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Flourishing Employees Are Meaningfully Engaged

By David Penglase

Victor Frankl, author of the book Man’s Search For Meaning, said “There is nothing in the world… that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life”.

In the competitive world of disruption, distraction and change, Frankl’s words herald a real opportunity for leaders and human resource professionals to help employees find meaning at work as part of their on-going employee engagement strategy.

For well over a decade now, employee engagement has been at the top of mind (and budgets) for most forward thinking corporations. There’s been significant investment in programs and benefits all aimed at increasing the levels of engagement of employees in their work, which ideally will convert to higher levels of productivity, profitability and other measures of corporate success.

However, just as value-adding can be a zero sum game when continually striving to convert customers into advocates, value-adding in pursuit of improved employee engagement is also fraught with danger, and there’s a vast range of scientific research that continues to validate why and how intrinsic motivation trumps extrinsic motivation.

While there is of course merit and proven value in many aspects of some employee engagement programs, most are based on strategies extrinsically motivating employees to turn up and do what they’re paid to do.

Not every worker has a job that is inspiring for them. It will take a lot more than just a vision or mission statement for them to find meaning at work. However, employees who do find meaning at work are more intrinsically motivated to perform and are more engaged in their work. Note there is an important difference between meaning in work and meaning at work. For those employees who aren’t inspired personally from the work they do, may not find meaning in their work, however, they can still find meaning at work.

Experimental evidence validates that there are three essential ingredients required for employees to find meaning at work and for leaders and human resource professionals, these three essential ingredients provide a blueprint:

  1. A feeling of being connected to others – help employees understand how the work they do positively impacts their work colleagues, inter-intra team members, clients and other stakeholders
  2. Personal positivity – help employees see opportunity in times of disruption, distraction and change
  3. The world around them makes sense – set clear and meaningful goals that employees understand why and how they fit in with creating value for their clients and feel are aligned with their personal values.

As you’re reading this, think about your own situation. How connected to others at work do you feel? How would you rate your positivity across all aspects of your work role? And to what extent is the world around you at work making sense?

Let me know what you think.



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