Increasing employee productivity through job crafting

Person-job misfit –when an employee is not well suited to their work– is a workplace threat that lowers employee productivity and hampers high-quality R&D. However, a good match between employee and job is linked to a range of beneficial individual and organizational outcomes. Person-job fit positively predicts job satisfaction, commitment, and job performance. And it’s inversely related to stress and job burnout.

Therefore, it is key to employee productivity that you have the right employee in the right position. However, identifying which ever-changing tasks are best suited to which employees is a complex and time-consuming process. HR and management rarely have the resources to ensure a perfect person-job fit. 

This is why “job crafting” is so beneficial. It relies on employees to help craft their “perfect” job. 

During the process, employees proactively adjust work boundaries to align with their skills, values, preferences, and expectations. Although it might sound like a utopia, when employees craft their work, they not only enjoy their jobs more but they can complete company goals more efficiently and effectively.

This post will walk through how to stimulate job crafting behavior at work, thereby providing you with an effective tool to increase employee productivity in your organization.

After identifying the key components of job crafting, we will delve into three strategies to stimulate job crafting and increase employee productivity:

  1. Identifying job resources and demands
  2. Provide an organizational culture that stimulates employee crafting 
    • Encourage proactive behavior
    • Increase perceived autonomy
  3. Provide organizational support
    • Increase self-efficacy
    • Increase self-control 

As always, our team of psychology researchers reviewed numerous peer reviewed journal articles from social and organizational psychology to determine effective strategies for promoting job crafting at work and enhancing employee productivity.

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What is job crafting?

Before diving into how to encourage crafting behaviors, we will first take a few steps back to see what crafting actually entails. 

In essence, job crafting is about employees changing aspects of their job to better suit themselves.This self-initiated process adaptively and proactively achieves greater compatibility between personal attributes (e.g., skills and interests) and dynamic work environments. During crafting, the employee makes fundamental choices about what to do, how to do it, and whom to incorporate.

job crafting benefits


Why does it work? What are the driving forces behind it?

Job crafting improves employee productivity via two central ways: 

  1. Meaningfulness 
  2. Person-job fit. 

When employees craft their jobs, they coordinate and craft their work to make it more meaningful to them. By doing so, they create a work environment in which they feel that their skills are being valued. 

Second, since crafting attempts to adjust the job to match one’s needs, values, and abilities, it leads to an increased fit between the employee and the job. This increased fit will in turn lead to an increased feeling of control, higher commitment and satisfaction and lower turnover rates.

job crafting and retention

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Ok, great, so job crafting helps maximize employee productivity, well-being, and engagement, and it may be crucial for organizational efficiency and effectiveness. But how can you as a leader stimulate crafting at work? It’s an employee-driven process after all.

Let’s get into how you can act upon the drivers of job crafting.


Step 1: Get insight in job demands and resources

The dominant strategy employees use to “job craft”, is to increase resources and decrease demands. Roughly speaking, job demands are the ‘bad things’ at work that drain energy and reduce employee productivity, such as work overload, conflicts with others, and future job insecurity. Examples of job resources are job autonomy, social support, performance feedback, and skill variety.

Thus employees need some insight into their current resources and demands, and which they would like to have more of. Needs assessments help employers and employees identify core resources and demands. There are many ways to assess the needs of your employees–from surveys to observation. But interviews and group discussions are a great way to gather rich information and get employee buy-in

Sit with your employees and specifically ask them what helps them in their job and what is holding them back. It might not always be easy for employees to identify their resources and demands, and an open conversation about this may provide insights and support. Potential questions that you can ask your employees:

  • Identify job demands: 
    • Are there any bureaucratic rules and procedures that unnecessarily make your work more complex? 
    • Do you experience any role ambiguity?
    • Do you have problems with getting your work done in time?
    • What makes your job difficult?
  • Identify job resources: 
    • Do you think you receive sufficient coaching opportunities? 
    • Would you like more training and development opportunities? What kind?
    • Do you have enough freedom to execute your job correctly? (see: step 3 autonomy)
    • What skills or interests do you have that you think could be better utilized?

By identifying which resources and demands are relevant, employees will get an idea about which specific aspects of their job can be crafted. Since crafting is a self-initiated bottom-up process, it is up to the employee to act upon these insights. Nevertheless, it can help to explain to them that they have freedom to execute their job in their own way, and there are other opportunities for you as a leader to create an environment in which crafting is stimulated and encouraged (see also step 2 and 3).

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Step 2: Provide an organizational culture that stimulates employee crafting

Another way in which you can encourage crafting behavior at work is to create a company culture in which self-initiative is valued and encouraged. Taking initiative or making changes may not always be appreciated by supervisors, and this can hinder employees from proactively crafting their job. If personal initiative is expected, supported, and rewarded, employees in the team will be inspired to be proactive.

There are several steps you can take to create a company culture in which you stimulate proactive behavior and increase perceived autonomy.

    a) Encourage proactive behavior 

Whereas some people react to, adapt to, and are shaped by their environments, proactive people take personal initiative to have an impact on their surroundings. Because proactive individuals are more likely to initiate change, they are more likely to engage in job crafting. Transformational leadership, secure-based relationships, and focussing on the “what” are the ways to encourage such behavior.

