Meaning at work: the art of give and take
There’s been a shift in how people view their attitude to work. More of us want to be a part of something that aligns with what motivates us both personally and professionally — a sense of purpose. We spend a lot of our waking life at work, and so it seems reasonable that employees want a sense of engagement with what they do for a living. Businesses recognise this and the smart ones know that performance, whether good or bad, depends heavily on human motivation.
According to the the much-cited report, 2015 Trends in Global Employee Engagement by HR consultancy Aon Hewitt, if employers manage to boost employee engagement by as little as five percentage points, they are likely to see revenues jump by as much as 3%.
Once people earn a salary or wage they’re comfortable with, their motivation becomes much more intrinsic. In the opinion of Daniel Pink, a seminal author on work, management and behavioural science, key factors here comprise higher purpose or how meaningful a job feels, how much autonomy employees are given, and whether they have mastery over their areas of expertise.
Three is the magic number
The combination of all three key motivators of meaningfulness, mastery and expertise is where employees want to get to. But even if just one or two of these are in place, performance and personal satisfaction in the workplace leap.
Once people earn a salary or wage they’re comfortable with, their motivation becomes much more intrinsic.
Angela Duckworth, a psychology professor and author of ‘Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance’ endorses this notion of higher purpose. In her view, one of the key contributors to individual success is this “grit”. It’s an approach based on a goal you care about. Duckworth says that the goal is so heartfelt that “it organises and gives meaning to almost everything you do”. Therefore, people in its grip keep on going, even in the face of adversity.
Working towards the greater good
In a workplace context, however, such goals tend to be about more than simply realising an individual’s personal ambitions. Instead, people find much more personal satisfaction from working with others towards a greater good they all buy into.
People’s stress levels tend to fall, their oxytocin, or “love hormone”, levels rise and they, as individuals, feel much healthier.
Most people want to work in a way that generates positive social results and conforms to one’s beliefs value system. This is obviously emotionally rewarding. There is another benefit to working with a higher purpose because it paves the way for personal wellbeing. As a direct result, people’s stress levels tend to fall, their oxytocin, or “love hormone”, levels rise and they, as individuals, feel much healthier. It’s no wonder then, that according to Deloitte’s recent study, young workers are eager for business leaders to be proactive about making a positive impact in society—and to be responsive to employees’ needs.
Purpose beyond profit
The report also finds that business’ actions strongly influence the length of time millennials intend to stay with their employers. So although it may seem too good to be true, this kind of ‘purpose-beyond-profit-driven’ approach actually generates amazing results – as long as it is genuinely felt by everyone across the business and is not simply the subject of lip service.
According to a report entitled Global Leadership Forecast 2018, purpose-driven companies experience 12% higher engagement levels than non-purpose driven ones. Staff are 14% more likely to stay and the overall culture tends to be more positive. Purpose-driven companies outperform the rest of the market by a huge 42%. So at the very least, instilling a sense of purpose into your company has to be an approach worth considering.