To make working as positive an experience as possible, the majority of Swiss employees strives to adapt the tasks in their jobs to their own needs and aspirations. Of approximately 1,400 respondents, 80% procure greater resources by gaining support through personal relationships. Some two-thirds of those surveyed seek out new challenges, and just over 30% alleviate emotional, physical or mental stress by reducing the pace of their work. The term job crafting is the umbrella term for measures of this kind, and is a phenomenon examined by Professor Gudela Grote at ETH Zurich and Professor Bruno Staffelbach at the University of Zurich in the eighth edition of the Swiss HR Barometer.
Whether employees perceive their work as satisfactory, stressful or boring is the result of the interplay between job crafting and the company's work design efforts. This year's HR Barometer shows that three-quarters of employees are happy with their jobs. One in ten is occasionally bored by their work. At the same time, three-fifths of employees frequently suffer stress as a result of their jobs, and two-thirds report sleeping problems that they attribute to their employment situation. The high job satisfaction contrasts with the high levels of stress experienced by the surveyed employees. “The latter is especially alarming because a positive work experience is the basis for motivation, well-being and employee performance”, explains Bruno Staffelbach, Professor for Human Resource Management at the University of Zurich.
Job crafting does not replace poor work design
The results of the HR Barometer suggest that job crafting is not a substitute for formal work design. Rather, company measures and job crafting complement and enhance one other and together contribute to creating a positive or negative work experience. To benefit from positive mutual reinforcement of the two factors, the study recommends that employers promote job crafting by increasing employee involvement and their ability to exert influence over their own work activities. “The option to participate enables employees to address issues and opportunities at an early stage and work on them together with the employer”, emphasises Gudela Grote, Professor of Work and Organisational Psychology at ETH Zurich.
Companies can also positively change the work experience and promote job crafting using conventional workplace resources. In particular, feedback on work carried out and a high variety of tasks have a positive impact on the work experience. Companies in Switzerland score high marks for these two aspects: over 80% of respondents perceive their work as diverse, and two-thirds report that they receive sufficient feedback for their work. In contrast, there is room for improvement in the categories of autonomy and the perceived significance of the job.
Managers play a major role in defining the work experience of employees. Employees who feel supported socially and professionally by their managers experience less stress and are happier at work. Overall, the surveyed employees rate their managers highly: three-quarters of employees describe their relationship to their supervisors as good. The appeal to employers is to further support managerial staff in their tasks and responsibilities. Respondents with a managerial role more frequently report suffering more stress than those without any managerial tasks.
One factor that has a positive impact on work is a fulfilled psychological contract, i.e. a balanced exchange relationship between employees and employers. This is predicated on transparent communication between employers and employees and the clear definition of mutual expectations. Feedback discussions are a good way of ensuring this. However, many companies seem to miss this opportunity – it appears that regular feedback discussions are only held with half of the employees surveyed.
Employees rely less on their employers
Trends in recent years show that the share of respondents with an independent career orientation has increased. Independent-minded career types plan and shape their career independently beyond organisational borders and therefore switch companies more frequently. A quarter of those surveyed identify themselves as belonging to this career type. The vast majority of employees, however, still uphold traditional notions of what a career is: they expect the employer to provide continuity and development prospects. In turn, these employees demonstrate a stronger sense of loyalty towards the company.
“The increase in the number of independent career types is quite possibly an answer to the fact that companies are guaranteeing less and less stability, which can give rise to doubts about the permanence of internal paths to advancement”, says Bruno Staffelbach. Indeed, job insecurity has risen in Switzerland since 2009: approximately one-third of those surveyed are currently worried about losing their jobs. Moreover, half of respondents are concerned about restructuring or the possibility that their job could change in a negative way.
The Swiss HR Barometer
The Swiss HR Barometer studies how employees in Switzerland perceive their work situation. The survey looks at aspects such as mutual expectations and employee and employer opportunities as a component of working relationships (psychological contract), practices in Human Resource Management such as work planning and personnel development, management, job satisfaction, employability and career orientation. The study is published periodically by Professor Gudela Grote, Professor of Work and Organizational Psychology at ETH Zurich, and Professor Bruno Staffelbach, Head of the Chair in Human Resource Management at the University of Zurich.
The basis for the HR Barometer 2014 is a survey of 1,401 employees based on the sample registry of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. The survey took place between March and June 2014 in the German-speaking, French-speaking and Italian-speaking areas of Switzerland. The current edition focusses on the themes of work experience and job crafting.
The HR Barometer 2014 was conducted with the support of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF).
Gudela Grote und Bruno Staffelbach (Hrsg.): Schweizer HR-Barometer 2014: Arbeitserleben und Job Crafting. Zürich 2012. Universität Zürich und ETH Zürich. ISBN 978-3-033-04783-9.