HRZONE: How to give real meaning to work 

Michael Moran, CEO of 10Eighty discusses how to give real meaning in a HRZone article, full version can be found here and a summary is included below.

Employers have a responsibility for the environment provided to employees. It’s not enough just to expect staff to be motivated because you give them a job. You can’t make people motivated or engaged; they won’t go the extra mile or put in discretionary effort just because you pay them to work for you. What you can do is create an environment that encourages and builds the conditions and attitudes that lead to engagement. And your managers must show that their commitment to organisational values and employer brand is real and tangible, otherwise they are unlikely to be able to engender the trust and commitment in employees that builds engagement.

Think about what work means to us and how important the workplace and job satisfaction are. Most adults spend about a third of their waking life at work (counting the time thinking about or worrying about work) – a good workplace provides a sense of purpose, achievement, and a source of social connection – it can enrich our lives. A bad workplace can become a nightmare, leading to stress, depression, and dissatisfaction.

Love the work you do – Winston Churchill said that “If you find a job you love, you’ll never work again”.

Research shows that even the simple tasks gain in meaning when they are connected to personal goals and values. We all find meaning in work through different routes; Pratt and Ashforth posit that this may be expressed as:

  • meaning “in working” – a sense that the job contributes to the greater good;
  • meaning “at work” – a sense that one is enabling others to contribute and/or achieve satisfaction;
  • a combination of the two.

In essence most people see their work as either:

  • a Job (something done for financial reward, a necessity rather than a choice; not a major positive or priority of life)
  • a Career (there is an investment in work and a focus on advancement and achievement), or
  • a Calling (whereby work gives life meaning and purpose, contributes to the greater good and draws on their personal strengths and values; the focus is rewarding work and an end in itself or a means of self-expression)

The three job categories above, of course, aren’t necessarily exclusive – someone with a calling may also want a fair salary and good package – they are also those likely to say that they would do their job even if they weren’t paid. It’s interesting to find that you can’t necessarily predict someone’s orientation based on job title or salary. In fact the research found that in most trades and professions orientation is fairly evenly divided – with about a third of workers falling into each category.

Have a read of the full HRZone article here to get more insight into how to give real meaning to work.

Picture courtesy of Digital Vision/Thinkstock

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