The concept of meaningfulness may sound rather philosophical. It does, however, have very real implications for how we approach our work. Meaningfulness explains whether we feel our work is worthwhile, useful, and valuable.
When we find our work meaningful we become more engaged, with greater self-motivation to do it well. Therefore, as a manager there are practical steps you should take to increase that feeling of meaningfulness for the members of your team.
This diagram visualises what a job needs to align in order for us to find it meaningful:
[Image credit: General Assembly – Adam Smiley Powolsky]
Gifts says that we need to use our natural talents, skills, and strengths, as well as our interests and personality in our work. Impact related to whether we see our work helping the people or cause that we want it to.
We will not enjoy meaningful work, however, if a job doesn’t cover the basics of what we need for a good Quality of Life – for example if it leaves us too poor to pay the bills or without enough time to be with family and friends.
How to improve
Peakon’s meaningful work driver questions will enable you to discover which of these areas you need to focus on in order to improve.
The sub-driver called Fit can be considered as the Gifts circle in the diagram above. A low score here can indicate that employees feel bogged down with unproductive and bureaucratic tasks, or that some employees are not best suited to their roles.
Have short, regular (weekly or bi-weekly) one-on-ones with each member of your team. Talk about how they’re spending their time, and if they think it’s on the most valuable things. It’s important they understand this is not about giving them more work. Rather it is to reduce inefficient tasks so they can spend more time on what they do best.
Ask employees how they would like to progress in their careers. Encourage them to think of one or two aspects of their role to focus on and become better at. You may find that after discussions with everyone on your team, you can reassign responsibilities to better suit each individuals’ ambitions.
The second sub-driver of meaningful work, Significance, gives you an understanding of how valued employees feel they are to their team, and it relates to the Impact circle above. Low scores here can indicate a lack of peer-recognition. Also, employees may be feeling that they’re not able to contribute in the way they wish.
Team “retrospective” meetings are one activity that can help individuals express and understand this topic better. Consider hosting these bi-weekly or monthly meetings in groups of fewer than 10 people (group people by how closely they work with one another).
Have the participants think about how the team works together. Then, on separate post-it notes, ask each person to write two things they want the team to start doing, two things the team should stop doing, and two things they really like and want to continue with. Have each employee present their six post-its and stick them in start/continue/stop categories on a white board. Once everyone has contributed, discuss the three categories and see if you can find common topics.
While helping employees make the impact they desire is not something that can be done overnight, retrospectives will quickly give people a new perspective on how their work impacts others and, importantly, they’ll have the chance to influence how the team functions.