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Is Your “Top Workplace” Company Falling Short on Meaning?


Has your company been ranked a “top workplace” or “best place to work?” Believe it or not, there’s a good chance your employees are not finding meaning in their work.

Surprised? So were we. But then we came across this report that even top-ranked employers are still falling significantly short in response to the statement: “My job makes me feel like I am part of something meaningful.”

To be fair, most businesses struggle to make jobs meaningful to employees. However, it’s notable that this issue even reaches into the far corners of companies whose employees otherwise regard their employers very positively, ranking them higher than the national average on nearly all other measures.

Our own research here at 15five confirms the extent of the problem: In a recent analysis of employee engagement data for 12,000 workers, “meaning” emerged as a consistent, common challenge across industries, company sizes, and job types.

Why Meaningful Work Is So Critical

Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work are far more likely to be motivated, engaged, and productive. In fact, one early study found these employees to be more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations, driven by a variable that was proven to exceed learning and growth, a sense of community, and even work-life balance in its importance.

On the opposite side of this spectrum is additional research, such as findings published in the Journal of Career Assessment, that identified the primary reason people skip work. It’s not because they’re dissatisfied, uncommitted, or intend to quit—but because they find the work itself to be meaningless.

The good news is that a job doesn’t have to be lofty for people to find it meaningful. People find meaning cleaning bedpans in hospitals and scooping waste at zoos… just as long as they can connect what they do with why it matters.

What 15five’s Employee Engagement Data Says About Meaning at Work

At 15five, we use a solution called Insights™ to provide businesses with employee engagement data based on scientific measurements. The 15five Engagement Score quantifies an organization’s overall engagement, while heatmaps break down each insight by department, team, tenure, manager, generation, and location.

When we look at aggregated data across industries and job types, some interesting trends emerged. For example:

  • Overall levels of meaning were 4% higher at companies where many employees spend most of their time working in the field at job sites—compared with “knowledge workers” whose days may be devoted more to meetings and time in front of PCs
  • Generation Z employees, the youngest segment in our analysis, had lower levels of meaning than every other generation, while baby boomers had the highest
  • Of all the industries measured, retail companies reported the lowest levels of meaning; construction companies had the highest

The question to ask is: Why do job types, tenures, and industries appear to impact employee engagement and the ability to find meaning at work? And how can you use this information to influence desired changes within your own workforce?

We answer these questions in depth in our new report: Employee Engagement Trends | Q1 2018.

Before you dig in to the findings, keep this in mind: Meaning is an issue at most, if not all, companies. So if your gut is telling you that something seems “off” at your top-ranked workplace, meaning could be the factor that needs to be addressed.

Our latest research provides several clues you can use to determine where things really stand when it comes to how much meaning your employees are finding in their work. And because we believe in the significant value gleaned from this research, there’s no charge to access the report. You can download a complimentary copy right here, right now.

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