create meaning

3 Ways to Create Meaning for Employees (Besides Money)

Have you ever heard a co-worker, friend, or family member complain about their current work situation? Sometimes it’s about money. Other times it’s about a lack of real leadership. Here’s one you may have heard before, too: “I just feel like my job has no meaning.”

Is this a fresh perspective among workers? Does it signify some sort of widespread revelation in the workplace? Nope. Not at all.

Back in 2018, the Harvard Business Review explained how nine out of 10 people were willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work.

Four years later, the sentiment is the same.

Today, more than half of workers say their professional ambition is not tied to being part of a company. And a recent survey seems to suggest that “workers value both meaning and transparency at work.”

In short, people want to feel fulfilled at work. They want to be themselves. The days of clocking in and “transforming” from citizen to professional for eight hours a day, five days a week, are over. The sooner business leaders understand this—especially as it pertains to the demands of a younger workforce—the easier it will be to connect with their workers.

So, how can employers create meaningful work for their staff? Here are three steps to consider.

1) Define the job.

The least meaningful job is the one that is not clearly defined. Sure, your staffers will have read and reviewed their job descriptions with an HR rep or manager when they were brought aboard.

But how often has it been revisited?

Is there an opportunity to discuss and adjust on the fly?

Are employees invited to participate in the evolution of their roles and responsibilities?

Business leaders should set a precedent for empowering employees. When you give them an active voice to make a difference—with their own team members in their department (if not companywide)—then you help them create meaning at work.

From there, all you have to let them do is follow the plan that they helped create.

In short: Define the job. Evolve as necessary. Stick to the plan. 

Related: Tips for Successfully Hiring and Retaining College Graduates

2) Pinpoint their purpose.

What value is your employee bringing to the company? What does this look like? How are you communicating it to them?

Business leaders must make an employee’s purpose abundantly clear at every stage of their employee life cycle. Job descriptions must include PURPOSE. The onboarding process must reiterate PURPOSE. The on-site communications must reinforce PURPOSE.

Okay, but what is purpose, really? It’s the link between an employee’s JOB and the IMPACT it has on your customers’ experience. For example:

A copywriter writes copy (their job) that helps customers understand everything they need to know about your business, product, or services (their purpose).

A business development specialist communicates with customers (their job) to help them determine that your products or services are the best (their purpose).

A coder writes code (their job) to help customers enjoy the most user-friendly experiences (their purpose).

So if the job is what a person does, then their purpose is the reason they do it.

It may sound obvious as a theory, but is it made clear in practice at your workplace?

When employees understand what their purpose is, they’ll be more likely to find meaning in their work.

Related: The strong business case for giving employees a sense of purpose  

3) Show them their impact.

Do any of your employees have any clue as to what sort of impact they’re making? I’m not talking about the high-level C-suite executives (although they should certainly be expected to illustrate the impact they’re making, too).

No, I’m talking about the folks who get the tasks, complete the projects, and keep busy busy busy day after day. Without an opportunity to step away from the daily grind, these employees won’t be able to see the impact they’re making. As a consequence, they struggle to find meaning in their work.

That’s the problem. But what’s the solution? Communicate with your employees. Set achievable goals and then measure them against performance indicators. Review their accomplishments, and, what’s more, celebrate them. Check-in as often as possible, and when you do, be as specific as possible in your feedback.

Related: 4 Tips for Employee Performance Reviews That Actually Work 

To recap, here’s how to help your employees find meaning at work:

  • Invite employees to define their own job roles and responsibilities—and then stay true to them.
  • Connect these roles and responsibilities to a meaningful outcome among customers and your company.
  • Create opportunities for your employees to step away from their day-to-day and see exactly how they’re contributing.

For more business leadership tips—or personalized assistance with talent and workforce solutions—come back to our blog, check out our resources, or contact us today!