In our new book, The Culture Question, my co-authors and I define “meaningful work” as “work that is purposeful and brings satisfaction to employees by drawing on both their abilities and their interests. Meaningful work occurs when purpose aligns with an employee’s interests and abilities”
Let’s be honest. We all have some tasks that are “not meaningful” – those that we consider boring or inconsequential. However, when we feel that the majority of our work lacks meaning, we risk becoming disengaged, and this will eventually affect our performance.
How to assess meaningful work at work
At ACHIEVE, our leadership team has recently gone through the annual process of meeting with each staff member to explore a variety of questions related to their work. This conversation is not so much a performance review as it is a check in to discuss how things are going and to set goals for the year ahead. One thing we like to assess is how staff are feeling about the balance between work they find meaningful and work that seems to lack meaning.
…we’ve found that when an employee considers a high proportion of their work to lack meaning, it can negatively affect their level of engagement.
In having these discussions with staff, we sometimes find that the balance between work they find meaningful and not meaningful is skewed. When this is the case, we work with employees to shift that balance so that they consider more of their tasks to be meaningful. Sometimes this can be as simple as reassigning responsibilities.
Meaningful work is different for everyone
About 80 percent of what I do draws on both my abilities and my interests, and meets my definition of meaningful work. This may be closer to a 60/40 split for others. There is no exact percentage we are striving for, but we’ve found that when an employee considers a high proportion of their work to lack meaning, it can negatively affect their level of engagement.
I encourage you to consider whether enough of your work is meaningful and to have these conversations with your staff. As leaders, we all hope for an engaged workforce, and making sure people have the right amount of meaningful work is a key component to making this happen.