Engaging Employees with Meaningful Work
A man came upon two workers breaking granite and stopped to ask them what they were doing. The first worker sarcastically replied, “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m trying to break this granite.” The second worker enthusiastically responded, “I’m part of a team of people who are building a beautiful cathedral.”
While salary and benefits packages can help to engage talent, explicitly providing a link between individuals’ values and the work that they do every day can be a powerful motivator. Many people work for organizations that are aligned with their values or that have a clear impact on the well-being of others. However, where these attributes are less obvious, managers may need to help employees find meaningfulness in their work.
According to Richard H. Axelrod, author of Terms of Engagement: New Ways of Leading and Changing Organizations, creating an engaged workplace is best accomplished when employee commitment is built into the work itself. Axelrod recommends, among other tactics, allowing more autonomy where possible and developing scoreboards for immediate feedback. Research shows that when people have autonomy in their work, they are more motivated in their jobs.
Scoreboards, unlike annual reviews, let employees know how well they’re doing on a more regular basis. This can challenge them to work harder to achieve certain short-term goals as well as allow them to know where they stand in regard to longer-term goals. For many people, this level of awareness can help provide them with a stronger sense of purpose for coming to work every day.