Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Are you already a steward of meaning?

Last week I went to a seminar on the soul of work. What may seem like a fluffy subject turned out to be a very interesting and enlightening afternoon. Those of you who follow me on twitter have seen the very enthusiastic tweets J.

Monique Valcour, a professor at EDHEC business school, held an engaging presentation on the importance of having a meaningful job. Research has shown that meaningfulness is crucial to having engaged employees. Consequently, leaders should be ‘stewards of meaning’.

I have written several times already on key leadership skills but this for sure was a new angle.
Many companies have a yearly engagement survey, questioning their employees on how committed they are in their job and how their leadership contributes to that. I don’t think any of them have a question included as to whether people feel that their job is meaningful. I wouldn’t put it in either…until now…

Monique had several examples on how to add meaning to a job but the most striking one was a story about a cleaning person in a hospital. She had to clean rooms of people who were undergoing chemotherapy. Not the most pleasant job to say the least. However she found meaning in it by realizing that due to her contribution patients still had some dignity in their most vulnerable moments. Head’s off for that!

Taking this example and looking at leaders being a steward of meaning…if you can create an environment where people can find that meaning in even the lowest of jobs…than you really have an edge on all others.

Meaningful work is different for every individual, what someone cares about is very personal. This means that you cannot make work meaningful for people. They need to do that themselves.
What you can do is to create context that employees can leverage to derive meaning from their work.
You can do by some fairly simple actions:
  • ·       Show them how their work fits into the bigger picture
  • ·       Capitalize on their strengths because that is what energizes them
  • ·       Give them autonomy in completing their work
  • ·       Give recognition for good work 

Creating such a work environment, will allow people to connect their personal interests and life objectives with their job and will automatically lead to a higher employee engagement.
After all, wouldn’t you want to join an organisation whose work engages your interest and deserves your passion?


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