Show transformational leadership: This is a leadership style in which leaders encourage, inspire, and motivate employees to innovate and create change that will help grow and shape the future success of the company. Transactional leadership is likely to promote employees’ proactivity because they explicitly encourage employees to think differently and try alternatives to do their work, while offering individualized support when employees need it. You can do this for example by:

  • Intellectual stimulation: Ask questions and challenge the status quo. Foster an environment in which it is safe to have conversations, be creative and voice ideas. You can for example organize meetings to brainstorm ideas when a problem arises. Value the input of your employees.
  • Replace punishment with constructive criticism: When employees fail to reach their goals, it is not the best approach to turn to punishment. The problem with this is that it causes employees to react defensively or withdrawn. Rather engage in a discussion about what went wrong and why.

    For example: instead of saying ‘You need to be getting to work earlier’, be clear about the actual problem at hand (e.g., clients have to wait) and structure your feedback around that. 

Offer secure-based relationships: Employees are more likely to be proactive when there is mutual trust as it helps them to better assess resources and get support from their supervisors when challenging the status quo. Intuitively, you can understand that kids are more likely to explore when they feel secure. The same principle applies to employees, they feel more secure when they receive encouragement from their supervisors and when they know where to go when support is needed.

Focus on the ‘what’ and not the ‘how’: Set clear expectations and metrics for success but allow employees to proactively figure out the ‘how.’ This can make them feel more invested in the process. For example, you can build in fewer specific action-based measures along the way, and focus more on the eventual output that someone completes.

increase perceived autonomy

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    b) Increase perceived autonomy

When management closely controls employees, and strictly tells them that there is one way to get a job done, employees will have less opportunity to actually craft their job. Conversely, more autonomy on the job creates more freedom for employees to craft their job, and may encourage them to find more efficient ways to do their jobs.

Therefore, you should depart from strict predefined job descriptions and allow employees to execute their work in their own way. To ensure this:

Stop micromanaging! Successful leaders have faith in the workforce and know how to strike a strong balance between managing themselves, their employees and their network. Employees on the other hand can’t be proactive when they are micromanaged and their everyday moves are being monitored in some way.

To truly encourage employees to be proactive and initiate change in the way they do their job, you have to empower them to act and make their own decisions. Two specific steps can you take to make sure you stop micromanaging:

  • Set clear expectations: Often, the underlying cause of micromanaging is a lack of trust. In order to act upon this, you can clearly share your expectations and clarify that certain goals need to be obtained in a specific time window.
  • Clarify what you need to know, and when: Do you really need to know progress on every step? And does every step need to be completed at a specific point in time, or could you also group several steps to be completed at a later point in time? Give your employees the freedom to do their work in their own way.

Offer flexibility. If you make an employee’s working conditions so rigid that they have no choices, they won’t be able to make adjustments to their work boundaries. Rather than measuring employee effectiveness based on how many hours someone worked, measure by output. Consider giving them the freedom to make their own schedules and work remotely. What matters most is that they do their job well and complete tasks on time, not how they do their jobs. Offering them the ability to choose how to work shows you trust them, and enables them to craft their job.

job flexibility

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Step 3: Empower your employees by providing organizational support

Perceived organizational support, which refers to the perception of employees that their organization values their contribution and cares about their well-being, is critical for increasing employees’ self-initiated work behaviors. Since employees are expected to craft their jobs under existing circumstances, the organizational context affects their behavior. 

Indirectly this sense of support affects two other crucial personal attributes: 

  1. self-efficacy (the belief of your employees that they are able to successfully complete tasks) and 
  2. self-control (belief of the employees that they can have control over their environment). 

Organizational support that promotes employees’ sense of self-efficacy and self-control are particularly important for encouraging job crafting and boosting employee productivity. 

Since you cannot control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it, self-efficacy and self-control are powerful attributes that help employees to be resilient. To encourage this, we recommend:

  • Focusing on employee strengths: When focusing on their strengths, employees will do more of what they’re good at and be more inclined to believe that they can complete tasks successfully.
  • Role modeling: You can assign a team leader who exemplifies self-efficacious behavior and identify them as a role model.
  • Guidance: You can stimulate self-efficacy and self-control by providing development opportunities and personalised rewards.
  • Constructive feedback: Several tips on how to provide constructive feedback:
    • Be problem-focused and specific 
    • Talk about the situation, not the individual
    • Listen – give your employees time to respond.
increase employee productivity

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Recap: Increasing employee productivity through job crafting

Stimulating job crafting behavior of your employees is both crucial, but challenging. In sum, you can promote crafting at work by identifying employee resources and demands, and by creating an organizational culture in which proactive behavior is stimulated, employee autonomy is valued, and organizational support is provided. In specific, there are several steps you can take to create an environment in which job crafting is stimulated: 

Step 1: Assess needs to ensure that employees are aware of job resources and demand

Step 2: Develop a supporting culture

  • Encourage proactive behavior (with transformational leadership, secure relationships, and focus on ‘what’ not ‘how’)
  • Increase perceived autonomy (stop micromanaging and offer flexibility)

Step 3: Providing organizational support 

  • Increase self-efficacy
  • Increase self-control