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By Roy Rasmussen Updated on October 12, 2021

A Meaningful Job: 8 Keys to Finding Purpose in Work

Finding purpose in work promotes employee motivation, productivity and retention. 

Here are 8 ways to make work more meaningful.

Why Is Work With Purpose Important?

Connecting employees to purpose in their work helps employers as well as workers. 

Indeed, making work meaningful helps employers:

  • Recruit enthusiastic workers
  • Instill employee motivation
  • Sustain worker productivity
  • Encourage employee retention

Meaningful work supports recruitment by helping attract job seekers. On average, 9 in 10 workers would give up 23% of their future income, an average of $21,000 a year for a job that is always meaningful, according to a survey by BetterUp, a provider of employee coaching and mental health services.

Having a sense of purpose in their work motivates employees. Meaningful work is the biggest driver of employee engagement, according to research by professional services firm Deloitte.

When employees experience passion and purpose at work, they are more productive. Increasing a single employee’s experience from average to highly meaningful generates an average additional labor output of $9,078 a year, according to BetterUp’s survey.

Employees who feel their work is meaningful are more likely to stay with their employers. BetterUp notes that “employees who find their work highly meaningful stay at jobs for an average of 7.4 months longer.” When managers find their work meaningful, the impact is even greater, with turnover rates falling to 1.5%, lower than half the national average.

What Is the Main Purpose of Work?

To define what purpose in the workplace means, the significance of work can be broken down into 3 areas:

  1. How work contributes to employees’ personal values and goals
  2. How individual workers contribute to company goals
  3. How companies contribute to their customers and communities

At the individual level, employees feel a sense of purpose when their work contributes to their personal values and goals. These may include financial goals as well as priorities such as work-life balance, career advancement and a sense that individual talents are being put to full use.

Within their company, employees experience purpose when they feel that their efforts contribute to their department and organization’s goals. Recognition and rewards can help reinforce this perception.

Beyond their company, employees feel a sense of purpose when their company’s culture and mission contribute to society. This includes serving customers as well as serving the community.

A compass points north to “Purpose” up in the sky.

How to Create and Sustain a Sense of Purpose in the Workplace

To promote the components which contribute to a meaningful workplace, employers can pursue a number of strategies that support individual goals, recognize the individual impact on company achievements and raise awareness of company contributions to the community. 

These include:

  1. Creating a company culture with a meaningful mission
  2. Connecting employee values with company values
  3. Providing employees with a path to career advancement
  4. Recognizing employee contributions to company achievements
  5. Utilizing employee skills
  6. Encouraging employee input
  7. Contributing to the community
  8. Allowing downtime to avoid burnout

Use these tactics as a framework for your human resources team to create a customized strategy for fostering a meaningful work environment.

1. Create a Company Culture with a Meaningful Mission

Your company culture forms the foundation of a meaningful workplace. Develop a mission statement that emphasizes how your company serves your employees, what employees contribute to your company and how your business serves your customers and community. 

Raise worker awareness of your mission statement by emphasizing it on your website, during your hiring process and in communications with your employees.

2. Connect Employee Values with Company Values

Verbalizing how employee values and goals connect with those of your company can help instill a sense of purpose. A good place to start is by using the recruitment process to ask workers what they hope to get out of their job and how this aligns with what your company values. 

For example, how do they prioritize salary, work-life balance or health-care benefits and how does this stack up with your company’s policies toward employees?

This initial conversation can be reinforced during the onboarding process, during training and in meetings and performance reviews. Surveys provide another valuable tool for eliciting employee values. Get employees to talk about what’s important to them and discuss how your company’s goals align with theirs.

3. Provide Employees with a Path to Career Advancement

For many employees, career advancement is a high priority. Career advancement offers employees to pursue their financial goals as well as to find more satisfaction in their work. Talking with employees about career goals and supporting their aspirations can help make work more meaningful. 

You can support employee career development through tools such as mentorship programs, on-the-job training and continuing employee education.

An employee stands at the start of a path that leads up. A sign reads, “Career Advancement.”

4. Recognize Employee Contributions to Company Achievements

Employees feel like they’re contributing to their companies when their efforts are recognized and rewarded. Employee contributions can be recognized both on the group level through departmental milestone celebrations and on the individual level through means such as employee-of-the-month programs. 

Concrete rewards such as fringe benefits and bonuses can help let employees know you value their hard work.

5. Utilize Employee Skills

Employees who feel like their job isn’t utilizing their talent tend to get bored, making work less meaningful. Strive to keep work challenging enough to keep employees engaged. 

If you notice an employee has underutilized skills, consider offering them additional responsibilities or a promotion.

6. Encourage Employee Input

Employees feel like their contributions are more meaningful when employers value their ideas. Create opportunities to elicit employee input. A suggestion box provides a simple way to give employees a voice. Supervisors can ask employers for suggestions about how to improve processes or avoid common problems. Meetings provide another opportunity to ask employees what they think and demonstrate that you value their ideas. 

When you put an employee’s suggestion into practice, publicly acknowledging their input and thanking them for it can reinforce their awareness that their contributions are meaningful.

7. Contribute to the Community

Employees take more pride in their work when they feel that their efforts and that of their company are contributing to their customers and community. Use your recruitment, onboarding and training processes to increase employee awareness of how your company serves your customers. Participate in activities that showcase how your company serves your community, such as sponsoring charity fundraisers. 

Participating in corporate matching gift programs where you join employees in contributing to charitable causes is another way to help workers feel a sense of connection to your community.

8. Allow Downtime to Avoid Burnout

Purpose in life isn’t all about work, and when employers feel burnt out, they tend to find work less meaningful. Allowing employees downtime is important to avoid burnout and refresh their energy and motivation. Breaks, company social media boards and recreational activities such as company picnics can help employees balance work with rejuvenation. 

Paid time off can be a worthwhile investment to help employees relax and refresh themselves so they feel like their work supports a meaningful balance with the rest of their lives.

Build Purpose Into Your Workplace to Promote Employee Engagement

Providing a sense of purpose helps employers attract, motivate, utilize and retain workers. 

Elements of a meaningful workplace include support for individual goals, a connection between individual effort and group achievement and an awareness that a company’s activity contributes value to its customers and society. 

Strategies that promote these elements help instill a sense of purpose in the workplace. Design a company culture that provides purposeful work in order to encourage employee engagement, productivity and retention.

Roy is a respected, published author on topics including business coaching, small business management and business automation as well as an expert business plan writer and strategist.
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