Why does anyone work? Why do we do what we do? It is just for the money to be able to live right? Surely not, there must be more. You spend most of your waking hours every week engaged in these activities. Surely there is something more. Well the reality is there is. If you speak to people who have fulfilling work and ask them what makes it so rewarding. Money almost never comes up. There is a long , long list of reasons and money rarely comes up.
Satisfied workers are engaged, they feel they have some autonomy over their work or they have a chance to master their area of skill. They have the opportunity to try new things, learn and develop as a team member and a person. In addition to these aspects one other common denominator comes up and that is they find their work meaningful.
As a business leader this may not seem that important. You may already find meaning in your work. But what about your team? Do they find their work meaningful? Even if they don’t is it really that important to productivity? Well, the simple answer to that final question is yes, it is extremely important.
Researchers have shown meaningfulness to be more important to employees than any other aspect of work, including pay and rewards, opportunities for promotion, or working conditions. Meaningful work can be highly motivational, leading to improved performance, commitment, and satisfaction.
What is most interesting for business leaders is that, although the research demonstrates that leaderships is rarely mentioned when employees are interviewed about meaningful work, poor management is the biggest destructor of meaning in the workplace. It is therefore essential for you as a leader to do that right things to such a degree that the employee feels autonomous enough they don’t even perceive your leadership effect.
The fact is, when people have meaningful work, they work harder, smarter, and better, and their companies are more profitable. Given this, why would you ever leave money on the table by creating de-skilled work that demeans workers?
The research also shows that as a moment of meaninglessness arises in work people are quick to think “Why on earth am I doing this?” This feeling of deep disengagement and emptiness is almost instantaneous in people. Creating sustained meaningful work for your team is a delicate balancing act. You have to walk an extremely fine line between not trampling on anyone’s meaning whilst also nurturing an environment of meaningful work. This is the key leadership challenge of the 21st century. If you can cultivate meaning for your team you will create a workforce that is driven, committed and profitable.