Meaningfulness at work

In order to build high levels of employee engagement, managers must create create a sense of meaningfulness at work. Meaningfulness comes from contributing to something worthwhile, feeling valuable and valued, feeling able to give to, and receive from one's work, and feeling able to give and receive from others in the course of work.  


Three factors for managers and leaders to consider are: 

Quick Poll

At work I feel able to channel my energy and talent into the things that are going to make the biggest difference to the success of the organisation.
Every day
Most days
Some days
Never !!

1. Tasks

Tasks have significant impact on the sense of meaningfulness at work and the way these tasks are determined and managed provides leaders with a great opportunity to raise employee engagement levels.  At a task level, meaningfulness comes from being able to make a worthwhile contribution to a valued outcome or cause.  

Some guiding questions:

  • What is the outcome or worthwhile cause (or better, what to employees think it is) and to what degree do employees connect with it, believe in it, and value it?

  • To what degree are the tasks performed by each individual and team actually aligned to and contributing to the achievement of this valued/valuable outcome or Raison d'Ítre?

  • Are the tasks performed, the best utilisation of each employee's or team's talent and passion?

  • In allocating and managing tasks, are employees recognised and valued for their best talents and their natural passion? 

An adaptive leadership approach that taps into and makes the best use of unique individual talent, passion and contribution to worthwhile organisational goals will help promote a sense of meaningfulness. 

Even where the nature of the work context dictates a higher degree of constraint and less flexibility, opportunity still exists to create a sense of meaningfulness by helping each employee understand how the tasks they perform support the organisation's quest.  Even if these tasks do not necessarily make the best use of talent, it may still be possible to tap into passion for the organisation and what it stands for in order to create a sense of meaningfulness at work.

2. Role

The fit between a person's role and their self-image, particularly in terms status, influence, and expertise also impacts the sense of meaningfulness at work.  Ensuring that where possible employees are put into roles that allow the best use of their natural talent and their passion, and which provide the right levels of influence and status will assist leaders to build the sense of meaningfulness along with higher levels of engagement.  The strengths associated with specific underpinning personality traits and informal team role preferences can also be brought to the surface and utilised for direct practical benefit as well as helping to further strengthen an employee's 'sense of self' and the sense of making a meaningful valued contribution. 

3. Interactions

Interactions at work which promote dignity, self-appreciation, a sense of value, and include a blend of personal and professional components also contribute to the feeling that investment of true-self is worthwhile, valued, and valuable.  Conversely, it is easy to see why put-downs as well as aloofness and depersonalisation would affect the sense of dignity and self-appreciation, and correspondingly impact the sense of meaningfulness, and ultimately engagement levels and discretionary effort.  

"The take-out is simple, create an environment where people feel the investment of their true-self is worthwhile, valued, and valuable.  With this approach you will go a long way towards building a sense of meaningfulness across your team or organisation and with this you'll help raise the level of employee engagement" 

Scott Constantine - Organisational Development Consultant - Insight, Change & Performance


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(c) 2012 S.R Constantine. All rights reserved.