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7 Surprising Benefits of Doing Meaningful Work

Over the last couple of years, record numbers of people have left their jobs around the world. Stress, burnout, toxic workplaces cultures and overwhelming workloads have tipped people over the edge. 
Organisations have resorted to filling vacancies by increasing pay and offering a range of perks. Competitive job markets have spurred on hiring managers to focus on pushing the functional benefits of a job to lure talent such as salary, extra annual leave, wellbeing programs and new technology. 
What is often misunderstood is that attracting the right people into work is actually about focusing on the emotional benefits. In other words, the impact the company makes to the world and how each person contributes to that. It’s about the company mission and how the work makes the world better. It's also about promoting how achieving the goal or vision will make employees feel – emotional benefits such as trust, job security, achievement and empowerment.
While perks still play an important role to recruit and keep new talent, there also needs to be more consideration given to promoting the emotional benefits of work (how it makes me feel), rather than the transactional benefits (what it does for me). 

What is becoming increasingly important is for leaders to focus on meaningful work.

Meaningful work can be defined as when employees understand the value of the work they do and how it links to the organisation’s mission.

Now, before you tell me that some jobs are inherently unloveable or meaningless. That's actually not true.
A ground breaking study has debunked this prevailing myth. Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski worked with hospital cleaners to change their mindset about their job. Around one-third came to see their role as critical to the patient’s healing process. They were encouraged to get to know the patients and their families. Some staff worked with patients to choose the right artwork so that it would uplift their energy from their bed. In the end, the study found that hospital cleaners believed their work to be deeply meaningful.

What we forget is that everyone is different with a range of unique capabilities, beliefs, mindsets and aptitudes. One person's nightmare job is another person's dream job.  It all comes down to the meaning that we attribute to our jobs -  the "why" behind the work we do. All jobs can be meaningful - it all depends on the context we construct.
In fact, companies who focus on hiring employees who strongly believe in the idea that work is meaningful are even more likely to find the right candidates.

Let's take a look at some of the studies and benefits ascribed to finding meaningfulness in work:
1. Increases performance 
Research shows that when we find our work meaningful, performance improves by 33% and the increased productivity amounts to as much as $10,000 per individual. 
2. Increases staff loyalty
A study by McKinsey found that employees who have found meaning in their work are 75 percent more committed to their organisation. They are also 49 percent less likely to leave when they find their jobs meaningful.
This also lines up with research by The Energy Project, a training and consultancy company. They surveyed more than 12,000 employees across a range of companies and industries. They found that employees are three times more likely to stay with their company when their work is meaningful. Unfortunately, only 50% of employees experienced a sense of meaning in their work.

3. Increases demand for jobs 

A recent by BetterUp study found that 9 out of 10 workers are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earning for greater meaning at work. This was consistent across all age groups.

In fact, a Canadian study by ServiceNow, found that office workers would give up nearly $9,000 in their annual pay raise for a more fulfilling job. The top motivation for employees to perform well wasn't money or prestige – it was meaning.

It also adds further weight to the argument that promoting a higher than average salary isn't the right way to attract the best employees. It also increases the likelihood of hiring entitled employees who keep asking for more money or resources without any doing any extra effort.

4. Increases employee engagement

The Energy Project, also found a direct correlation between finding meaning in work and high performance. Their research found that employees who claimed to derive meaning from their work were reportedly 1.4 times more engaged at work and 1.7 times more likely to feel job satisfaction. 
In fact, according to a recent Gallup poll, it takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a job where they feel engaged, and unsurprisingly next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers.
5. Reduces absenteeism
The previously mentioned BetterUp study also found that highly meaningful work motivates employees to work an extra hour per week, and to take two fewer days paid leave per year.
6. Improves promotional opportunities
The recent BetterUp study also found that employees who find their jobs highly meaningful are more likely to have received a raise in the past year. Furthermore, they were also more likely to have received a promotion in the past six months.
Not only that, employees who placed a higher value on meaningful work occupied more senior, skilled positions.
It stands to reason that if you feel that your work is meaningful, your career opportunities improve.
7. Increases wellbeing
In a study by Globoforce’s WorkHuman Research Institute and IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute, they found that meaningful work topped the list of positive employee experiences.
That's because meaningful work improves our wellbeing. In the Bates-Gallup study of purposeful work: individuals who had high purpose in work were ten times more likely to experience overall well-being.

When we are able to do work that matches our passions, not only do organisations see an increase in productivity, but also higher rates of job satisfaction and a happier workplace overall.

The Path to More Work Meaningfulness

This is nothing new. McKinsey found that over the past 30 years, Americans have identified meaningful work as the most important aspect of a job—ahead of income, job security, and the number of hours worked.

What is new is that we live in a world with escalating burnout, stress and turnover levels. While meaningful work can't stop overload, it can improve wellbeing and provide people with a more enjoyable employee experience. When it is combined with employee recognition and employee engagement activities that focus on the emotional value of work - it helps employees feel appreciated and part of something bigger than themselves.

Conveying the meaning of work is one of the least utilised tools a leader has in their leadership toolbox to avoid poor performance and disengagement.  It comes down to reframing. Packing online orders is really about helping customers experience the delight of opening their new goods. Administration tasks are really about helping the organisation run more smoothly and meet regulations, so they can stay in business.

Leaders who work on communicating the meaning behind jobs create enormous value to themselves, their people and the company.

It calls for organisations to consider how all work tasks make a difference to people's lives and to find the right type of person who enjoys doing what other people consider a menial task. This requires leaders to lose the misconception that some jobs are unloveable and require tangible rewards.

What can you do to help people feel the meaning behind their work?

Don't miss out! Live today is my new webinar on 3 Indispensable Secrets to Leading Thriving, Capable Teams. Register now and you can also access the recording.

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