The search for meaning in work

01 July 2020

By Sarah Knight

The search for meaning in work

​It’s quite normal, for many, to reach a time in life where money and ‘things’ mean less and career satisfaction is much more about our contribution to a cause/project or change, and the satisfaction we get from that.

The Executives/Directors I meet, who’re considering their career options, will use words like ‘purpose’ and ‘meaning’ as they describe what they’re looking for. Or explain that whilst they need to achieve a certain level of income and are used to a certain package, the bigger driver is being part of something that feels good, solving a big problem or driving transformation, having an impact on a culture or community for example. And many will compromise on their salary and other aspects of a package, or working hours, in order to have that.

Many people at this stage in their lives will naturally look to the third sector, as their assumption is that this is likely to be where they’ll find what they’re looking for, which is great news for charities and other similar organisations – but as a commercial company there’s much you can do to attract and secure top senior talent with all of this in mind.

Have strong values and a clear direction

Typically, a person looking for meaning from their work will be attracted to an organisation that has strong values and a crystal-clear direction. If that’s not currently in place, many will relish being given the opportunity to drive change in these areas (which in turn will also drive business performance).

Make meaningful work part of the culture

According to McKinsey, there are four things an organisation can do to help make work feel more meaningful for their teams. They are:

  • Reduce anonymity: Encourage everyone to connect with customers

  • Understand the impact of their work: Get and share customer feedback

  • Recognise and reward great work

  • Connect work to a higher meaning by getting teams to answer ‘why’ to some of their job-tasks ​

Embrace doing the ‘right thing’

Having a solid Corporate Social Responsibility programme is key to attracting talent and according to Business News Daily, there are four key areas to focus on:

  • Environmental: Reducing the organisation’s carbon footprint

  • Giving: Through monetary donations or by giving away some of the organisation’s products or services

  • Treating employees fairly

  • Volunteering: Aligning or supporting a charity by raising money or allowing employees time out to volunteer

​Give them the freedom to make meaningful change

For someone with years of experience, joining an organisation where positive change is encouraged and can be implemented without reams of bureaucracy, is exciting and motivating. At this stage in their career, having the ability to make an impact, easily, more than makes up for a huge salary in an organisation constrained by red tape.

Attracting people to your organisation who get a huge sense of satisfaction from their work, will ultimately lead to a happier, more engaged and effective team. Even better, if you can make sure those in senior management positions are getting the meaning from their work they need, they’ll in turn instil it in those around them.

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