Can Job Crafting unlock AI potential while improving nonprofit work life?

Jenny is a dedicated fundraiser at an animal shelter but often feels like she’s drowning. Her inbox overflows with unanswered emails, donor data sits in disorganized spreadsheets, and grant proposal deadlines loom. She loves her job, but often feels overworked and discouraged. Could AI help Jenny reach a new level of productivity and job satisfaction …or would it just be one more thing to add to her overloaded plate?

We’re all familiar with the challenges of work in the nonprofit world where endless to-do lists and lack of resources can leave people exhausted and questioning their impact. With artificial intelligence (AI) on the horizon, the stress levels seem even higher.

AI could hold the key to streamlining processes, reducing stress, and increasing job satisfaction, but only if people are able to integrate it actively and meaningfully into their daily work. Imposing AI on an already over-stretched workforce could backfire, leading to increased frustration and missed opportunities.

This is where job crafting enters the picture.

What is Job Crafting?

Job crafting empowers employees to proactively reshape their jobs. They do this by focusing on their strengths, interests, and values to improve how they perform their tasks, collaborate with others, and contribute to the organization’s mission.

Job crafting is a powerful tool for navigating technological disruptions like AI. When employees take charge of how AI integrates with their work, they’re more likely to see it as beneficial and actively find ways to improve their existing processes. This proactive, employee-led approach also helps organizations discover the areas where AI can have the greatest impact.

Types of Job Crafting

Job crafting can focus on different aspects of an employee’s role, and bring changes to one or more parts of their job.

  • Task Crafting: Modifying the specific tasks performed, taking on new ones, or dropping others to better align with skills and interests.
  • Relational Crafting: Changing how and with whom an employee interacts, enhancing collaboration, and potentially influencing team composition.
  • Cognitive Crafting: Reframing how one views their role’s purpose within the organization’s mission, broadening its perceived scope, or narrowing it for a more specialized focus.

(Source: Job Crafting, MIT Press, 2024)

How could Job Crafting help AI Adoption?

Job crafting empowers a workforce to be flexible, engaged, and ready to embrace AI. Employees actively identify areas where AI can best improve their work, boosting their engagement from the very start of the adoption process.

Additionally, when employees proactively shape their roles, they naturally seek out and collaborate with others whose strengths complement their own. This fosters the cross-functional teams that are essential for effective AI integration and success.

Giving employees control over how and when they get their work done fuels their adaptability during technological change. This autonomy empowers them to view AI as a positive tool for enhancing their work rather than as a disruptive threat.

Finally, the increased job satisfaction and sense of ownership that job crafting creates leads to greater commitment. Employees who take an active role in shaping their work are less likely to leave during AI implementation, minimizing costly disruptions and protecting the organization’s expertise.

Jenny embraced the concept of job crafting to reshape her role. She implemented AI tools to automate the organization of her emails and donor data, significantly streamlining these processes with an AI-powered CRM system. She organized regular training sessions where she shared her knowledge of AI tools, helping her team understand and adopt these technologies — strengthening team dynamics.

Jenny began to view herself not just as a fundraiser but as a tech-savvy innovator playing a crucial role in integrating technology into the shelter’s operations. This shift in mindset renewed her enthusiasm and commitment, as she saw her work contributing directly to the shelter’s mission in more impactful ways.

Job Crafting Tips for Nonprofit Leaders

Leaders play a crucial role in creating the environment where job crafting can make AI adoption successful.

  1. Grant Permission: Clearly communicate to employees that they have the go-ahead to explore how AI can integrate with and enhance their existing roles. Define the parameters of this exploration to ensure it aligns with the nonprofit’s overall tech strategy.
  2. Promote Psychological Safety: Create a workspace where employees feel safe to share ideas, try out AI tools, and learn from mistakes in a supportive setting. Managers can actively foster this safety through open dialogue and questions like “How might AI help address a challenge you face in your work?”
  3. Give Control: Encourage employees to find parts of their jobs where AI can make tasks easier. Encourage managers to be enablers not enforcers, clearing obstacles and championing employees’ AI-integrated experimentation.
  4. Provide Capacity: Dedicate resources, protected time, and access to AI training opportunities for employees. Emphasize the importance of these resources and celebrate successes in using AI to improve work processes.

Overcoming Barriers to Job Crafting

Job crafting can be challenging. Managers might fear disruption to established processes or feel a loss of control over how work is performed. Employees might struggle to envision how AI integrates with their roles, worry about displacement, or lack the technical confidence needed to explore possibilities.

To mitigate this, it’s important to transparently communicate the goals and potential benefits of job crafting. Offer AI-specific training, provide success examples of peer organizations, and establish clear guidelines for job crafting. Set expectations around which aspects of a job can be reshaped with AI in mind and define the process for doing so. Regularly assess your organization’s culture, ensuring psychological safety encourages exploring AI solutions.

Also take a critical look at your organizational structure. Flatter, project-based structures tend to offer more flexibility, facilitating employee ownership and allowing for the dynamic job shaping that AI implementation often demands.

Crafting a more energized and engaged workforce

In our rapidly changing world of technological advancements, job crafting isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a strategic imperative for nonprofits.

When nonprofit organizations empower employees to proactively shape their roles with AI, they create a more adaptable and engaged workforce. This approach helps reduce the burnout common in this sector and enhances overall well-being and productivity. It also ensures that employees feel they own these technological changes.

Nonprofits that encourage job crafting for AI adoption will see improved services, stronger donor relationships, and a greater impact on the communities they serve. For employees, job crafting could be path for AI adoption that connects them more strongly with the truly meaningful and impactful work they do to further their organizations’ missions.



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