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What makes a job meaningful?
28 April 2017 11:14am
When you look at people you know, who seems to have the most meaningful job? Why is that?
Go on, hands up, who said, “My Mum, she’s a nurse”? Well, you’re not wrong. But give him 20 minutes and a few pints, and I bet your mate Tom from Uni could give you a well-practiced argument as to why his job is one of the most meaningful (and suddenly you remember why you hardly see him anymore). Because, after all, structural engineering affects everyone and if he didn’t do his job well, the whole city would grind to a halt. Sure. We hear you Tom, congratulations. But let’s step out of the proverbial bottomless pit of his ego for a moment and try to figure out where the roots of this question really lead…
What exactly is a meaningful job?
A meaningful job, according to behavioural researchers, can be defined as something that: uses your talents, allows you to make an impact in the lives of others, and lets you to live the lifestyle you want. So, unsurprisingly, yours is quite different to the next persons – got that Tom? Seriously, we stopped listening at ‘using cos and tan to distribute the load evenly’. I’ve been daydreaming of getting a tan in Cos for the last half an hour.
If you find your work meaningful, clarity, drive, and happiness spill out into all aspects of your life. You’ll be more likely to stick with the job in the long run, which means you’re more likely to be successful as a result. And ultimately, the brand you work for is more likely to thrive if it’s powered by people who are enthused in their roles.
Sounds great, where can I find one?
We’re all longing to live the age-old adage “Find a job you love and you’ll never work again”, but the sad reality is that 47% of us are unhappy in our current role and are actively looking for a career change. And whether it’s you or a member of your team, there is almost certainly someone in your office flicking through Instagram, turning green with jealousy at the photos of Helen’s latest work trip to Costa Rica. Did half of us just make bad life choices after we left Uni, or have we simply not found the meaning in our jobs yet?
Instead of hating Helen, start doing something about it. Meaningful work can come either from the individual or the organization. Any kind of work can be meaningful: the challenge is discovering what purpose makes you come alive. Some people bring a passion and sense of meaning with them into the workplace. And some companies really excel at creating meaningful work environments that nurture and inspire their employees.
The people bring the passion
Take Steve Jobs. His Zen Buddhism approach to work and overall success made him the poster boy for following your passion. “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to do what you love.” Whilst many of us aren’t cut out to be entrepreneurs, it’s a recipe that can easily be applied; Take your passion, add your talent, and find something that mixes them together in a challenging environment. These are the people who come into work early every day, green juice in hand, trying to force the whole team into morning meditation before a 9am meeting. Ohm.
Bring the passion to the people
Fear not, no one really wants a team full of yogis, or Toms for that matter, so create an environment within your company which people find meaning in. John Lewis’ partnership structure has created “a democracy – open, fair and transparent”, which gives employees a direct share in the company’s profits. With tangible rewards, the employees share in the company’s success and therefore have sense of pride and affiliation to their brand. It’s no coincidence that John Lewis is consistently rated as one of the UK’s top employers, and they’ve also pinched the top spot for customer service over 6 consecutive years.
Outside of the partnership model, leadership plays a big part in creating meaning in the everyday. In the words of Larry Page, “My job as a leader is to make sure everybody in the company has great opportunities, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact and are contributing to the good of society”. Google are continually ranked as one of the best employers in the world, and are continually increasing their number of employees.
Creator of arguably one of the most recognisable brands in the world, Richard Branson’s advice is to listen to your employees. Listen to their opinions, have healthy debates, and you can continuously innovate. It’s a win-win; the brand keeps learning and employees feel valued and engage with the brand. And whilst you’re at it, let people be themselves. “When you lavish praise on people, they flourish; criticise and they shrivel up.”
Through praise, transparency, involvement and leadership, you can create a workforce who find meaning in their everyday. Having a team who are passionate, committed to the brand, and inspired within their jobs is the single most invigorating power your brand can have. So, take care of your employees, and they’ll take care of the brand.
So, what are you waiting for, bring the passion to the people!
WHAT ARE WILD CARDS? The Clearing have been working with The School of Life to develop 100 questions designed to help you see your brand from new perspectives. Each week, we're choosing a card to answer. We'd love to know what you think too - email us with your answer on firstname.lastname@example.org.