Making Your Workplace Meaningful

Posted on September 13, 2012.

My friend Scott recently left a job in the retail industry after over 25 years. He now works for the Humane Society finding homes for abused, neglected and abandoned animals. He feels his life has meaning now and loves his job.  But do you have to abandon your life in the world of corporate profit making to find meaning in you job?

The lost productivity from disengaged employees cost the US economy $370 Billion a year. So whether you’re selling designer handbags or coding websites all day creating a meaningful environment isn’t just a nice to have. So what keeps people engaged?

·      Feeling valued. Working tirelessly at any job without as much as a thank you will turn your most ardent worker into someone who’s just showing up. Lack of reward and recognition consistently top the list of reasons people leave their job.  You don’t need to throw money at them.  Develop simple hand written notes that you send out on a regular basis.  Make sure you touch everyone on your team a couple of times a year.  I’ve seen people keep notes like this on their bulletin boards for years.

·      Being in the know.  Employees want to feel part of the success of any company. By not sharing information, either good or bad, your staff starts to feel like they’re no longer part of a team.  Keep people posted about where the company stands relative to goals, even if you’re privately held.  Drill that down to the team level so everyone feels like they’re in it together. 

·      Communicating the benefits. If all you do is consistently tell your employees that you sell products, it’s hard to get them emotionally invested. But even in a high-end retailer that caters to the 1%, aren’t you really selling happiness, or a great experience?  I had a customer years ago that always said he didn’t sell commercial mats, he sold “safety”. Who would you rather work for?  People want to feel like they did something of value.

So even if you aren’t lucky enough to spend your day placing homeless puppies, you can find a way to bring meaning and value to your workplace.  In the long run you’ll have a more fully engaged, happier workforce.