There are a wide variety of aspects that make for a good job. Of course, fair pay, good benefits, a supportive boss, and great coworkers are important. But nowadays, with so many companies offering those things, they’re no longer the only things that matter. What employees are really looking for is meaning in their work.
A study by the Harvard Business Review found that 50% of workers would take a pay cut to do work that’s more meaningful. And another study found that employees who find meaning in their work are more than three times as likely to stay with their current employer.
In today’s work world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of deadlines and meetings and lose sight of what’s truly important. We often forget that we are working to make a difference in the world, and our jobs should reflect that. However, meaning is one of those things that is hard to define but, once discovered, has far-reaching benefits.
Therefore, discovering meaning is important. It gives us a reason to get out of bed in the morning and face the day. It makes us excited and energized, and as a result, we are more productive at work. We feel like we are part of something bigger than ourselves and that our lives have a purpose. According to one study by the Gallup organization, when we have a sense of meaning in our lives, we’re more resilient in the face of adversity. We’re more likely to bounce back from setbacks because we know our lives have a greater purpose.
Creating a work culture that is focused on meaningfulness is essential to keeping employees engaged and motivated. When people feel like their work is purposeful, they are more likely to be productive and innovative.
What is Meaningful Work and Its Importance
The majority of Americans spend the majority of their waking hours at work. And while some people love their jobs and find them deeply fulfilling, others see their work as a necessary evil. They wake up every day, go to a job they hate, and then come home to collapse in front of the TV. But it doesn’t have to be this way! But regardless of how you feel about your job, one thing is certain: how you spend your time at work can profoundly impact the meaning and purpose you feel in your life.
So, what is meaningful work?
Meaningful work—a job that isn’t just about paying the bills, but is connected to purpose, that makes you feel fulfilled and valuable.
As we have all experienced, work can be a source of great meaning and fulfillment, or it can be a major source of stress and anxiety. It all depends on how you approach it. If you see your work as a way to make a difference in the world and use your unique talents to contribute to something larger than yourself, you are more likely to find it fulfilling. On the other hand, if you see your job as a way to pay the bills and nothing more, you are likely to find it unfulfilling. And this can lead to all sorts of problems, both at work and in your personal life. According to one study, people who don’t find meaning in their work are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
It’s not surprising, then, that more and more people are searching for jobs that offer a sense of purpose. A study by Deloitte found that 78% of millennials (people aged 18-34) want their work to have a positive impact on society. And another study by the IBM Institute for Business Value found that 86% of employees would leave their job for one that offered them a sense of purpose.
So, what can you do to create a work culture that is focused on meaningfulness?
In a recent paper in the Review of General Psychology, psychologists Login George and Crystal Park from the University of Connecticut identified the 3 most commonly referenced pillars of a meaningful career:
How much does an employee feel directly motivated by life goals that they value?
How able are you to understand and make sense of your life experiences and weave them into a coherent whole? In other words, how easy is it for you to see your own life story?
3. Social Impact:
How much does an employee believe that their work is significant and valued?
These pillars were found to directly predict job satisfaction and overall well-being. Of the three, Purpose was found to be the strongest predictor of satisfaction, followed by Engagement and then Social Impact. The authors suggest that finding a career that is purposeful, engaging, and has a positive social impact is key to achieving a sense of meaning in one’s work.
The Deception of High Pay Hiring Strategy
In today’s labor market, many Twin Cities companies use the promise of high pay to lure in new employees. They advertise starting salaries much higher than the industry average, hoping to attract talented workers looking for a raise. However, we’ve seen this strategy often backfire.
A new study has shown that offering high salaries to people who are already employed is not an effective hiring strategy. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto, found that people who are offered high salaries are no more likely to accept a job than those who are offered lower salaries. The findings challenge the common belief that high salaries are the best way to attract top talent. The study’s authors say that companies should focus on other factors, such as company culture and work-life balance when attracting new employees.
The above study’s findings add to the growing evidence that challenges the wisdom of using high salaries to lure workers, which can cause a multitude of issues, including:
Increased internal resentment:
It can create tension and resentment among existing employees who are not being paid as much. This can lead to decreased morale and motivation and a higher turnover rate. This was most apparent with The Great Resignation of middle managers, office staff, and skilled-trades personnel leaving their jobs due to feeling underpaid because their organizations were offering higher salaries to new hires in order to attract top talent.
While it’s important to attract top talent, businesses need to be mindful of the impact that unequal pay can have on their existing workforce.
Creating a “bid up” mentality:
It’s no secret that salaries have been on the rise in recent years. In fact, according to a recent study we performed, salaries have increased by 18% to 21% over the last two years. This is good news for employees but is having a negative impact on companies because they are unable to keep up with the high salaries being offered.
