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How to make your employees' work more meaningful

Author:
Mikaela Clavel
Date Published:
August 2023
Length:
6
minute read
How to make your employees' work more meaningful

As humans we are brilliantly complex and beautiful creatures. But underneath all our weird and wild quirks there’s one thing that ever single person on the planet craves - and that’s meaning.

We thirst for meaning and for purpose, in life and in the work we do. In fact so much that employees who lack a sense of meaningfulness at work are 87% more likely to leave than those who do. Our own study - Fighting Turnover - also backs that up ranking meaningfulness as the third most significant factor that impacts turnover.

So meaningfulness matters. But what do we mean by it?

Putting it simply, meaningfulness refers to a sense of purpose, including how connected your team feels to their work and how motivated they are. If your employees feel like their work has meaning they’re more engaged, happier, will take less sick days, and are far less likely to quit.

In fact, employees who find work meaningful improve their performance by 33% and they’re 75% more committed. The downside? Only half of employees say their work is meaningful.. 

A strong sense of meaningfulness makes perfect business sense. That’s why measuring meaningfulness is one of the factors our engagement platform tracks. With this in mind, how can you increase meaningfulness for your employees and boost its temperature when you track it? Let’s dive into it…

1. Be clear on your purpose

If you have a strong purpose, it gives employees a sense of meaning and significance in their roles. When employees understand how their work contributes to your organisation's larger mission and societal impact, they’re more likely to find their tasks meaningful and fulfilling.

Ask yourself if your employees know what they’re working for and if they understand your company’s purpose. It doesn’t have to be complicated but it should be aspirational. Aim high. This is your chance to inspire your employees by capturing their hearts and their imaginations. 

Take some of these examples of purpose and mission statements:

  • Patagonia: Build the best product, Cause no unnecessary harm, Use business to protect nature, Not bound by convention
  • Microsoft: To empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more.
  • Disney: To entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling.

Don’t be scared of setting your sights high or daring to change the world. By having a clear purpose, and transparency to go with it, it makes it much easier for your employees to buy-in to what you’re doing, where you’re going and their own role in helping you get there.

Top Tips to clarify your purpose

  • Clarify the team's purpose:
    Clearly communicate the team's purpose and how it contributes to the organisation's broader goals. Help team members understand the impact and importance of their work, connecting it to a larger mission.
  • Connect work to personal values:
    Help team members identify how their work aligns with their personal values and passions. Explore how their individual strengths and interests can be utilised within their roles. When work feels personally meaningful, it increases engagement and motivation.
  • Create meaningful goals:
    Involve the team in setting meaningful goals that align with their purpose. Ensure that the goals are challenging yet attainable, and provide a sense of purpose and fulfilment when achieved. And don’t forget to regularly revisit and celebrate progress toward these goals!

2. Have a caring culture

If you double-down on caring about your employees, making an effort to understand them, asking them what they need, and taking their feedback on board then you will, by default, improve the meaningfulness of their work because they’ll be more invested in it. Want to find out more? Here's 8 principles that helps you to successfully build a culture of feedback. 

Take Montcalm London as an example. By using our AI-driven engagement platform, Montcalm were able to move away from asking their employees generic questions and, instead, ask relevant questions based on previous responses. 

By asking the right questions, at the right time, and personalising to their employees, Montcalm were able to promote the company’s culture and create a sustainable space for people to share openly and honestly, while also knowing they’ll be heard. The result? An increase in eNPS by 13%, from +16 to +29. Wow!

Top Tips to improve your culture

  • Cultivate a positive work culture:
    Develop a positive and supportive work culture where team members feel valued, respected, and connected. Encourage open communication, collaboration, and trust. When team members feel a sense of belonging and support, it enhances their overall sense of meaningfulness in their work.
  • Foster a sense of ownership
    Encourage team members to take ownership of their work and decisions. Empower them to contribute their ideas, creativity, and problem-solving skills. Give them autonomy and trust their judgement, allowing them to feel a deeper sense of meaning and responsibility.
  • Encourage collaboration and shared purpose
    Build a collaborative environment where team members work together toward a shared purpose. Create opportunities for cross-functional collaboration, teamwork, and knowledge sharing. Highlight the collective impact the team can make when working together.

3. Celebrate your wins

Positive reinforcement involves recognising and rewarding employees for their achievements, contributions, and efforts. When used effectively, it can significantly enhance their perception of meaningfulness in their roles.

And it ties back to purpose too. Positive reinforcement often highlights how employees' efforts align with your goals and mission. When employees receive feedback that explicitly ties their work to the bigger picture, they develop a clearer understanding of how their contributions contribute to your success, leading to a stronger sense of purpose.

With this in mind, you should strive to give feedback related to specific behaviours, since it helps employees join the dots between what they do every day and the positive impact it has on the larger organisation. Over time, it will nurture belief that the organisation cares about the employees and their work.

What’s more, regular positive reinforcement can help reduce feelings of burnout and stress. Employees who receive recognition for their hard work are less likely to feel overwhelmed and more likely to experience a sense of balance and well-being, making their work feel more meaningful. You can get even more tips on how to protect your employees from burnout here.

Top Tips to boost your winner streak

  • Provide opportunities for growth and development:
    Support the professional growth and development of team members. Offer training, mentorship, and opportunities to learn new skills. When team members see their personal and professional growth as a result of their work, it enhances their sense of meaningfulness.
  • Celebrate contributions:
    Regularly acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of team members. Recognize their efforts and the value they bring to the team. Celebrate individual achievements and milestones, reinforcing the meaningfulness of their work.
  • Share success stories:
    Share stories of how the team's work has made a positive difference. Highlight the impact and outcomes of their efforts to reinforce a sense of meaningfulness. Celebrate achievements and milestones, recognizing the team's contributions.

Fostering meaningfulness is way more than a ‘feel-good’ initiative; it makes perfect strategic and business sense, bringing with it a whole host of benefits that will be felt across every level of your organisation. Even your customers will sense it!

But we know it could be a bit hard to measure (if you don’t have the right tool), which is why we’ve added meaningfulness as one of our engagement metrics. By simply keeping track of the temperature, you can see how meaningful your employees find their work… and adjust your engagement strategy depending on how they feel.

For more insight and to find out what your employees really want, download our guide Fighting turnover: What matters the most to employees in 2023. Grab your copy here. Or do you rather discuss how to boost your employees' meaningfulness with one of our engagement experts? Then contact us here.

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Mikaela Clavel
About the Author
About the Author
About the Author
Om författaren
Mikaela Clavel

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