Municipality of Den Bosch: Job-crafting for more fulfillment at work
2014 – The department ‘finance, informatisation and taxes’ (Financiën Informatisering en Belastingen) of the municipality Den Bosch delivers all municipal services concerning these themes. Approximately 111 people work at this department. For sustainable employability it is important that employees continue to shape their work so that it suits them. This is (also) done by job-crafting: letting employees shape their work according to their own abilities and interests.
Employees shape their work and their tasks themselves by making small modifications in their work in the area of tasks, work environment, meaning of work, or social relationships at work. In this way, one can retain meaningful and healthy work by continuosly calibrating one’s strong qualities, needs and abilities, thus repeatedly modifying one’s work.
The job crafting initiative took place along the line of a wider programme aimed at the creation of new ways of working (space-and time independent). This programme focuses on the development of a flexible office concept by making adjustments in the physical space, the virtual space (implementing flexible devices, such as laptops) and by developing the ‘mental’ space which is available on the job. In order to stimulate employees to discover what ‘mental’ space is available a job-crafting workshop was organized to develop awareness among employees and to stimulate them to make use of it so that they would experience a better fit with work. Furthermore the goal was to sustainably improve the employability of employees. To start with, she organized a job-crafting day with the management team in order to get support from them.
In 2012 the process started, and it consisted of three meetings spread out over a period of eight weeks.
The first meeting did not involve managers, so that employees would feel more free to experiment. Here, participants developed a personal work experiment for the purpose of having a better ‘fit’ with work. In a workshop setting everyone analyzed their current tasks in order to evaluate to which extent they appealed to their personal interests or fitted with their skills. Different kinds of obstacles at work were categorized and matched to specific tasks. This way it became clear which tasks fitted with one’s personal strengths and interests, and which required more effort or gave physical discomfort. On the basis of this analysis, the work experiments were freely designed, given that the experiment would not do (major) ‘damage’ to the work process or to colleagues.
Thereafter participants went on to apply the designed experiments at work. Managers were given the instruction to be supportive which gave employees faith that they had space to experiment with their work.
In the second meeting, which included the managers, the work experiments were evaluated and possibilities for improvements were explored.
In the third meeting, which was combined with a regular work meeting and led by the manager, it was looked at how the executed work experiments could be continued or improved.
The work experiments
The work experiments can be categorized in four types: task, cognitive, relational or context crafting.
1. Crafting task boundaries: these experiments focused on patterns at work and implicit roles which one would like to craft in order to carry out more distinct tasks or to have more calmness at work. For example, an employee, being always willing to help colleagues, encountered problems for himself due to the continuous fragmentation in his own work. In his experiment, he decided to say no to colleagues who had ad-hoc questions if it was a less busy time within the organization. By being available for questions in the afternoon, he kept the morning for himself, in order to properly carry out tasks which needed concentration and continuity. This redistribution of time and focus on his own work needed some explanation to colleagues, but was quickly understood and accepted.
2. Crafting abilities (cognitive):these experiments featured actions according to which employees started to tap more into their interests at work, to exploit their strong qualities, or to decrease one’s feeling of incompetence by learning something from somebody else.
3. Crafting on communication (relational): these experiments explored new ways of communicating among colleagues. This were very practical experiments which involved the use of email-techniques such as not directly answering to new e-mails or putting cc’ed e-mails in a different folder. Despite their practical orientation, these experiments were perceived as difficult. Partly, this was because people had the feeling of disappointing or disadvantaging the ‘other’ when they changed their approach, by for example not directly answering emails.
4. Crafting time and place (context): these were experiments where employees crafted on the time or place where a task is carried out, in order to make the execution of the task more effective or to increase one’s satisfaction in executing it. For example working from home once a week.
In the evaluation, which could be filled in anonymously after the end of the workshop, the costs and benefits of each experiment were weighted. Around 60% of the participants evaluated their own work experiment with a 7 or higher. Around 30% was more careful in evaluating the experiment’s benefit for themselves, and graded their experiment with a 5 or 6. Ovarall,this shows that there were more benefits (saving of time, a better quality of work and feeling more in control) than costs (time/energy, doing someone else’s work, causing annoyances to colleagues) . The goals, sustainably improving employability and experiencing a better fit with work, seem to have been accomplished. About 72% of the participants indicated to be more aware of their own possibilities to match their work to their own needs, interests, and skills. About 61% indicated the intention to craft more on their work in the future.
Currently (spring 2014) there is no monitoring of whether the employees still job-craft. However the managers do ask employees during performance evaluation if they have planned crafting experiments for the upcoming year.
The little experiments made the department think about the space there is to do things differently. It could be that job-crafting is nothing else but making use of the space and possibilities at work with the goal of regaining the connection with one’s own work where it seemed to get lost. People felt in control again over their work, by consciously making use of their autonomy.
Furthermore, it appeared that offering a safe environment is important for the success of the process. All managers have to commit themselves to give employees space to try out experiments.
Lastly, it was found that the strength of the workshop is addressing job-crafting on a team-level. In this way, the workshop is insightful for the whole team as it brings to light each other’s needs, strengths and interests as well as each other’s experiences of problems and stress. Because this can differ per task and per individual, team members can help each other by letting everybody do tasks which he or she are good at. Consequently, team members complement each other and everyone is able to work with more satisfaction and energy.
Berg, J. M., & Dutton, J. E. & Wrzesniewski, A. (2008). Crafting a fulfilling job: Bringing passion into
work. University of Michigan: Centre for POS.
Dorenbosch, L. (2012). Job crafting: sleutelen aan je eigen baan. In Dhondt, S. & Oeij, P. (Red.) Sociale Innovatie doe je zelf. TNO-rapport. Hoofddorp: TNO.
A+O Fonds Gemeenten. (z.d.). Medewerkers sleutelen aan meer werkplezier. Gedownload op 23-06-2014, van https://www.aeno.nl/fileadmin/ontwikkeling-en-mobiliteit/Good_Practices/GPO_-_14___s-Hertogenbosch.pdf
Thema’s: Talent development
Sector: Public Sector