June, 27, 2024

Need for Meaningful work by Elsie Wanjiku, Associate, Intellecap

Multi Sector

We talk about “Money Matters”more often than not, but in today’s fast-paced work environment, ” pay” has been taking a step back  over the years with most employees looking for meaning and passion in what they put their efforts to.

Let’s dive deeper- It is increasingly evident that aligning personal and professional goals is crucial for both individual and organizational success. Research consistently shows that employees who connect their personal aspirations with their professional objectives experience greater job satisfaction, productivity, and loyalty. In retrospect, could this alignment be a definition of what is often referred to as an existential crisis? Moreover, can organizations effectively foster this alignment?

The Importance of Goal Alignment

From research, the significance of purpose and value in work cannot be overstated. A study done by the Harvard Business Review found that “meaningful work is the most important aspect of a job for employees, even more than pay or promotion opportunities”. Similarly, research from the journal Frontiers in Psychology by Frank Martela highlights that “meaningful work involves a broader purpose and self-realization, contributing to intrinsic value and work significance”.

The idea is simple: while money may initially bait employees to a job, it is the presence of purpose and meaningful work that keeps them engaged and committed. More often than not, when employees find meaning in their work and understand what they want to gain from it—whether at a call center, a food store, or a corporate firm—they tend to contribute more efficiently and exhibit increased dedication to their organization. This alignment has consistently shown how personal and professional goals create a positive feedback loop where individual fulfillment enhances organizational success.

Quick tips for Organizations and Managers

This is a wake-up call for managers and leaders at all levels about the profound impact of aligning individual purpose with work responsibilities.After  lots of conversations throughout my life about what participative leadership looks like, I’ve come to the conclusion that…(Eureka punchline) it actually looks like different things to different people.For me, the unique spaces, i have been part of over the years have continuously shown employees’ productivity, presence, and intentionality are closely tied to their sense of comfort and fit within their roles. While there are numerous strategies that can be implemented, might i add, here are some key ways i have seen that individuals could also use to meet employee needs and align them with organizational goal:

  1. Alignment of  Vision and Goals Organizations that articulate a compelling purpose and values inherently attract individuals who resonate with those principles. This alignment of values creates a cohesive and motivated workforce, resulting in higher levels of employee satisfaction and commitment. Will HR managers need to make this a checkbox?
  2. Check-ins and Feedback:Quarterly if possible,having one-on-one meetings between managers and employees help ensure that individual goals are on track and aligned with broader organizational objectives. During these meetings, managers should ask open-ended questions like, “How do you see your current projects contributing to your personal growth?” or “What skills are you looking to develop further?”
  3. Flexible Work Arrangements: Offering flexible work arrangements can help employees balance their personal and professional lives more effectively. Remote work options, flexible hours, or job-sharing opportunities can cater to diverse personal needs and enhance job satisfaction.
  4. Recognition and Rewards Programs: Acknowledge both professional achievements and personal milestones can motivate employees. Celebrating an employee’s work anniversary or personal achievements, like completing a marathon, can make them feel valued and supported.

Is Empathy still needed from Managers?

It is true that common knowledge might make leadership seem simple, but not everyone is a natural-born leader. Above and beyond the tools and  strategies to make life and work easier for employees,a  notable aspect is managers’ empathy as a crucial  key guide. Their unique perspectives on leadership  for instance —Do  they view mistakes as opportunities for growth rather than failures? Are employees’ ideas and opinions only to be heard but not actively listened to? Are they consistently demonstrating genuine interest in employees’ well-being? Are they mindful of their own biases and how these might affect their interactions with employees? How responsive are they to the feedback they receive from their team?

Arguably,we should teach individuals in ALL leadership spaces (this is depending on your company structure) how to lead with grace and a high EQ. This type of  mindset, fostered by a sense of purpose, sets the stage for resilience and a swift rebound from setbacks, contributing to increased fulfillment in finding solutions.Employees under search leadership also report enhanced self-worth, improved teamwork, and overall better health and well-being.

Additionally, the philosophy of “fail early and often” would take on a new dimension in organizations prioritizing meaningful work. We all know companies are not similar in size ,revenue or brands but if we could imagine an environment where Employees are encouraged to view failures not as dead ends but as stepping stones to growth and improvement. This mindset shift would be instrumental in cultivating a culture of continuous learning and innovation, propelling both individual and organizational development.

What change can be done?

The previous generations in the workforce, such as Millennials and Gen X, were often driven by traditional industries. They believed that hard work would guarantee adequate income, which in turn would support their families, dreams, and all the good things that come with life. However, this often comes at the expense of health, passion, and excitement for new things.

We see a paradigm shift with the newer folks.The newer generations, Gen Z have a profound need for meaningful work alongside adequate finances. With a non-traditional approach, they seek to balance purpose in life while still enjoying the little things. This shift reflects a changing mindset, where work is not just a means to an end but an integral part of a fulfilling life.

In essence, the intertwining of purpose and work transforms the workplace into a dynamic ecosystem.Individuals find fulfillment, organizations achieve success, and the collective journey becomes more than the sum of its parts.

Let’s all recognize the value of meaningful work ,as not only just a “strategic move” for organizational leaders; but also a fundamental shift toward a culture , people that foster growth, resilience, and lasting success.

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