7 Ways To Make Work More Meaningful

by  Scott Mautz  |  Team Dynamics
7 Ways To Make Work More Meaningful

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
What would you add to the seven markers of meaning?
Photo Credit: Fotolia tashatuvango

About The Author

Articles By scott-mautz
Scott Mautz is author of Make It Matter: How Managers Can Motivate by Creating Meaning , which was just named a “Best Book of 2015” by Soundview BusinessBooks. He’s also an award winning keynote speaker, and a 20+ year veteran of Procter & Gamble, having run several thriving, multi-billion dollar divisions along the way. Connect with Scott at  »  View Profile

What People Are Saying

Ally Gill  |  05 Aug 2015  |  Reply

I don’t disagree with anything here but it’s based on a predicate of a hierarchy and a gap between a manager or leader and their team. If you work on removing the need for this then everything else pretty much follows.

It may be a bigger mindset change and a more difficult sell within the organisation but it’s much more powerful at the end of the day.


Scott Mautz  |  05 Aug 2015  |  Reply

Interesting point Ally. I believe Zappos is picking up what your laying down too as they’ve gone to a “holocracy” whereby the traditional layers in a heirarchy have been eliminated. Will be inteesting to watch how that pans out. Thanks for the engagement!

Paula Kiger  |  05 Aug 2015  |  Reply

Scott, I really enjoyed this post. I especially concur with “help others see where they fit in the mission.” That’s critical for me. I will dig ditches, sweep floors, anything that contributes as long as I understand why it contributes to the success of the mission. Thanks for this post!

Scott Mautz  |  05 Aug 2015  |  Reply

Thx Paula!
I’ve heard so many times the importance people place on knowing how they fit in the mission. They are then even more energized if they believe that the mission serves their Profound Why – i.e. their Purpose (Why they are working so hard, for what higher order reason?)

John E. Smith  |  06 Aug 2015  |  Reply

Hi, Scott – very useful and comprehensive post.

I was going to comment on the importance of making sure employees understand how what they do contributes to what the organization does, but Paula beat me to it. Fortunately, many other valuable observations exist to consider.

I think perhaps that when you say “Create A Caring And Authentic Culture, Where People Feel Free To Bring Their Whole Self To Work” you are really getting to both an essential point for engagement and a very difficult thing to do in the real world.

The issue I see here is “How authentic do you want people to be?”. The old caveat about discussing politics, religion, and the quintessential question of life (Beatles or Stones?), being taboo at work comes to mind here. I personally have fairly strong views regarding my identity as a liberal progressive Christian and often share those views, trying to keep things civil and respectful toward others who might disagree.

However, I have only been truly forthcoming since I have primarily been employed by self. As an employee inside an organization, I never felt that I could or should share so much of what makes me … well, authentically me.

How do we make our organizations such that differences are allowed and maybe even celebrated as what make us human, while still maintaining the ability to work with others whose values and beliefs differ?


Scott Mautz  |  06 Sep 2015  |  Reply

John, my apologies for missing your response to this post. You pose an excellent question in how to maintain authenticity at work in the face of strong valuesyou hold that not everyone may share. As luck would have it, I followed this post up with one on Authenticity and Genuineness and work – A Code of Conduct so to speak that by now I see you have read and commented (which I greatly appreciate). I hope that helped to answer this great question you pose. The only other thing I’d add to that post on Authenticity in light of your question here is this: by living and practicing authenticity at work in a holistic manner (as outlined in the Code of Conduct I shared), I believe that it creates enough common ground that we bind with our fellow man (or woman). Committing to such a holistic approach allows us to be more patient and accepting of working with others who do not 100% align wiht our values and beliefs. I’d argue crafting this common ground is essential becasue in almost every work place, finding perfect matches on values and beliefs can be challenging.

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