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Personalizing Jobs Gives Organizations an Engagement Boost, Research Finds

April 16, 2019 by Josh Hrala

Employee engagement is top of mind for tons of companies right now. And that’s a good thing because engaged employees are more productive, healthier, and generally enjoy their jobs a lot more than disengaged ones.

But how should organizations create an engaging environment? The traditional notion of offering leadership trainings and things of that nature don’t seem to be working.

Well, a team of researchers from Curtin University have just shed some more light on what it takes to make an engaging workplace. The core of their findings suggest that the best way to engage workers is to allow them to create the job that they want to perform.

“We found that employees who were encouraged to proactively craft their own jobs, such as by taking on a challenging new work project, learning a new skill, or brainstorming with a colleague to problem solve, were more likely to stay engaged at work,” said Caroline Knight, the study’s lead author.

In other words, organizations should empower workers to take on new projects that they actually want to take on. This allows employees to use their skills in a way that is meaningful to them and the business, creating a win-win situation.


The benefits of doing so are tremendous, too.

The Power of Engagement

“Employee engagement has been linked to increased wellbeing, organizational commitment, and work performance, but can also contribute to decreased burnout, sickness absence and turnover. It is essential for organizations to have engaged employees in order to remain competitive in the workforce,” Knight said.

“Part of our research looked at whether work initiatives driven by organizations and senior managers such as leadership training, increases in staffing, or improved communication and feedback systems, were as effective on employee engagement rates as those initiated by the employees themselves.”

It stands to reason that allowing workers to craft their own jobs would make them more engaged. After all, it enables them to do what they feel is important and even use skills that managers didn’t even know they have.

The team found that the best way to pull this off is to allow people to take control of projects and be challenged. A mundane issue probably won’t cut it here. The work has to be important to the worker if they are to feel fulfilled and engaged.


Now, the team didn’t go into a lot of detail as to what tasks work best here. However, it’s safe to say that different organizations are able to do this more than others. Some companies don’t have the ability to allow such flexibility. Still, if possible, it may be worth trying out – at least on a specific project.

Stress Management Is Also Super Important

Besides offering workers a better way to . . . work. The team also found that managers who take an interest in lowering employee stress also have more engaged workforces as a whole.

This can be done by offering programs that help alleviate stress, such as yoga classes, mindfulness seminars, and things of that nature. The team found that organizations that put emphasis on these programs helped stave off symptoms of depression and anxiety in their workforces, which obviously helps keep workers engaged but also keeps them happy and fulfilled.

This type of support has been gaining more and more attention lately as mental health issues become less and less taboo. You, as a manager, should want your staff members healthy both mentally and physically because, for one, it’s the right things to do and, two, how are people supposed to work when they are suffering?


The great news here is that there are a ton of different things managers can offer their staff members from flexible work arrangements to gym memberships.

The last piece of the puzzle is encouragement.

The Best Managers Encourage Greatness

Encouragement has been a hallmark of employee engagement strategy forever. After all, encouragement and support are two of the most important tasks a manager can perform.

“It is important for managers to be supporting and endorsing activities that encourage engagement, as employees may be reluctant to give up their working time to take part in something which they are not sure is endorsed by their manager,” Knight said.

“In addition, work engagement research suggests that employers and managers who are able to provide social support, feedback, and development opportunities for their employees, and help them manage their workload, time pressure, and emotional demands, are more likely to see positive outcomes.”

This part of the team’s research comes as no surprise. However, it’s nice to see that standard strategies are still working in today’s ever-changing workplace.

The Whole Picture

When you combine all of these tips, you walk away with a holistic approach to engagement. By allowing workers flexibility to do the jobs they want and take on challenges that they feel like they have solutions for, they will be more engaged in their task.

At the same time, managers can help overall engagement by supporting workers in every way they can. From helping workers to manage stress to helping them complete their tasks, managers should be there for their workers in a more holistic way than in the past. Back then, managers simply, well, managed, ensuring that the work got done. Now, managers have to pay more attention to how the work is getting done and how workers feel while doing it.

The team hopes that their findings help empower managers and employees to create better workplaces across the board. As with every study of this kind, we hope that more teams will look into modern approaches to engagement to help us better understand the process as a whole.

The team’s study was recently published in the European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology. You can read the full study here.

Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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