If there’s one big takeaway from our latest engagement trends and indexes report, it’s that employees everywhere are struggling to find true meaning in their work.
Even at top-ranked companies where people are otherwise happy with their employers, it’s not at all uncommon for employees to feel like the work they do doesn’t have much meaning.
Wondering if this finding applies to your workforce? Consider this: While you might view your job as meaningful, it doesn’t mean those around you do.
In fact, it’s very common for executives to be motivated by moving the business toward a big mission and vision—and with good reason. But your employees? For them, finding meaning at work is much more nuanced and internal. Until individuals can connect what they do each day to how it serves a greater good, there’s a good chance they’re just going through the motions.
Thankfully, there’s a lot that managers and leaders can do to help. In our work with thousands of employees across America, we’ve identified several steps any company can take to help employees find more meaning at work.
1. Assess Your Current State of Engagement
You may have a good guess about what your employees need to feel a bigger sense of intrinsic motivation. Or you might feel a little lost on where to begin. Either way, the first step is to analyze what’s really going on under the surface.
At Emplify, we help employers measure the presence of engagement drivers—factors such as purpose, role clarity, and how well employees feel an organization is effectively using their skills—that positively impact meaning at work.
You can do the same thing by presenting short, easy-to-fill-out surveys that 1) are designed to be confidential and collect honest feedback, and 2) include an action plan for follow up.
2. Take Action on Insights
For employees to begin down a path toward more meaningful day-to-day work, they’ll need to see leadership acting on feedback right away. For this reason, it’s important to begin with step one above only when you know you’ll have time to look at the data and turn it into a plan of action.
For example, let’s say you discover that a particular division or department is showing exceptionally high levels of engagement. You might meet with that team’s leadership to discuss their methods and gather suggestions. Or you might conduct a quick follow-up poll to ask employees what they find most meaningful in their work, and then look for opportunities to duplicate those experiences companywide.
3. Rely on Employees to Help Problem-Solve
As you implement steps 1 and 2, don’t be afraid to take a step back and let your employees self-solution. Why? Sometimes, a person who would otherwise find their work to be meaningful is instead hampered by micromanagement and an environment of exaggerated urgency. Rather than taking the time to do a job thoroughly and thoughtfully, the employee is pushed to meet fast-paced deadlines or blindly complete task-oriented activities until there’s no longer a true sense of job ownership.
The best way to combat this scenario is to take a step back. Give your employees a chance to inject their projects with personal meaning and seek help from peers as needed. To support this sense of autonomy further, look for opportunities to offer praise and foster a culture of camaraderie.
You may be surprised at just how effective this strategy can be. Surveys have shown that praise from immediate managers is more motivating than cash bonuses, and that peer-to-peer recognition is 35.7 percent more likely to have a positive impact on financial results than manager-only praise.
4. Give Your Own Feedback, Too
Gathering candid feedback is the best method for understanding a company’s current state of engagement. But before employees can feel comfortable providing open and honest feedback, they need to receive it. This is where the concept of radical candor comes in.
Put simply: By providing employees with candid, constructive feedback on a regular basis, you can help create a work culture that’s viewed as being safe, open, and honest. It not only shows that you care about employees enough to play a bigger role in their growth and development, but breeds a level of trust that helps people take pride in themselves and their work—which, ultimately, is where meaning comes from.
To sum up: Helping employees find more personal meaning in their work is one of the most important, but overlooked, opportunities to create a winning work culture. Collecting and giving candid feedback, creating a plan of action, and allowing a greater sense of autonomy can all make a tremendous difference in this area.
We go over each of these steps in more detail in Employee Engagement Trends and Indexes: Q1 2018 Report. Download your free copy today!