How and Why to Help Employees Find Meaning in Their Work

Guest Contributorby Sherrie Haynie | Posted | Engagement

How and Why to Help Employees Find Meaning in Their Work

Low engagement is a significant business risk. If people are unhappy at work, not only are they more likely to be unproductive or leave, they’re also more likely to tell others about their experience. This makes it harder to hire good people.

So, a focus on engagement is a high business priority. 

Based on current research from  Bersin by Deloitte (February 2015), top engagement criteria include: meaningful work and how employees view their manager’s leadership skills, and their ability to provide coaching and effective feedback.

Let’s talk about meaningful work…

What does meaningful work really mean, anyway?

People seek meaning throughout the various stages of their career. Key for engagement is helping employees find that meaningfulness while identifying and harnessing the specific talents and differences that make each employee unique.

Early in their career, employees may be looking for mentorship and the ability to contribute to or lead many different, challenging projects.

For employees who actively engage in their development, this search never really stops. However, it takes on different aspects as they grow and gain new skills and competencies or their roles become more complex.

In other scenarios, individuals look for meaning through goals that extend beyond their current role in the organization, and that will help them grow professionally.

The clearer employees become about their development needs and growth goals, and how they can get those needs and goals met (both inside the workplace and out), the better.

It’s why your leaders and employees need to collaborate on ways to keep employees challenged, growing, and engaged.

All of which is key to keeping talent committed to your organization.

How to help employees discover meaning in the workplace

1. Identify and discover who is truly engaged.

Identify current employees who you feel are truly engaged and find out what drew them to the company initially and what has kept them there.

My colleague Nicole Trapasso, division director of HR and Organizational Development at CPP, Inc., says:

“You likely will find some information that validates your assumptions as well as new information that might be eye-opening.” 

Considering the variety of preferences and interests that employees bring to the organization, this feedback can be valuable for HR throughout the various phases of the talent management life cycle.

By fostering discussions about meaningfulness and engagement with a cross section of your employees, you can help them reaffirm why they joined the company in the first place.

2.  Engage employees and leaders in dialogue.

Once you have collected some trend data, you can share it with employees and managers by opening up the discussion in the organization. This information is also extremely powerful for recruitment purposes.

It can enable you, your recruiters, and your managers to clearly identify what may draw potential talent to your organization and how you can help retain current employees.

Meet your employees’ long-term needs

Employee engagement isn’t only about meeting the day-to-day needs of employees—it’s also about meeting their long-term needs. The market has changed from an employer’s market to an employee’s market. As the economy has continued to improve, employees are well aware they have a variety of career options with other potential employers.

This information is easily accessible through social technology and digital professional networks, as well as the more traditional job boards.

Focusing on how you can maximize opportunities for your current and future employees is really important—especially for their long-term career goals and your organization’s ability to retain its top talent.

Nicole Trapasso explains why:

“This not only helps employees feel engaged and grateful that you’re investing in their future but also helps HR professionals actively assess their talent pool—and how to take proactive measures to build, engage, and retain talent.” 

So take the time to ask:

  • What are your employee turnover rates at the 6-month, 12-month, 18-month, and 36-month milestones?
  • Are employees leaving for opportunities that your organization cannot offer?
  • How do these rates compare to those of other companies in your industry?

It’s important to have access to and track this trend data so you are able to create or realign strategies to reengage employees through creative alternatives. And it’s key to be aware of potential areas of risk within your talent pool and partner with other leaders in your organization to take proactive measures to curb those risks.

The key for long-term employee engagement is employee/manager communication 

The conversations that managers have with their employees should be ongoing rather than annual events. In addition to managerial skills, personality preferences and interpersonal needs can make a significant difference in how those conversations are being facilitated.

Focusing on the differences in how people communicate plays an important role in how the conversation flows between manager and employee. Differences or similarities between them will lead to different kinds of communications.

Yet these conversations are crucial for getting the employee to feel engaged and valued as a long-term member of your organization—and need to happen regularly to create a greater chance for successful outcomes.

Next month, I’ll be contributing another article to the TalentSpace Blog that explores the components of tailored communication for enhancing manager coaching and feedback, another critical aspect of increasing engagement. 

I'll also be facilitating a webinar with Halogen on April 15th where I'll dive into the topic of tailoring communication to increase engagement even further. Click here for more details and to register.

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Tailor Communication to Increase Engagement

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Tailor Communication to Increase Engagement

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