Three Ways Employers Must Connect Personal Meaning to Work

Meaning at work 2

During the pandemic, employees across the globe had plenty of time to think about the meaning of their work. And many concluded that their jobs are no longer fulfilling.

Post-pandemic, employees are changing jobs rapidly.  In fact, a recent Microsoft survey predicts that up to 40 percent of the global workforce may leave their jobs this year.

In a recent article, Arianna Huffington of Inc. refers to this phenomenon as The Great Resignation.  She describes an exodus that “stems from a combination of burnout and a deep sense of personal dissatisfaction” (Huffington).  She concludes that employees are now looking deeper and redefining their notion of success.

Employers are left scrambling. Is it an employer’s responsibility to connect a job to personal meaning? Can they afford not to?

Avoiding Burnout through Meaningful Work

Every job cannot have the mission of a nonprofit, but any business can connect its profits to a social mission.  Companies can donate to charities, set up volunteer days for employees, and sponsor community efforts.  Employees can even spearhead programs that tie into personal causes.  These efforts can help give a job more meaning, especially if employees understand how their personal roles tie into a greater mission.

Employee burnout makes it more important than ever to communicate with employees.  Indeed recently surveyed 1500 US workers and compared these survey findings to pre-pandemic data from 2020.  The biggest takeaways include:

  • More than half (53%) of virtual or work from home employees are working more hours than they were in the office.
  • 61% of remote workers and 53% of on-site workers find it more difficult to unplug during non-work hours.
  • Nearly 40% say they check emails outside of work hours every day.
  • 31% say they are working “much more” than before the pandemic.

With work and life so intricately connected, it is important for employees to be fulfilled on personal and professional levels to mitigate feelings of burnout.

Three Steps Every Employer Should Take to Connect Personal Meaning to Work

Step 1:  Leadership Should Communicate Personal Meaning 

A good leader can have great influence on an employee. “People find meaning when they see a clear connection between what they highly value and what they spend time doing,” says Wendy Ulrich, co-author of The Why or Work: How Great Leaders Build Abundant Organizations That Win.  “That connection is not always obvious, however. Leaders are in a great position to articulate the values a company is trying to enact and to shape the story of how today’s work connects with those values. This means sharing stories of how the company is making a difference for good in the lives of real people, including customers, employees, and communities.”

Step 2: Companies Should Encourage Time Off to Recharge

Employees are better able to see the big picture with a job and avoid burnout when they feel good.  No matter how generous a PTO policy is at a company, the company culture either encourages recharge or frowns upon it.  Are leaders happy to grant PTO and give employees space when it’s used or are leaders not taking time off themselves?  “We need to stop thinking of recharging as a reward we get for working hard and burning out,” says Arianna Huffington of Inc. “As the science makes clear, being recharged actually allows us to show up as our best, most productive, most creative selves.”

To get to higher motivation levels, employees need to be healthy.  Companies may sponsor yoga classes, health club, or even mental health support.  “The most popular COVID-era perk is flex scheduling, with 90% of virtual and 77% of on-site workers taking advantage of the offering,” says Threlkeld of Indeed.

Step 3: Companies Should Encourage Learning

Employees find work more meaningful when they are growing on personal and professional levels.  Instead of worrying that employees will outgrow a job and leave when they acquire new skills, employers should embrace continuing education. Employees who feel that they are growing are more satisfied.  Mentoring programs, professional development, and tuition reimbursement are excellent initiatives.

Create Opportunities to Grow to Improve Connection

Since personal and professional is intertwined with any employee, employers should not overlook the personal side of growth.  Many employees have outside passions that employers can factor into the growth equation.  These could include charitable causes, an advanced degree, or even getting in shape. These are great ways to create employee happiness and growth.

Recruiters at Artemis Consultants talk to candidates every day who seek job changes due to dissatisfaction.  Some feel lackluster and cite a change in company culture, a lack of opportunity, and poor work/life balance.

The definition of success is changing for many employees.  Meaningful work is a true incentive in recruiting top talent.

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