How you can help your employees find meaning at work

When employees are empowered by meaning and a bigger purpose, they work harder and come to work happier. Whether it’s working for an organisation that’s saving lives or a purpose as small as making a co-worker’s job easier, evidence shows that work fueled by meaning and purpose results in enhanced employee wellbeing, improved workplace productivity and results.

In part four of her wellbeing series, Clinical and Coaching Psychologist and CEO of The Positive Institute, Suzy Green, will take a look at the powerful role the M in the PERMA Wellbeing Model plays. As a reminder PERMA stands for Positive Emotions, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment.

For an employee to feel they have a sense of purpose at work, they must be able to identify meaningful contribution made through his or her efforts. Through that effort there’s increased motivation and an accompanying sense of joy, confidence and self-worth in making a difference. Think of those who work in accounting businesses who believe their work improves not only the financial wellbeing of their customers, but their overall wellbeing and life satisfaction.

What can you do as a business owner to help your employees create meaningful work? Here’s five strategies that have been proven to make an impact.

Take time to understand what matters to your employees

Investing in individual or team conversations to explore employee core values (the things that matter most) is one of the most important investments a business owner can make. While most small business owners have full schedules and find it difficult to make time for general conversation, making time to understand what makes your employees tick and then helping them see how their values are being lived through their job roles and/or the mission of the organisation is one of the most powerful ways to create meaningful work.

Discover your employees’ strengths

Using strengths in service of others or in helping to make a difference in the world creates meaningful work. However, many people in the workplace have no idea what their strengths are and spend little of their day using them. Check out Strengths Profile or Strengths Finder as scientifically based tools to uncover your team’s strengths.

Create a strengths-based workplace

Once your team members know what their strengths are, it’s important that you give them an opportunity to consider how they can use these strengths to create greater levels of meaning at work. This can be done through dedicated team sessions where individuals share creative ideas for using strengths at work or swap tasks so that each team member has an opportunity to use their strengths more at work.

Support job crafting

Job crafting allows individuals to alter the social and task components of their jobs and experience different kinds of meaning. Research has shown job crafting works for the most routine to the most complex jobs, and from the lowest to the highest tiers of an organisation. This might mean supporting employees to add, drop or adjust the time or effort spent on various tasks, and perhaps redesigning aspects of tasks (e.g. an administrative assistant who spends time learning new workplace technology to fulfill her passion for IT).

Be a transformational leader

Transformational leaders not only articulate an inspirational vision of the future to their employees but are clear on how they’re going to achieve that vision. By helping team members make clear connections between their individual roles and the vision and mission of your business, individual job roles become more meaningful.

Introducing the concept of meaning at work should not be done superficially. Your team will know if it’s not being done authentically. As a business owner, your role is to consider meaning for yourself first and why you come to work. When you’re clear about your purpose and the role work plays in creating a meaningful life, it will be so much easier to talk about it. Finally, it’s important to not only recite but fully connect with the overall mission of your business – which needs to be more than just financial. Increasingly leaders and businesses are looking to make a positive difference in the world. And in fact, this mission attracts talented employees who also want to be part of that mission.

Dr Suzy Green

Dr Suzy Green is a Clinical and Coaching Psychologist (MAPS) and Founder of The Positivity Institute, a positively deviant organisation dedicated to the research and application of Positive Psychology for life, school and work.
Suzy is a leader in the complementary fields of Coaching Psychology and Positive Psychology, having conducted a world-first study on evidence-based coaching as an Applied Positive Psychology. Suzy was the recipient of an International Positive Psychology Fellowship Award and has published in the Journal of Positive Psychology. Suzy lectured on Applied Positive Psychology as a Senior Adjunct Lecturer in the Coaching Psychology Unit, University of Sydney for ten years and is an Honorary Vice President of the International Society for Coaching Psychology.