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Rob Baker’s consultancy helps employers to make the most of their workforce’s potential by showing them how to craft jobs around their talent and experience.
Rob Baker is keen to change employers’ mindsets so that they and their employees can achieve their full potential. He sees the traditional approach to job design as being about slotting people into pre-ordained roles which he says is outdated and doesn’t embrace the diversity of their experience.
He founded the Tailored Thinking consultancy to transform how we see jobs and talent and make it fit for a future of fast-paced change and innovation.
Rob’s background is in HR and he has worked in a variety of roles, most recently at the University of Melbourne. He was keen to develop his knowledge further, but a traditional MBA didn’t appeal. The University was launching a master’s in positive psychology at its world-leading positive psychology centre so he signed up for that on the side of his day job. Learning about the science around people’s approach to work left him frustrated. “We know a lot about the science, but a lot of that knowledge is not applied,” he says. Through his studies he had come across job crafting and he decided to start experimenting, setting up workshops during his lunch hour and publishing his research findings. “My interest was in how we can make people’s jobs better based on the idea that one size doesn’t fit all and that everyone benefits if people can bring themselves into their work and we can tap into the diverse experience and talent across the workforce,” he says. “The more I have explored this topic, the more I am convinced that there are real opportunities and potential from taking a job crafting approach,” adds Rob.
Three and a half years ago Rob moved back to the UK and set up Tailored Thinking, a positive psychology and well being consultancy. It has recently been shortlisted by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development as HR Consultancy of the Year.
Rob, author of Personalization at Work: How HR Can Use Job Crafting to Drive Performance, Engagement and Wellbeing, says that well being is implicit in everything he does with employers. “The feeling you get from performing your job well is part of your well being and vice versa. It’s a virtuous circle,” he says.
After the early crisis management days of the pandemic, employers are looking at planning for the next phase, he adds. “People are recognising that well being is multi-faceted,” he says. When he works with employers he emphasises that they must have several things in place in order to get the most out of job crafting and personalisation of work, including the right policies and/or framework for flexible working and employees who feel they can change things, for instance, because they have the encouragement and endorsement of their managers. That can come down to how the organisation sets people’s expectations, for instance, do they share stories about people working flexibly or taking parental leave and is information on policies accessible and publicised.
Rob is passionate about changing the traditional default of designing jobs that fit into a 35-40 hour a week block. “We need to recognise that jobs will have to be more agile and changeable. They will be more project-based. That will mean workers have different expectations and support needs. Rather than ignore this and expecting people to slot into what employers tell them to, they need to think about jobs in a different way,” he says.
That might mean, for instance, reserving three days for core expectations and then moulding the rest of the week – if they want to do more than three days – around the individual who is doing it, in collaboration with them. That will mean playing to their strengths, interests and experience, for instance, they could bring their skills to bear on cross-organisational policies.
Rob says some employers he speaks to are sceptical about change. He states: “Their mindset is based on a fixed notion of particular jobs that can be replicated. They need to be less rigid and more focused on output and move from a top down approach towards a more flexible one built on mutual trust.”
*Look out for more in-depth Q & A with Rob on how to tackle job crafting next week.