Meaningful work. Work that is meaningful. How many times have you heard an employee, direct report or interviewee utter the phrase?
Not to sound so dire this soon into the New Year, but did you know that around 50% of your employees are ready to leave the company? (According to a recent Gallup poll).
Let me focus that a little bit more. That’s not people ‘considering a move in the next year’ or ‘waiting til a project finishes to reevaluate.’ It’s people actively looking and ready to leave. Yowza. Granted, 50% of your company is not likely to walk out tomorrow, but what if even a fraction of that did? Where would that leave you as a functional team lead, talent manager or HR executive?
And what was the number one answer for why people stick around at jobs, according to Globoforce WorkResearch Institute?
You guessed it: meaningful work.
And to be clear, this spans across the generational divide. Usually millennials get the rep for wanting meaningful work, but it’s pretty well documented that every generation, dating back to the Great Generation (born between 1922 and 1945) have their own way of describing meaningful work.
So, if you’re still reading this and on board or quasi on board with the idea, let’s take it a step further:
What does meaningful work actually mean to people?
To help you kickstart your understanding as relates to your own company, I’ve compiled a representative cross section of actual client responses to this question. I’ve also noted the industry/field they were in at the time of the conversation:
These answers show that it’s an important hiring AND engagement strategy to drill down on what an employee (and ideally a prospective employee, BEFORE they walk in your door on Day 1 of employment) actually wants – above and beyond the platitude of ‘meaningful work’ or ‘having an impact’. These five people sure know what it means to them. So drilling down on how it meshes with your organization (or not) during interviews is a great place to start, but I wouldn’t end it there. Obviously people’s needs and definition of this nebulous area can and will change over time as they develop their careers, so including it as part of the annual review process and even during regular checkins with managers and their teams can be very powerful. Employees feel like they’re being heard and that there’s a path to growth. Prospective employees hear that you actually care about this stuff (and bonus: if they’re not a fit, then you don’t need to go through the painful hiring + firing + rehiring hamster wheel process).
Let me know what you think of this in the comments below! Do you have additional definitions of meaningful work coming at you from your employees? What challenges do you face when you get to this stage of knowing what matters to employees, but you don’t know how to move forward?