When the employee survey results aren’t good

“The results were abysmal,” she said, referring to a recent survey her organization conducted. They had asked employees how they felt about their career development and happiness at work. Now she was looking for some way to turn things around.

It's a common problem at many organizations. Maybe the cost-cutting and reorganizations hurt morale. Maybe the culture is autocratic and stifling. Whatever the reasons, when people don’t feel good about what they do at work, the choice they typically make is to step back and care less. You tell yourself, “It’s just a job.”

Today, I want to go deeper into the idea of job crafting that I referred in my last post. Instead of waiting for the CEO to change the culture and have that trickle down, job crafting can help anyone improve those survey results themselves.

What is job crafting?

“Job crafting” is the idea that you can actively shape what you do, who you do it with, and how you think about it. Dr. Amy Wrzesniewski, is one of the researchers who coined the termed, and she described it this way:

“…it’s what employees do to redesign their own jobs from the bottom up in a way that fosters their engagement at work, their satisfaction with their work, their resilience, and their thriving."

There are three components, or different ways you can change your job. 

Tasks: You can change the boundaries of your job by taking on more or fewer tasks, expanding or diminishing their scope, or changing how they are performed. hey took small steps to alter the tasks they did each day, to form and deepen relationships, to find a greater purpose in what they did.
Relationships: You can change the nature or extent of your interactions with other people. A managing director, for example, might create mentoring relationships with young associates as a way to connect with and teach those who represent the future of the firm.
Perceptions: You can change how you think about the purpose of certain aspects of your job; or you can reframe the job as a whole…the leader of an R&D unit might come to see her work as a way of advancing the science in her field rather than simply managing projects.”

Better for you. Better for the organization.

That excerpt is from a Harvard Business review article titled, “Managing Yourself: Turn the Job You Have into the Job You Want.” Dr. Wrzesniewski expanded on her ideas in a talk featured on Google’s re:Work channel. Both are excellent.

In her talk, she makes an important point that what may seem like small changes can reframe work in meaningful ways. 

“So first of all, it matters because it's not just a trick of the mind. So this is not just doing the same kind of work but thinking about it differently. It actually actively influences what it is people are doing on the job, how it is they're doing it, when they're doing it, with whom the work is done. It changes the job description in ways that I think are pretty serious.”

Then she asks the question that comes to every manager’s mind.

“But is this actually good for the organization?”

The short answer is “yes.” It changes how people relate to their work and to each other, and also how they do their work.

“Job crafting is associated with more satisfaction in work. It's also associated with more commitment to the job. And it's more associated with attachment to the job and to the organization.”

If your survey results showed this kind of improvement, that would be reason enough for celebration. Yet what I found even more striking was that the researchers also surveyed co-workers and managers of job crafters. (It was a blind test, so they were unaware of who was job crafting and who wasn’t.) The results showed that not only did the job crafters feel better about work, but the people around them thought they were happier and performed better.

“Their performance in the job, their mobility to new roles within the organization - [job crafting] seems to facilitate moving around in ways that help to optimize what it is that person is doing in their work.”

Where to begin

Working Out Loud is one way to practice crafting your job, by helping you deepen relationships related to your goals, and by giving you greater access to knowledge that makes you more effective.

If you’re one of the unhappy people who filled out the last employee survey, you can form a WOL Circle and begin. (Dr. Wrzesniewski wrote, “Perhaps job crafting’s best feature is that it’s driven by you, not your supervisor.”) 

If you’re one of the people responsible for improving survey results, consider a different kind of change program. When you make it easier and safer for employees to Work Out Loud, you're making it possible for them to feel better and work better.