If You Want to Improve the Employee Experience, Make Work More Meaningful

“I’m just here for the paycheck.”

Most of us are. Only 28% of the U.S. workforce finds their work meaningful according to recent research. The truth is, for most companies this probably works fine. We go to work, push the boulder another few feet uphill and go home. No need to make it something more.

But what are we leaving on the table?

It turns out that the best talent, the top performers, the movers and shakers, happen to be part of that 28% who find work meaningful. They’re more likely to hold higher positions, get promoted faster, stay longer, and have more rewarding relationships.

Creating an environment which offers meaningful work to employees isn’t a requirement for a successful company, but it can crank up the volume to eleven.

Meaningful work doesn’t always mean a culture transformation or new company mission. Often, there are greater opportunities in the small moments each of us experiences every day.

Here are 3 small ways to start making work more meaningful for your teams and colleagues.


Find Your Cause

Those working in service oriented jobs tend to be more engaged at work. While not all of us can be firefighters, we can steal some insight as to what makes their work meaningful. At the start of your next project, think of all the people impacted by it. Who’s at the end of the line? How is their life affected by the work you’re doing? Go talk to them. Ask questions. Form a connection. The closer you are to people you’re affecting, the more you can see how you make a difference in other’s lives, the better the product and the more meaning you’ll feel.


Make it Social...the Real Life Kind.

As more employees work remotely each year, work is becoming an individual endeavor. Even though it feels more productive to finally be left alone, the research says all that loneliness may come with a big price. People with deeper relationships at work not only enjoy it more, but they also tend to have greater health in other aspects of their lives. It can be hard to stay connected to others if you don’t have a reason to. A project is a perfect opportunity to pull together unlikely teams that may not normally have roles conducive to relationship building. Grab a group of different people and give them a special problem to solve (and a cause) and a short timeline to do it. Nothing brings people together like doing work that matters. If they’re in the same location, send them to happy hour. If not, schedule time before kickoff to talk and get to know them personally.


Get Visual

Artists are among the most purpose minded workers across industries. Though many in business have tried to bury their creative instincts soon after the lumpy ceramic pot in first grade, creativity is still there. Getting more visual can help create meaning and spawn new  ideas among teams. Instead of bullet points, draw pictures of your solution. Tape it on the wall. Strive to fill an entire wall with ideas. Quality of drawing is irrelevant, don’t let anyone bail on sharing just because they “can’t draw.” Instead of using a Gantt chart in Excel, draw the project timeline on the biggest whiteboard in your office. Use Post-Its to track and move milestones. The feeling of seeing the project take up three dimensional space will create excitement and understanding among the team in ways a spreadsheet can’t. In a world where we spend our whole day rubbing our fingers across a smooth piece of glass, the tactile nature of a Post-It and a Sharpie might just be what the doctor ordered.

Meaning isn’t easy to find, but it’s worthy work. Focus on the small moments you have control over and you might notice a few more smiles around the office and maybe even a few more customers too.

Adam Allred