As a result, this can create unrealistic expectations among employees. For example, if an employee sees that their salary has increased by 21%, they may expect a raise or bonus that the company is unable to provide, which is leading to greater turnover as employees become dissatisfied with their compensation.
In order to avoid this, companies need to be transparent with their employees about their compensation philosophy and how they plan to keep up with the rising cost of living.
A loss of organizational focus
While it is important to attract top talent with competitive pay in the race to find employees, we have seen many companies lose sight of their core values and mission, which allow for greater retention of their current employees.
Organizations that focus on their mission and values are able to create a stronger sense of purpose for their employees. When people feel part of something larger than themselves, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated to do their best work.
We have seen firsthand how companies that focus on their mission and values are able to create a more engaged workforce. For example, our company’s core values of “people first, mission always” have helped us create a culture where our employees feel like they are part of something larger than themselves. This has led to higher employee engagement and retention rates without having to pay top dollar to stay relevant in the hunt for talent.
What does this all mean for your organization?
Don’t be fooled by the lure of drastically increasing pay rates to drive candidate flow for your open positions. In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, it takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a job where they feel engaged, and unsurprisingly next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers.
Instead, focus on creating a work culture that is meaningful and engaging for your employees. This will not only lead to greater employee satisfaction and retention but will also be more attractive to potential candidates. And, as an added bonus, it will save you a lot of money in the long run with hiring.
Characteristics of Meaningfulness in Work
One of these most, if not the most common decision that we hear as to why people are looking for work is for better pay. While candidates will tell you that pay is the sole reason, it is not the case. All pay does is get someone engaged with your opportunity.
And while a stable and livable wage is important, it is not the only factor that contributes to meaningful work; actually, it is one of the last items when it comes to finding meaning in our work.
A study by the University of Michigan found that people who placed high importance on salary were less likely to find their work meaningful. The authors suggest that “the quest for ever-higher salaries may crowd out opportunities to experience the more profound benefits that work can offer.”
So, what are some of the other characteristics of meaningful work?
Holistically, meaningfulness in work is an elusive concept, and articulating what are the finite characteristics that make work meaningful is difficult. However, a 2020 study by the Brookings Institute conducted a 10-year study that found 12-factors that make individuals more likely to experience work meaningfulness. These characteristics from most critical to least are:
- Relatedness: the feeling of social connection to others in the workplace.
- Autonomy: the feeling of control and independence in one’s work.
- Location: the physical work environment.
- Career Advancement: the opportunity for growth and development in one’s career.
- Industry: the sector or industry in which an individual works.
- Competence: the feeling of being good at what one does.
- Job Insecurity: the feeling of job stability.
- Occupation: the specific job or role an individual has.
- Hours Worked: the number of hours worked per week.
- Year of Interview: the year in which the individual was interviewed for the study.
- Income: the financial compensation for the work being done.
- Benefits and Performance Pay: the feeling of being rewarded for good work.
Brookings’ analysis shows that relatedness, which is about relationships at work, is the most important determinant of work meaningfulness. The study found that “people who feel a strong sense of relatedness to others at work are 2.5 times more likely to find their work meaningful than those who do not.” Diving deeper into this, workers desire to feel related if they experience genuine care from their bosses or colleagues and care about their superiors and coworkers in return.
In general, Brookings discovered that relatedness, autonomy, and competence are almost five times more important for perceptions of having meaningful work compared with compensation, benefits, career advancement, job insecurity, and working hours (Figure 1).
Again, despite what job seekers may articulate, work is more than a paycheck; it is a critical aspect of the human experience, providing identity and individual self-esteem. Since most adults spend half of their waking hours in a work environment, it is essential to make sure that the work environment is one that is conducive to finding meaning.
As business leaders, it is vital to understand what factors make work a life-enriching and dignifying experience so organizations can help design policies to enhance workers’ well-being and boost organizational performance.
Creating a Culture of Meaningful Work
As the world of work continues to evolve, it’s more important than ever to create a culture of meaningful work. Employees who feel their work is purposeful and valuable are more engaged, productive, and satisfied with their jobs.
So how can you create a culture of meaningful work in your organization?
Not every company is going to produce life-saving medical devices where the lineage to meaningfulness is explicit. However, every company can operationalize meaning by doing the following:
Work that’s engaging
In order to have a sense of meaningfulness at work, individuals need to feel like their work is valuable and has a purpose. This means that employees should be engaged in their work, not just going through the motions to complete tasks. One way to achieve this is by giving employees opportunities to work on projects that interest them and using their skills to make a difference.
Work that helps others
People often find the most meaning in their work when it helps others. This could be as simple as being part of a team or working on a project together. Or it could be something more significant, like developing a new product or making a sale. Whatever the task, employees should feel like they are contributing to something larger than themselves. When people feel like their work has a purpose, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated. And when they are able to see the impact of their work on others, it can be even more fulfilling.
