We’ve talked about the importance of employee engagement before – how engaged workers are less likely to steal, negatively influence their coworkers and miss workdays.  “Engaged” here is defined as employees who are “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”, according to study sponsor Gallup.

A recent study outlined in the Harvard Business Review adds yet another statistic to the stack of reasons to engage employees in their work.  Nine out of ten people are willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work.  In fact, people would give up 23% of their lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful.

And that’s not all.  They also spend one additional hour per week working, and take two fewer days of paid leave per year, and are more productive at work.  All of these benefits translate to $9,078 per worker, per year, in extra value a company can derive from making an employee’s work highly meaningful.

Given the tremendous amount of money at stake, why are companies so bad at making work meaningful? In the United States, only one in three employees finds work meaningful – far better than almost anywhere else, but still pitifully low.

One of the main reasons is that it’s difficult to bring meaning to every job.  It’s a higher-level process, one that doesn’t float to the top of a list of urgent problems.  It’s a noble goal, but it seems like there’s always another fire to put out instead.

It doesn’t have to be complicated, however.  Here are three ways you can bring more meaning to the work done by your employees.

Make Sure Your Managers Are Doing Their Job

There are many reasons that people get promoted.  Unfortunately, not all of them involve a desire to manage people.  Some managers don’t even have the ability to manage people.  Sometimes, it takes a little while to discover that.

One of the most important parts of any manager’s job is to help their employees believe they have the employees’ own best long-term interests at heart.  Among other things, this means helping employees identify where they’d like their professional career to end up, and helping them get there.

If your managers aren’t helping interested employees plan their professional development, you’re missing out on an easy opportunity to help employees find meaning in their work.  Make sure all of your managers are trained in how to do this, and make sure they’re doing it regularly for each of their reports interested in professional development and growth.

Encourage Front-Line Contributions, and Put Them Into Action

One of the many blessings of working for a small- or mid-sized business is that there aren’t seven layers of management between the CEO and the front-line employees.  But that doesn’t mean communication is always perfect, either.

In many companies, front line employees are directed to enact a strategy created by someone else.  While they understand their job description, and they know their tasks, they may not truly know why they’re doing what they’re doing, and they may not even be sure who decided they needed to do it.  It’s difficult to find meaning in a job when you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, especially if you think there’s a better way.  If this is the case, there’s probably also a tremendous amount of knowledge sitting untapped on the front lines of companies – knowledge held by people who haven’t seen evidence that their input would be valued by the company.

Both of these problems can be fixed by encouraging better communication between those building the company’s strategic path and those implementing the front-line tactics to realize that strategy.  Processes should come with explanations for why they’re important, so people understand the value they’re contributing.  And employees should be encouraged to submit ideas for improvement to a group of people empowered to consider them and implement them into the company’s strategy.

The most important part of this process is to let the contributing employee know their input is valuable, even if their idea wasn’t implemented.  Explain to them why the idea wasn’t implemented, and encourage them to submit more ideas in the future.  Finally, don’t forget to let front-line employees know when one of their ideas was implemented.  This creates positive feedback, which will lead to more idea contributions in the future.

Make the Community a Better Place

One of the most important things small businesses can do is work to make their community a better place.  This isn’t because of some advertising benefit or profit motivation – it’s because it’s the right thing to do.  We all live in our communities, and we want them to be positive places to live and grow.

There are other benefits, too.  Providing employees with an opportunity to improve the world in a way they can personally experience adds meaning to their work.  It increases their devotion to the company, and makes them work harder at their primary role.  In short, it helps them find meaning in work.

If your company doesn’t currently support your community beyond its commercial endeavors, find a way to do that – one that brings energy and excitement to your employees. You’ll see exactly what so many companies already do, which is that this yields far more benefits than it costs.

To learn how WingSwept can help your business make better use of technology, call us at 919-779-0954 or email us at Team_WingSwept@WingSwept.com.