The average employee spends about 2,000 hours at work a year? – not counting breaks, their commute, and overtime. So how can leaders help employees find meaning at work?
Companies spend a considerable amount of time, money, and resources on creating their vision, mission, core values, etc. but they often fall to the wayside when it comes to the daily grind of the workday and their Employee Experience. Employees might eat, drink, and breathe the company’s purpose and know why they do what they do – but employees really need to feel satisfied and engaged with their jobs in order for it to feel meaningful to them.
People in leadership understand how expensive employee turnover is, so having loyal employees is very important. Employees tend to be loyal to companies that support their career growth and goals, to simplify, employees want to work for companies that want them to find a personal sense of meaning in what they do.
It begins at the top
It’s leadership’s job to help show employees how even the most mundane tasks matter. For example, a receptionist might think she/he is simply just answering phones all day – a very simple and thoughtless task at a low level. However that receptionist, at a high level, is fielding calls that can result in Million-dollar sales, putting out Customer Service fires, and even hiring the next great employee. Her/his job has purpose and matters. Receptionists are often the first and only contact many of your customers have with your brand.
Here are 5 things leaders should focus on, so their employees find meaning and purpose at work:
Where do they excel? Find out what your employee’s strengths are. What tasks can they do easily? What tasks take them the least effort? What tasks or projects do they take on because they believe they are the best person for the job? What tasks do they do that always gets them noticed for doing a good job? The goal is to find out what their strengths are and show them how these matter and what possibilities it opens. On the flip side – forcing them into roles that don’t fit their strengths can reduce the employee experience and morale. In other words – let them shine where they shine.
What do they enjoy? This can be very different than what they are good at. What tasks do they look forward to doing? What energizes them? If they could customize their own workload, what would it look like? These questions help people figure out what they love about their work. You might find that a customer service representative is an amazing social media whiz, or a driver is an excellent writer – the list goes on. Be acutely aware of what they do outside of their normal roles.
What makes them feel most useful? What makes them proud and makes them feel accomplished? What tasks do they do that they feel are most critical to the success of the company or the team? What’s on their priority list? The outcome here is to highlight the value of certain work they do. Show them how they make a difference in the big picture – not just their micro world.
What makes them feel like they are making progress towards a goal? You should never stop learning and having a sense of forward momentum. Ask your employees what they are learning and how they will use the newfound knowledge. What do they envision for themselves next? Everyone should have goals – ask them what they are doing to get them closer to what they want. Help them understand that what they do today, affects their lives in the future.
How do they engage with others? Who do they enjoy working with? If they could build a team of people to work with what would that look like? How does their engagement at work affect their home life and social connections? Employees spend so much time with the people they work with that it does affect all aspects of their life – you want your employees to think about and foster relationships that make work more meaningful.
Not every employee will engage with you and answer honestly. It’s not always easy to help your employees find meaning at work, but these strategies can certainly help.
Paul A. McLaughlin, Jr
Executive Vice President, Chief Operating Officer