Work employees are good at
When people feel like they are good at their jobs, they are more likely to find meaning in their work. This is because they feel competent and valuable, which are two important factors in job satisfaction. Employees should feel like they have the opportunity to use their skills and abilities to make a difference. When they feel like their work is a waste of their talents, they are less likely to be engaged or motivated.
Work with supportive colleagues
Employees should also feel like they are part of a community at work. This means creating an environment where people feel comfortable collaborating and working together. One way to do this is by promoting team-building activities and encouraging employees to get to know each other on a personal level.
It’s also important to create an environment where people feel supported by their colleagues. This means having open lines of communication and providing opportunities for employees to give and receive feedback. Additionally, managers should be accessible and approachable, so employees feel comfortable coming to them with concerns or ideas.
Lack of major negatives in the work environment
Of course, no job is perfect. But employees should feel like the negatives are outweighed by the positives. This means having a fair and flexible work schedule, reasonable workloads, and a healthy work-life balance. It also means providing employees with the resources and support they need to do their jobs well. When employees feel stressed or overworked, they are less likely to find meaning in their work.
Work that fits with the rest of your employee’s lives
Finally, it’s important to remember that employees have lives outside of work. Their work should fit into their lives, not the other way around. When employees feel like their work is a priority, they are more likely to find it meaningful. On the other hand, when they feel like their work is taking over their lives, they are less likely to be engaged or satisfied.
Creating a meaningful work culture is essential to the success of any organization. It is the foundation upon which all other aspects of the business are built. A meaningful work culture is one that values employee contributions, offers opportunities for professional development, and provides a sense of purpose. It is a place where people feel motivated to do their best work and are proud to be part of the team. Creating such a culture requires commitment and effort, but it is well worth the investment.
When employees feel valued and engaged in their work, they are more productive, creative, and loyal. They are also more likely to stay with the company, reducing turnover costs and increasing morale. A culture of meaningful work is the key to unlocking the full potential of your workforce. With it, you can create an organization that is not only successful but also fulfilling for all who are involved.
Hiring for Meaningful Work
The most essential aspect of creating a meaningful work culture is hiring the right people. The right person should not only fit within your organization’s mission and goals, but actively enhance it. This is essential to creating a cohesive and productive environment where everyone finds a sense of purpose and belonging.
Every organization is different, so it’s important to tailor your hiring process to fit your specific needs.
However, there are five general principles that you should keep in mind when searching for meaning-minded employees:
1. Hire for passion
First, look for people who are passionate about their work. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to love your company or product, but they should be excited about the role they would be playing in the organization. They should also be enthusiastic about the prospect of learning and growing in their career.
When you’re interviewing candidates, ask some of these questions:
- What attributes do you look for in a company when you want to apply for a position?
- What does your ideal role look like? Elaborate on the type of environment in which you would function with enthusiasm and contribute positively to our team.
- Why did you choose your current field of work?
- What are some of the things you’ve learned in your career so far?
Pay attention to how they talk about their work. Do they seem excited and passionate about what they do? Or do they seem bored and uninterested? Look for candidates who have a passion for what they do and who are excited about the opportunity to make a difference.
2. Hire for purpose and values
Second, look for people who are committed to making a difference. This means they should be interested in more than just a paycheck. They should want to use their skills and talents to make a positive impact on the world.
When you’re interviewing candidates, ask some of these questions:
- What motivates you to do your best work?
- What are some of the things that are important to you in a job?
- What did you find most fulfilling about your previous work?
- What is your purpose?
When hiring new employees, make sure to look for candidates who share the same values as your organization. This will help ensure that they are more likely to find purpose in their work.
3. Hire for potential
This means looking for people who have the ability to grow and develop in their careers. They should be proactive and always look for ways to improve their skills. They should also be open to new challenges and willing to take risks.
When you’re interviewing candidates, ask some of these questions:
- What are some of your long-term career goals?
- How have you grown in your current role?
- What has been your favorite mistake?
- Describe a challenging situation you have faced recently at work and how you tackled it.
Make sure to look for candidates who have the potential to grow and develop in their careers. This will help ensure that they are able to adapt and change as the needs of your organization change.
4. Hire team players
The goal of hiring the right people to create a meaningful culture is to enhance it, not fix it. This means that you should look for team players who are willing to work together to achieve common goals. They should also be respectful of others and able to handle constructive criticism.
When you’re interviewing candidates, ask some of these questions:
- What are your thoughts on teamwork?
- How do you handle conflict with co-workers?
- What are some of the things you like and don’t like about working in a team environment?
Therefore hiring team players is essential to creating a meaningful work culture. The ability to work towards a common goal as a team is important to creating a productive and cohesive environment. This means employees will be happier which ensures their longevity.
