No matter where you sit in your organization, you can’t escape the push to use data to inform your next steps and strategy, nor should you. The amount of data available at your fingertips may vary, but I’d bet dollars to donuts that you have enough to help you improve decision-making, both for yourself and your organization.
“But I’m not a trained researcher, or a data scientist, or a….” I hear you begin to clamber.
Luckily, you don’t need letters after your name to be a smart consumer of data and findings. You only need patience and confidence as you thoughtfully consider the information in front of you. Remember that while you may not be a statistical wizard, you do bring your own flavor of insight and expertise to the table.
There is a lot of talk lately about data, especially big data, and how it can be used to help organizations learn more about the people connected to them: employees and customers. The term data science gets tossed around casually, now that we have the tools and computing power to trivially handle these massive, often unstructured, data sets.
Luckily, in addition to the recent influx of interest, there are many established experts in this space who are helping to guide the conversation about how people data should, and should not be used, both from an ethical and practical standpoint.
At gothamCulture, authentic community is one of our five core values. As you may have read on our website, “We connect with each other in authentic ways because we know that together we can do more than any of us could alone. Each of us plays a unique part in fostering a community of involvement and inclusion.”
This sounds nice, but what does it mean? And more importantly, what does it look like in action?
The landscape at work has changed drastically over the last several decades. According to the United States Department of Labor, women constituted 47% of the workforce in 2012, up from 38% in 1980. Employees over 55 years old have grown from 12% of the workforce in 1992 to 21% in 2012, and are projected to make up 26% of the workforce by 2022.
Additionally, a telephone survey commissioned by Flex+Strategy Group / Work+Life Fit, Inc. in December 2013 found that 31% of respondents reported they do most of their work away from their employer’s location, including home, coffee shops, and business centers.
With this changing workforce has come the need for changing workplace policies. At a time when many organizations are looking for non-monetary benefits and perks to attract and retain employees, flexible work arrangements should be part of the solution, benefitting employees as well as their employing organizations.
Defining Flexible Work Arrangements
This may leave you wondering, “What are flexible work arrangements?” While telecommuting may be first thing that comes to mind, there are several categories of flexible work arrangement that have emerged over time:
1. Flexible location. This describes where work is done. Rather than working from a standard office, this can include work from home, a satellite office, a coworking space, a client site, a coffee shop, or while traveling. A flexible location arrangement is a great tool for retaining workers who do not live near the employer’s office or cannot make it into the office on a regular basis.
This benefits remote workers who don’t live near the office, must move away from the office, or can only commute to the office a few days a week. For instance, an employee might live in rural Minnesota but work for an organization based in Chicago, or an employee may need to move away from the DC-based office to be near family in Houston.
2. Flexible schedule. This describes when work is done. It can include compressed workweeks (i.e., four ten-hours work days, instead of five eight-hour workdays), alternative schedules (e.g., 10am to 7pm or 7am to 3pm during the workweek), or the ability to shift work with arrangements made to fit the employee’s needs.
Flexible schedules work well for those who have other commitments that prevent them from working a standard workday. For example, a parent may work while his/her child is at school and finish the workday after their child goes to sleep. Another employee might live on the west coast and work for a company on the east coast, and start his/her workday at 7am so he has more overlap with his coworkers on the east coast. Another employee may start his workday at 11am so he can use the morning to train for his upcoming Iron Man Competition.
3. Flexible hours. This describes the amount of hours worked, and can include part time work, job shares, and other alternatives to the 40-hour workweek. This type of flexibility accommodates individuals who need to work less than full time, or at times other than the “standard” 9 to 5.
For example, an employee may be of retirement age, but still want or need to work, so they may choose to work in a part time capacity. An employee may wish to work on weekends, or take night shifts, so they can be available to take care of his or her family during the week, while another may work part time during the day to make ends meet while they pursue their own passions.
An individual employee may take advantage of one or more of the types of flexibility, either simultaneously (e.g., working part time from home) or at different times of the week (e.g., work part time with one work from home day a week,).
The Benefits of Flexible Work Arrangements
While millennial’s workplace expectations have been discussed as a driving force behind increasing flexibility in the workplace, all generations of employees can benefit from increasing availability of flexible work arrangements.
Such arrangements can afford employees the time and ability to meet the needs of their lives outside of the office, something that may be more valuable to them than monetary benefits or office perks. Working caregivers, such as parents or those responsible for aging parents, can benefit greatly from flexible work arrangements. From picking children up from school to taking a parent or spouse to an appointment, flexible work arrangements enable individuals to balance the demands of their personal lives while still fulfilling their duties as an employee.
Organizations stand to benefit from flexible work arrangements, too. And many of these benefits are discussed by SHRM at length.
