring joy into your life. Someone has put in the comments, lack of emotional intelligence and self assessment skills is not uncommon in medical professionals, often very passionate about their work, but they often need help see the bigger picture, often have a victim or entitlement mindset.
How can we encourage medical professionals, medical leaders to know themselves a bit more, to actually understand what would make their jobs better for themselves so that they can take action because often is a lack of understanding about ourselves?
Kirsten: I think there are practical things you can do as well in terms of sort of 360 degree feedback. Unfortunately, I think sometimes 360 degree feedback doesn’t sort of focus enough on, I guess, the leadership side of things. I mean, quick plug for the FMLM 360 here, obviously, which has been designed with that sort of purpose in mind. There are different sort of psychometrics and stuff out there that can be helpful, but there’s a huge variety.
But actually, I think sometimes just asking people, I think, having conversation. So whatl, you’ve known me for a while. You’ve seen sort of how I work. You don’t need tools to do that. You can just have a conversation and say, what do you think of my strengths, and what do you think I could be doing more of? What opportunities have you seen out there? So I think some sort of fairly simple things like that can be actually quite effective, and asking a range of people as well is important, not just your mates.
Rachel: Thank you. There are all sorts of assessments and things online like strengths finders and things like that, which I found immensely helpful myself. So we are really, really nearly out of time. I was going to ask you for three top tip seats, but I’m just going to go around and ask you for one top tip so you’ve only got one. Colin, what’s your one top tip for promoting job crafting at work.
Colin: Okay, so the first thing I would say is realise everything is an ask and an investment, and the only reason I’m asking leaders in the NHS to do this activity is because we think it’s really important to people’s engagement and performance, putting structures and communications in place where it’s all key for your people to ask to engage in job crafting.
Rachel: Thank you. Daljit, your one top tip.
Daljit: Yeah, I’d say, if you really want to try to get to do more of what you like and what really matters to you, then really engaged in your crafting because that’s a way to get there.
Rachel: Thank you. Kirsten?
Kirsten: One of the questions that Amy Revsdeskey sort of asked her group, but she’s the person that’s led this particular piece of research is, if you just think for a second, what’s the most meaningful and enjoyable aspect of your work today, and what could you do to make that aspect more possible in your work?
Rachel: Love it. That’s a great question. Thank you. Thank you so much, all of you for being here. We’ve had so many different questions in the chat. We haven’t been able to get to all of them. But our hope is that we’re going to record some more podcast episodes and sent out to people, maybe thinking about some other aspects of this. So I’m sure this conversation will continue. Please get in touch with us.
If you have any questions or particular topics you’d like us to consider, either via FMLM or email@example.com. It just remains for me to say thank you so much to Colin and Daljit and to Kirsten for being with us today. Thank you for everybody watching live, and we’ll catch up. I hope that’s been really helpful. Thank you, everybody.
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