Having a sense of purpose at work is a fundamental driver of motivation. Purpose (or lack thereof) has a direct and significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of employees. Furthermore, the millennial workforce is putting an increasing emphasis on their desire for meaningful work, with a recent Harvard Business Review article stating that 9 out of 10 employees would be willing to earn less money for more meaningful work. As the war for talent heightens, satisfying the personal objectives of talent by facilitating meaningful work will be key to business success across all industries. A challenge however, lies in the variance of perceived purpose associated with different jobs. For example, due to the nature of their work, a medical professional saving lives will likely have a greater internalised sense of purpose that an assembly line worker.
For organisations, there is a need to develop comprehensive programmes which increase the meaningfulness of work for employees at every level. When the task itself does not inspire purpose, it is important to cultivate a sense of meaning through company practices and policies. One way to do this is through effectively utilising recognition programmes, coupling company values with peer and manager recognitions. Typically, employees who say they feel appreciated have greater job satisfaction and are less likely to leave their job than those who do not. Moreover, industry research has shown that companies which foster a culture of recognition outperform those that do not. Showing appreciation for individual contributions can help increase the perceived social worth among peers, enhancing the meaningfulness and value of work for employees.
There are certain criteria a recognition programme should satisfy in order to have the highest impact.
- Leadership backing – this is a standard requirement for the success of any new programmes. Company leaders need to embody the behaviour they want to see, making a point of recognising contributions throughout the organisation. The culture needs to be right for a recognition programme to enhance the meaningfulness of work and this should be driven by senior management.
- Connect to company values – recognising behaviours which align to company values helps reinforce the overall business objective, reaffirming for employees how they should seek to contribute to the company.
- Make it personal and meaningful – relevance promotes interest and motivation. Provide guidelines for delivering meaningful recognitions. For example, Wrkit Recognition allows the recogniser to choose from a list of pre-set company values as determined by the organisation, choose the type of recognition i.e. well done or great job (these are also set by the organisation) and write a personal note to the person they are recognising.
- Publicise praise – sharing stories of success increases the affect on social worth, further allowing peers to verbally congratulate and recognise one another. Recognition software often includes a newsfeed style notice board which is great for global or remote teams.
- Socialise your celebrations –create social occasions to celebrate major business achievements. It is rare that business achievements are accomplished by one individual, make sure that all contributors or contributing departments are named and celebrated.
There are of course several internal and external factors which influence how meaningful an individual perceives their work to be. Beyond organisational level practices, managers play a key role in cultivating a sense of purpose within their team. By ensuring every employee knows precisely how their contributions impact the overall outcomes of the business (and/or positively impact society), by offering regular feedback, and by mentoring individuals to achieve their career goals managers can engender greater meaning for others.
Author: Sara Glynn – Marketing & Customer Success Manager @Wrkit
Wrkit specialise in the creation of better healthier working environments. The Wrkit platform connects global, remote and local teams through five modules; Surveys, Recognition, POWR, Learning and Savings.
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Adam M. Grant. (2008). The Significance of Task Significance: Job Performance Effects, Relational, Mechanisms, and Boundary Conditions. Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 93, 108-124