Wholesale distribution is perceived by some as not such a sexy industry. What then can you do to engage your employees in tasks that are not interesting or may seem insignificant in nature? What can you do to prevent them from leaving your company simply because they don’t feel excited about their jobs? What can you do to help them make the most of their current jobs?

These questions are especially important considering that the majority of your future employees will be Millennials, individuals who value meaningful experience and impactful tasks more than competitive compensation and benefits. The answers to these questions can be found in an innovative solution called job crafting.

Job crafting is a term coined by two American professors, Amy Wrzesniewski and Jane Dutton, as a result of their research on how people in unglamorous jobs managed to cope with what we might consider as “devalued work.” In their very first study (Wrzesniewski & Dutton, 2001), they targeted hospital janitors; the researchers interviewed the cleaning staff of a major Midwest hospital in the U.S. What they discovered took them by surprise: the hospital’s cleaners didn’t see themselves as part of the janitorial staff; instead, they saw themselves as an integral part of the professional healing team. With this belief, the cleaners offered the patients and their families support in small but meaningful ways: a box of Kleenex, a glass of water, or a word of encouragement. One housekeeper reported rearranging pictures on the walls of a comatose patient’s room, with the hope that the change of scenery might have some positive effect. These small gestures are great examples of job crafting.

So, what is job crafting? In simple terms, job crafting means “the job holder expands his or her existing job expectations or job description to meet his or her desire to make a difference.” More specifically, these employees make a voluntary and self-initiated effort to modify their jobs (the number, scope, and type of work activities) and their social interactions (the quality and amount) at work by changing resources and job demands so as to align their work with their personal preferences, abilities and motivation. By proactively crafting their jobs, employees are able to improve their work conditions, achieve or optimize their work goals (Tims, Bakker, & Derks, 2012) and adapt to ongoing changes in the workplace (Petrou, Demerouti, & Schaufeli, 2015). In this sense, the employees are redesigning their jobs all the time. They are not just doing what is expected of them, they are finding ways to add meaning to their work.

Ample research shows that when there is an increase in job resources (social support, feedback and leadership) and an increase in challenging job demands (work pressure, cognitive demands and emotional demands), employees tend to perform better. Further, if employees possess attributes such as an engaging personality, self-confidence, personal initiative and a willingness to change, they are likely to craft their jobs proactively.

Here are three learning points for you to take away:

  1. Make the “meaning’ connection.” To job craft is to reframe how we relate to our job, to think about how our work affects others and to look at the higher purpose of our work. When we know that what we do is meaningful, we will take our job more seriously, work harder and perform better. So help your employees see the significance of their job in the larger context, as did the cleaning staff in the Midwest hospital.
  2. Find the job crafters. Identify candidates who have the personal traits that will drive them to make the most out of their jobs, regardless of the job conditions. You can accomplish this goal through a variety of means during job interviews, for example, by conducting a personality assessment, asking for evidence of proactive behaviors and proven records, engaging candidates in your company-specific job scenarios and inviting the candidate to work with your team.
  3. Promote job-crafting behaviors. Use coaching or mentoring opportunities to influence the way employees perceive their jobs and their potential contribution to a higher purpose. Provide training and exemplary job-crafting cases to teach employees how to craft their jobs. Educate your senior leaders and middle managers on the benefits of job crafting so that they will actively facilitate job-crafting behaviors.

As an employee-initiated, bottom-up approach, job crafting is more than a job (re)design strategy. It also facilitates learning and development, ownership and accountability, and engagement and retention. When utilized properly, even small job crafting can make a big impact.


Petrou, P., Demerouti, E., & Schaufeli, W. B. (2015). Job crafting in changing organizations: Antecedents and implications for exhaustion and performance. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 20, 470-480. doi:10.1037/a0039003

Tims, M., Bakker, A. B., & Derks, D. (2012). Development and validation of the Job Crafting Scale. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 80, 173-186. doi:10.1016/j.jvb.2011.05.009

Wrzesniewski, A., & Dutton, J. E. (2001). Crafting a job: Revisioning employees as active crafters of their work. Academy of Management Review, 6, 179-201. doi:10.5465/AMR.2001.4378011

Learn even more by reading Optimizing Human Capital Development: A Distributor’s Guide to Building Sustainable Competitive Advantage Through Talent Strategy. Use this tool to achieve business excellence by maximizing your human capital potential!