How To Help Your People Find Meaning And Purpose In Their Work

Stacey Ashley Blog

How To Help Your People Find Meaning And Purpose In Their Work

I recently spoke to over 1000 HR and Talent Acquisition leaders across Asia about how they might approach recruiting people to fill the growing talent gaps in their businesses. It’s a big challenge in light of the Great Resignation and the talent shortages many industries are facing.

But is it the Great Resignation or is it really the Great Re-Evaluation?

The impact of the last couple of years have led more people to question what is important for them? What makes their life valuable? Where do they find and create meaning in their lives?

For many people they are no longer satisfied with having a ‘job.’ If they are going to dedicate so much of their effort, focus, energy, and time then shouldn’t their work be important? People are making more considered choices about how they spend their lives, and that means how they choose to work, what they choose to work on.

It is impossible to have a great life unless it is a meaningful life. And it is very difficult to have a meaningful life without meaningful work.”

~ Jim Collins

On reflection, many people have realised that what they have been doing every day at work does not matter to them….not really. It does not make an impact. It does not contribute in the way that they would like it to.

People are looking for something more.

They are looking for purpose.

They are seeking meaning.

No longer simply seeking a job, they are more interested in work that matters.

From Amy Wrzesniewski’s research on people’s relationship to their work.

If you want to be leading a team operating in possibility, then help them to find the meaning. Help them to find what matters.

People are not leaving managers, teams, and organisations for frivolous reasons. They are not leaving you simply to get better pay. They are leaving because they are more interested in pursuing what is important to them.

People are reevaluating where and how their work fits in with their life, and they want to know that they are spending it in a way that really is important to them.

People everywhere are reevaluating the place of work in their life and in its simplest form, the focus of their work has rapidly shifted up Maslow’s hierarchy into the space of meaning. It is not simply about earning money anymore. It is not only about ambition. The meaning of their work matters. People have moved from having a job to wanting a calling in a very short space of time.

And while they have always been those who have asked, “Why does this matter? Why is this important?” What we are now seeing is that far more of the general population of the workforce are asking these key questions. And they want to know that they spend their time on the important things.

If you are a leader, you have a responsibility to help your people find this meaning.

How?

Here is one simple way.

Help them to understand:

  • What is important about your organisation?
  • What is important about your team?
  • Why you do what you do?
  • Why does your organisation exist?
  • What is your organisation’s purpose?

I learned about the Corporate Cascade in my early days as a productivity consultant. The Corporate Cascade is a simple way to express the translation of Purpose into every day operations.

As we go down the corporate cascade, you will see that the Purpose informs the Vision, what we aspire to over the next five or perhaps 10 years.  This then leads to the development of a Strategy, which is the definition of what we are going to do to achieve the Vision, which fulfils our Purpose.

Next is the Business Plan. The specifics of the current year’s focus, that will deliver the key elements of the strategy. Now we move to specific Programs and Projects, and down to the Team, then to each individual’s plans for their role. What are their KPIs? What are their KRAs? What are their specific goals? And then of course, what does each individual actually do each day?

Now, in a perfect world, that corporate cascade would be beautiful to behold in terms of the way that each element informs the next element as we cascade down. But really, does that happen in your organisation?

Are people even aware of what the strategic imperatives are? Do they understand how these strategies support delivery of the vision and fulfilment of the purpose?

The bigger question though is, while people may buy into the purpose and vision of the organisation, do they understand how what they do each day contributes to the purpose and vision?

Part of your role as a leader is to be a translator, to help each of your team members to make the connection, to help them find meaning in their work by making a direct connection between what they do every day and the purpose of their team and their organisation.

You need to help them to find what matters. Help your people to understand how they contribute to what matters. And in helping them do that, you will help them to be informed when they make that Re-evaluation for themselves about whether to be part of your organisation and team. Help them to understand the difference they can make. Help them to find meaning.

“He who has a WHY to live for can bear with almost any how.”

~ Friedrich Nietzsche

When you have a team of people who are finding meaning in their work, you are leading possibility.

Imagine the opportunity that would be created with a group of people who choose to contribute to what is important. Who choose to show up every day and make that contribution, to be part of it, to realise the vision, to fulfil the purpose.

I’d love to know your thoughts.

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