Sculpting Your Workforce for a High Impact Talent Experience


More energy, more engagement, more work-shaping!

In our 2020 Talent Experience series, we wanted to expand on the power of Job Sculpting or Work Shaping conversations and how that can impact your employee experience.

Job-sculpting, which is also known as work-shaping, is going to be very much part of the way we work in what Josh Bersin calls The Pixelated Workforce. In this world, we need to understand the skills, talents and best assets of all our people and allow your people to contribute to their maximum potential. This requires that each manager in your organization has visibility to the talent and capability of each employee, and can craft a work experience that allows them to contribute to their best potential. In today’s world that is defined by scrum and agile methodologies, that can mean that people are simultaneously contributing to multiple projects.

Work Shaping Talent Experience Fuel50

To maximize engagement and contribution we need to understand the work preferences of our employees, and shape the work experience accordingly. There are pay-offs at both the engagement and productivity levels. Work-shaping has been shown to make substantial differences in engagement and satisfaction, resulting in decreased attrition and an improved bottom line.

Alignment grows over time as the employee and the employer connect across multiple levels of a “needs hierarchy”. So, to aid your efforts in building a best-in-class talent experience, here are some simple ways to improve work-shaping at all levels of the “work-shaping pyramid”.

Level 1: Physical work-shaping

This level includes location, hours, employment contracts (particularly relating to job security), work flexibility, and specific agreed-upon work tasks that are non-negotiable in the role.

Action? Work-life balance.

Consider the option of a four-day workweek. A 2013 Global Career Agility Trends Survey showed 61% of professionals would prefer to work four days per week or fewer, instead of five days. 36% would even take a lower salary for this schedule!

If scheduling is controlled by HR or at the senior level, try giving managers more decision-making power for their teams. Our research showed that most people want around four flex hours per month. It’s often about employees having the opportunity to fit in that dentist appointment. These scheduling changes are minor and may not need to be reviewed by higher-ups.

Try phasing in a work-from-home policy that expands as employees gain seniority. This will ensure employees prove their ability to be productive from home and provide a reward for tenured staff.

Level 2: Social work shaping

This level includes social contact, teamwork, and the sense of belonging. A social workforce is a win-win for employees and employers. Teamwork not only increases engagement; it can make employees more productive by improving communication and eliminating departmental information silos.

Action? Support co-worker comradery. 

Support after-work employee resource groups and office sports leagues. When employees at different levels socialize, it can make mentoring a more natural process, which supports career development.

Provide a nice space in the office for employees to gather and eat lunch. This can also encourage employees to take a break from work during lunch to de-stress.

Allow time during regular meetings for employees to recognize one another for their hard work.

Level 3: Talent shaping

It’s critical to ensure that the largest portion of any job is a good or at least reasonable reflection of the employee’s true strengths. Research published by the Gallup Institute confirms that Generation X, Millennials, and Baby Boomers are at their most engaged when they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.2

Action? Identify talents and create plans to develop them.

Encourage employees to try their hand at a variety of tasks to see where they excel. Identifying talents is often a trial and error process, especially for less tenured employees.

Understand that people will want to develop new talents during their career. Being great at something can mean it isn’t always challenging. Make sure employees don’t get pigeonholed doing tasks they become tired of.

Level 4: Purpose and work-shaping

Research shows that employees have a fundamental desire to find meaning in their work.3 This isn’t surprising – people want to know they are doing something that is making a difference, either for themselves or someone else. Although this level sits on the top of the pyramid, in some circumstances, employees value alignment at this level more than certain lower-level material needs such as salary.

Action? Focus on purpose.

Make sure employees know how their work contributes to the big picture, both inside their organization and to the people the organization serves. For example, the street sweeper who reframes his mundane job as “making a better place for those around me.”

Share success stories from customers/clients so employees can see how they have contributed to a specific positive outcome.

Explain when certain departments or individuals played a key role in helping with a company enhancement or achievement.

So, focus on these four factors and you’ll be on your way to a more engaged, energized workforce – all part of building a best-in-class talent experience!

Joint ownership for work-shaping works best when a manager facilitates and enables work-shaping to happen and an employee is given the resources and opportunity to make some shaping changes to their role.

We have to accept that many job requirements will be “givens” in any role and non-negotiable, but within most roles today there will be “alterable” aspects that can be shaped to fit with the individual preferences and therefore increase what is termed “person-job fit.” 4

For more information on any of these insights, check out our book ‘The Career Engagement Game’ by Anne Fulton and Jo Mills (Co-Founders of Fuel50).

Click here to download a preview version of the book!


The Career Engagement Game: Shaping Careers for an Agile Workforce. Fuel50, 2014.

2 The Gallup Institute (2013). State of the American Workplace: Employee engagement insights for US business leaders. Retrieved from:

3 Rosso, B.D., Dekas, K.H. and Wrzesniewski, A. (2010). On the meaning of work: A theoretical integration and review. Research in Organizational Behavior, 30, 91–127.

4 For an introduction to the scientific definition of this construct see Edwards, J.R. (1991). Person–Job Fit: A conceptual integration, literature review, and methodological critique. In C.L. Cooper and I.T. Robertson (eds), International Review of Industrial and Organizational Psychology (vol. 6). John Wiley & Sons, New York, pp. 286–357; and more recently Oh, I.S., Guay, R.P., Kim, K., Harold, C.M., et al. (2014). Fit happens globally: a meta-analytic comparison of the relationships of person–environment fit dimensions with work attitudes and performance across East Asia, Europe, and North America. Personnel Psychology, 67(1), 99–152.

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