According to Michael Steger of CSU, there are three core components of meaningful work:
- the degree to which people find their work to have significance and purpose
- the contribution the work makes to finding broader meaning in life
- the desire and means for one’s work to make a positive contribution to the greater good
So what? Well, there are significant business benefits when employees feel their work is meaningful. It’s good for them AND very good for the business.
What Are the Business Benefits to Making Work Meaningful?
Here’s just a small sampling of the research that affirms the value of making work meaningful:
- Meaningful work is the single largest contributor to a positive employee experience (Globoforce)
- 57% of employees said "meaningful work" contributes most toward a positive workplace sentiment (Namely)
- Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work are more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations, reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and are 1.4 times more engaged (The Energy Project)
- Finding meaning in one's work has been shown to increase motivation, engagement, empowerment, career development, job satisfaction, individual performance and personal fulfillment, and to decrease absenteeism and stress (Research in Organizational Behavior).
- 9 Out of 10 People Are Willing to Earn Less Money to Do More-Meaningful Work (HBR)
Higher levels of employee engagement, people willing to work for less money, higher retention rates, AND improved performance! What business wouldn’t benefit from all of that?
To download additional stats on employee engagement, check out this comprehensive resource from Access Perks.
Are Your Employees Doing Work That’s Meaningful to Them?
Meaningfulness is, on one hand, a personal matter. What’s meaningful to one person may be less so to another. At the same time, people gravitate to work that has personal meaning to them and to companies that do work they see as important and noble.
The best way to find out if your employees see their work as meaningful is to ask them. Individual employees will tell you what inspires them and is intrinsically motivating. Then you’ll know what to feature in conversations with each employee so you infuse their work with relevant meaning.
You may also wish to ask people what gets in the way of their work feeling meaningful. Often, it’s repetitive tasks that have lost meaning because they’ve become rote. Mundane work takes away from employee engagement.
To restore meaning in any type of work, you’ll need to provide context. Remind employees WHY the work they’re doing matters in the bigger picture.
Next Steps for Making Work Meaningful and Increasing Employee Engagement
Research indicates that there are some easy steps you can take to make work more meaningful. Try these for starters:
- 65% of employees who report having had a meaningful discussion with their manager about their strengths describe themselves as flourishing at work (The VIA Institute on Character)
- Workers that were recognized in the last month are 29% more likely to agree that “The work we do at my organization has meaning and purpose for me” (Globoforce)
- 93% of workers, at companies with recognition programs tied to core values, agree the work they do has meaning and purpose (Globoforce)
It’s all about connecting the dots. Linking work to its higher purpose through recognition, for example, or personalizing the meaning of work by ennobling the individual employee and their contributions.
These are not difficult, expensive, sophisticated, or time-consuming shifts. At most, they require just a little bit of management training and practice. By linking work tasks to something bigger, managers will be showing the employees the WHY of work. That’s all it takes, really, to infuse work with meaning.