Organization may be able to retain employees that they would otherwise have to let go. For example, an employee who becomes a primary care giver can utilize an alternative work schedule or reduced hours, and an employee who must move for his or her spouse’s job can work remotely.
Research also demonstrates that work arrangement flexibility can lead employees to have higher levels of job satisfaction, engagement, and performance through increased control over when and where work gets done. It allows employees to make decisions to better fit their work and work styles.
Flexible work arrangements can also result in less absenteeism and fewer accidents because employees have more flexibility to take care of responsibilities outside of work, work from home when sick (which has the added benefit of not getting others sick), and choosing to work when they are most able to do so safely and productively.
Flexible work arrangements can be an important part of creating a dynamic and diverse workplace. They can help your organization and your employees manage the competing demands of daily life. How have you integrated flexible work arrangements into your benefits package?
When thinking about ways to encourage employee engagement, many leaders rely on costly interventions, activities, and incentives in an attempt to force engagement through participation. Unfortunately, such approaches can be not only expensive, but also uninspiring and ineffective.
However well intentioned, employees likely won’t buy into these initiatives unless they are already actively engaged in the organization and their own roles within it. Such initiatives are likely to miss the very employees they need to reach the most.
What if organizations empowered their employees to become more engaged on their own? Rather than forced activities and incentives around stringent job roles, what if employers enabled employees to reframe and reimagine their own jobs to better fit their skills and interests, engaging them in a way that makes their work more personally meaningful without top-down intervention?
What Is Job Crafting?
Job crafting is the term organizational researchers use to describe the process through which individuals shape their personal experiences at work to increase meaningfulness, leading to great satisfaction and engagement.
Jane Dutton and her colleague Amy Wrzesniewski originally discovered this phenomenon while studying hospital janitors in hopes of better understanding how individuals cope with jobs that consist of undervalued work. In so doing, the two researchers found that some of the janitorial staff saw themselves at an integral part of the entire hospital care staff, rather than simply janitors.
These janitors, despite having identical job roles to others, went above and beyond. Some befriended patients and their families; others brought tissues, water, or a smile. In short, these janitors continued to do their core tasks (i.e., keeping the hospital clean and tidy) but then chose to expand their responsibilities to include tasks that meant more fulfilling work for them and greater benefits for the patients and the hospital.
So, what does this mean for you and your employees? Even though the work to understand job crafting began with janitors, job crafting enables every working individual to tailor their job to better fit their skills and interests.
The Three Types of Job Crafting
Job crafting falls into three main categories: task crafting, relational crafting, and cognitive crafting.
Task crafting describes how employees modify the responsibilities specified by their job descriptions to increase task significance, variety, or identity. This can be achieved by adding or subtracting tasks, modifying the tasks themselves, or altering the amount of time, energy and attention allocated for particular tasks.
Relational crafting describes how employees modify how, when, or with whom they interact while performing their jobs. This can mean adapting and growing current relationships so that both parties can provide and receive valuable support, and/or building new relationships for increased variety.
Cognitive crafting describes how employees can modify their interpretation of their current tasks and relationships to increase meaningfulness. This can mean thinking about the impacts of smaller tasks in the greater context of your job as a whole. It can mean thinking about individual pieces of a job, like particular relationships or projects that are satisfying and meaningful. It can also mean building connections between tasks or relationships at work with skills, abilities, or interests from outside of work.
Employees each choose to engage in the job crafting behaviors that help them build the job that is right for them.
How to Enable Job Crafting In Your Organization
Here are three guidelines to follow in order support job crafting in your organization.
Employees can engage in job crafting behaviors when they feel like that have the room to do so. Empowering employees by giving them latitude in how they perform their job allows them to carry out their work in ways that are satisfying and meaningful to them.
Lead by Example
Learn to craft your own job by reflecting on what parts of your job you find most meaningful and which are less satisfying. Are there interests, skills, abilities, or relationships you would like to incorporate into your role? By determining what you can modify about your own job to increase your engagement at work, you may motivate others to be thoughtful about how they can craft their work.
Make yourself a resource and a mentor
Even though job crafting is primarily self-driven, you should make yourself available to coach your employees while they learn about, and experiment with job crafting. By serving as a sounding board for new ideas and questions, you can guide employees toward productive behaviors and help them identify what may not be as beneficial to them or their growth. By serving as a resource to your employees, you can help remind them of limits as well as expectations that may affect their decisions.
As a leader, allowing flexibility around job roles and responsibilities might feel daunting. It might also be exciting, yet intimidating to your direct reports. But, by empowering your team to adopt more personally meaningful work into their current roles, you’re showing them that their interests and goals are important to you and the organization as a whole.
By giving them flexibility and guidance, they can ultimately find self-tailored ways to further engage in their own role. And that will be far more effective for them, and your organization in the long term.