5. Hire for diversity
Last but not least, look for people who are diverse in their backgrounds and perspectives. This will help ensure that your company culture is inclusive and that everyone feels like they belong.
When you’re interviewing candidates, ask some of these questions:
- What are some of the challenges you have faced when working with people from different backgrounds?
- How do you create an inclusive environment in your workplace?
- What are some of the things you have learned from people who are different from you?
When hiring for diversity, keep in mind to look for employees who can bring different backgrounds and perspectives to the table. Understanding different cultures can also benefit your business in the long run, as you will be better able to cater to a global audience.
Creating a work culture that focuses on meaningfulness is essential to keeping employees engaged and motivated. When people feel like their work is purposeful, they are more likely to be productive and innovative. The best way to create a work culture that is focused on meaning is to hire the right people. Look for candidates who are passionate about their work, have the potential to grow and develop in their careers, are team players, and are diverse in their backgrounds and perspectives. This will help ensure that your company culture is one that is focused on meaningfulness and that everyone feels like they belong.
The Long-Term Benefits of Meaningful Work
We are operating in a talent-driven environment, which means that the war for top talent is only going to get more heated in the years to come. So, in order to attract and retain the best employees, organizations need to focus on creating a work culture that is focused on meaningfulness. When people feel like their work is purposeful, they are more likely to be productive and innovative.
There are a number of long-term benefits that organizations can enjoy by creating a work culture that focuses on meaningfulness. In a study conducted by the Harvard Business Review of workers across five generations, researchers discovered that there were 3 statements that were regularly used by all groups to describe the lasting impact of meaningful work:
Meaningful work is intrinsically motivated:
Intrinsic motivation is a powerful engine of success. It’s what drives people to do their best work, even when no one is watching, and there’s no external reward. Simply put, it’s the desire to do something because it’s personally meaningful, not because of any external pressure. Of course, not all work is intrinsically motivated.
Most jobs involve at least some tasks that are drudgery, and it’s unrealistic to expect that every aspect of our work life will be perfectly aligned with our personal values. However, research has shown that when people have a greater sense of control over their work and feel that it is meaningful, they are more engaged and productive.
Intrinsically motivated workers are often more creative and proactive, and they are more likely to stick with a task even when it becomes challenging.
Meaningful work creates lasting relationships:
Most people spend the majority of their waking hours at work. So, it stands to reason that our jobs have a big impact on our lives. As we discussed earlier in regard to research conducted by the Brookings Institute, one of the most important factors in job satisfaction is whether or not we feel connected with coworkers.
The most successful relationships are built on a foundation of trust and respect. And while there are many ways to build trust and respect, one of the most effective is through meaningful work. When we work together on something that is important to us, we naturally come to rely on and appreciate one another. We learn about each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we develop a deeper understanding of one another’s perspectives. As we work together towards a common goal, we create stronger bonds. These relationships are built on trust, respect, and a shared commitment to making a difference.
Meaningful work helps others:
One of the most rewarding aspects of meaningful work is that it helps others. When we feel like our work is making a difference in the lives of others, it can be a powerful motivator. It can also help us to feel more connected to the world around us.
In a study of over 2,000 employees, those who felt their work was positively impacting society were more engaged and productive than those who didn’t. They also reported higher levels of satisfaction with their jobs.
Meaningful work can also have a ripple effect, positively impacting the lives of those we work with and those we serve. When we feel like our work is making a difference, we are more likely to be motivated and innovative. We are also more likely to stick with it, even when times are tough. And as we discussed earlier, this can lead to lasting relationships.
Partnering With Us Creates Meaningful Work
Creating a work culture that is focused on meaningfulness is essential to keeping employees engaged and motivated. When people feel like their work is purposeful, they are more likely to be productive and innovative. The best way to create a work culture that is focused on meaning is to hire the right people. Look for individuals who are passionate about what they do and who have a strong desire to make a difference. Then, give them the autonomy and resources they need to be successful. With the right people in place, you can create an environment that is focused on meaningful work and that leads to lasting relationships, increased productivity, and overall satisfaction.
In today’s competitive job market, it can be difficult to find the right employees. But, with the right staffing strategy, it’s possible to create a work culture that is focused on meaningful work. It’s because of this that we at Award Staffing have a Core Focus of “Connecting People Through Meaningful Work.” We take the time to get to know each of our employees and what they are passionate about. We also work with our clients to ensure that we are placing our employees in positions where they can do the most good. We believe that when people are doing work that is meaningful to them, they are more likely to be productive and engaged. And we believe that this leads to lasting relationships, increased productivity, and overall satisfaction.
If you are interested in creating a work culture that is focused on meaningful work, we would love to help. Contact us today to learn more about our staffing services and how we can help you build an engaged and productive workforce.