How to Make Your Work More Meaningful
Work is no longer about finding a job that pays the bills. Today’s employees want to feel their work has meaning and is purposeful.
While some professions – nursing, teaching, law enforcement, etc. – are more widely viewed as being worthwhile than others, virtually any job can be considered “meaningful work” as long as it provides the person doing it with personal satisfaction, fulfillment, or a sense of purpose.
Defining meaningful work.
The definition of meaningful varies widely from person to person based on what their motivations, upbringing, culture, or individual beliefs are. It’s entirely possible that two people performing the same job and in the same environment might have vastly different opinions about whether they would consider their work “meaningful.” It’s also equally possible that two people performing completely different jobs could list the same reasons why they find their job meaningful.
Impact of meaningful work.
Employees who get a sense of purpose from their work generally tend to be more engaged and productive, while those who don’t find their work meaningful tend to be lower performers and are less likely to feel connected to what they do, the company they work for, or their coworkers. These feelings of purposelessness can also spill over into employees’ personal lives, leading to problems in their relationships and even poorer physical health, which in turn affects their performance at work in a continuing cycle.
In addition to being a drain on productivity, workers who don’t consider their work to be meaningful can also negatively impact the morale of the entire company. Companies that manage to help their employees find meaning in what they do, however, often find that they have a culture that employees actually want to be a part of and value. Employees who view the work they do as meaningful also won’t be as easily swayed to leave, making a meaningful workplace an incredibly valuable tool to help employers recruit and retain top talent.
Avoid productivity drains by promoting emotional wellness at work. Read our blog on Addressing Emotional Wellness in the Workplace.
How to foster meaningful work.
Because the factors that make work meaningful are so dependent on the individual performing the work, creating a culture and environment that helps employees find purpose and pride in what they do can be a daunting task for employers. There is, however, a process that can help companies help employees find meaning in their work:
- Start with your employees. Like most employee initiatives, you’ll need to actually involve your employees in the process if you want your changes to be effective and authentic. A great place to start is by simply asking your employees if they find their work meaningful in an anonymous online survey. The results from this survey will help you establish a baseline for whether or not your employees already find their work meaningful. You might next want to create an internal committee or conduct a focus group to learn more about what motivates your team and get input on what the company can do to help foster a deeper sense of purpose. That initial survey can also be conducted again and again as your company implements changes to assess whether they’re effective or not.
- Establish the company’s mission/vision and communicate it to every worker.
Every company has a mission. But not every company does a good job of making sure every worker knows what that mission is. Having a mission that each member of your team knows and understands is critical when helping your employees find meaning in what they do. After all, how can anyone identify with your company’s mission if they can’t identify what it is?
- Connect each role at the company with its mission.
Depending on how complex your company’s product or service is, it can be difficult for those on the frontlines or elsewhere within the organization to appreciate the role they play in helping the company achieve its mission. Finding ways to communicate the impact each person has on the final product, service, or other outcome is essential in helping employees understand why their work matters. Similarly, creating opportunities for employees to brainstorm new ideas or provide feedback on the organization can also help employees connect with the company and feel like they can contribute in a meaningful way to its mission.
- Make appreciation and recognition an integral part of the company culture.
It may sound simple, but sometimes all it takes to help someone consider the work they do valuable is to be thanked for doing it – and that “thank you” doesn’t always have to come from the boss or customer to be impactful. Many workers find appreciation or recognition from their coworkers just as meaningful as company-wide recognition. If your company doesn’t already have employee appreciation or recognition programs in place, consider implementing some. If your existing programs are feeling a bit stale, maybe it’s time to brainstorm ways for your employees to recognize each other.
Creating a meaningful work culture can sound like such an abstract and overwhelming project, but the good news is that doesn’t have to be accomplished all at once or require you to put all other projects on hold. It’s something you and your employees can work toward together over time, making incremental changes as you go and adapting as necessary to meet the needs of your business and workforce.