The startling truth is that 70% of employees are disengaged at work – checked out.
That’s a real dilemma for the companies trying to do more with less, which is of course all of them. The answer to winning back disengaged employees (and keeping the engaged employees, well, engaged) isn’t pay, perks or promotions.
It’s meaning – that is, giving work a greater sense of significance, and thus, making work matter.
Markers Of Meaning
How, do leaders create meaning at work for others and themselves? Here are 7 ways, what I call the markers of meaning.
- Help your team understand their purpose, and show them that their work matters. – Carve out time for employees to explore the purpose–or profound why–of what they do. A study of lifeguards showed they performed better when they were told about other lifeguards who saved lives, rather than about how learning lifeguarding skills would benefit them personally later in life. So, introduce your team to their customers. Gather stories of how their work helps others, even in small ways, and encourage them to share their own stories. Reframe the work your team is doing so they can understand how and why they fit into that work.
- Commit to crafting a learning environment that energizes and maximizes personal growth for your team. – Make space for your team to create and execute their own learning plans, offering help along the way. Understand their different learning styles and attention spans, and provide experiences for growth expanding on what they already know, with immediate opportunities for practice. For more ways on how to energize your team, read the Organizational Energy Formula.
- Be intentional about building self-esteem so others feel valued and valuable. – You care about your personal family and friends, but what about your work family, whom you probably see the most? Do you ever ask how your employees are doing, and care about what they say? By showing employees their value, they will feel valued as individuals and in turn are more likely to live up to their value in the workplace. What is competence without confidence?
- Involve the troops in decisions to net a sense of control, and grant autonomy liberally. – Micromanagement can be a meaning-killer. Including your employees in decisions and giving them space to get the job done helps them feel less like numbers and more like contributors. Whether it’s where to put the new soda fridge, or how to solve a million-dollar problem, don’t manage in a vacuum.
- Create a caring and authentic culture, where people feel free to bring their whole self to work. – This starts with bringing your whole self. By being your authentic self, you give employees permission not to check their identities at the door, even if they root for the Yankees.
- Help others see where they fit in the mission, and that the mission depends on them to achieve it. – Your employees will never think their work matters if they don’t know that they matter. Achieve this by showing them the long-term vision and how they fit in it–beyond the org chart.
- Free the workplace from corrosive behaviors that serve as barriers to the best self. – Innstilling fear and introducing uncertainty to your team can mean two steps back on any progress you’ve made to create an authentic, meaningful workplace. So can a lack of decision-making and/or integrity. Cut off corrosive behaviors that stand between your team’s potential to thrive in an authentic culture thriving on meaning, allowing each member to be his/her best self.