Why Meaningful Work Really Does Matter

83812897[1]With heavy workloads and never-ending tasks, employees spend a lot of time at work. Since workers spend so much time on the job, it’s important that they understand how their work contributes to not only the company vision, but the greater good as well. With new generations entering the workforce, now, more than ever, employees want purpose and growth. Every individual needs to know they’re making a difference. Company vision and how it relates to the work they do is directly tied to employee engagement, health, and happiness.

Why Meaningful Work is Important
Meaningful work is not just about employee engagement. It’s about employee satisfaction. Meaningful work can impact and be tied to an individual’s core values, beliefs, sense of purpose, and even one’s calling. According to a recent report by the Society for Human Resource Management, a survey conducted by Paul Fairlie Consulting, an organizational research and consulting firm, found that meaningful work drives commitment, retention, and discretionary efforts above leadership, supervisors, co-workers, pay, and other factors thought to contribute to employee engagement. In fact, employees were 41% more likely to become interested and absorbed in their work if they had jobs that helped fulfill their life purpose. And, if employees had jobs that helped them achieve a life goal, they were 34% more likely to work beyond what was expected, while 52% were more likely to feel committed to their employer if their personal values were realized in the job they do.
Overall, the report showed that meaningful jobs had the second highest correlation – just below autonomy and recognition – with high work satisfaction, commitment, retention, and low burnout.

What Makes Work Meaningful
Whether you’re a business executive, an administrative assistant, a doctor, or an assembly worker, there’s purpose in every job. But, what makes a job meaningful? An article in Psychology Today explains that meaningful work consists of three main components. First, to be meaningful, the work your employers do must make sense. It’s important that employees understand what they’re being asked to do. Second, meaningful work must have a point. We all need to see how even the little day-to-day tasks matter, whether it’s crunching numbers or cleaning up the back office at the end of the work week. And, lastly, the work we do must benefit some greater good.

Communicate Your Employees’ Contributions
When you’re dealing with tedious or mundane tasks, feeling stressed, or working with difficult co-workers or customers, it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose of it all. To help make sure every member of your team realizes that their work is meaningful, it is important for you, as their leader, to regularly communicate their contribution to the team and the company. So, how do you do that? Patrick Lencioni, author of Three Signs of a Miserable Job, says managers should help their employees answer two fundamental questions: “Who am I helping?” and “How am I helping?”

To identify job relevance, managers must help each worker see who his or her job impacts. For some, this includes customers and clients, but for others the answer may not be so clear-cut. Make sure your employees understand who they are helping, whether its internal customers like co-workers and other departments, you the manager, or external customers directly.

To help employees understand how they are helping, it’s important to show them exactly what they do that makes a difference. The real answer to this question goes beyond a simple list of job descriptors or tasks to looking at why those functions matter to the people employees are helping.

To keep your employees from feeling irrelevant, go through the process of answering both fundamental questions “Who am I helping?” and “How am I helping?” for everyone who reports to you. Remember to continually remind and educate your employees that their work is meaningful, necessary, and important to you, the team, your company, and the customers you serve.

Taking time to help employees understand the meaning in their work will set your business apart as a great place to work. So, take the time to ask yourself if you’re answering these questions for your workforce. After all, as a manager and leader, who you are meant to help is your employees. You can help make a difference in their lives, their happiness, and in their work satisfaction by ensuring they understand why the work they do really does matter.

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