Employee Engagement: How Meaningful is your Work?

“People have asked us to explain a little bit more about the three pillars of Employee Engagement and why they are so important, i.e.: Psychological Safety, Meaningfulness and Psychological Availability. This blog represents the second of three explaining why we strongly support the notion that it’s all about creating a safe, meaningful and fairly demanding workplace.”

Meaningfulness

The dictionary defines the adjective “meaningful” as “full of meaning, significance, purpose or value; purposeful; significant.” All these terms, which define the term ‘meaningful,’ are also synonyms. This directly translates to feelings and perception.

When you’re an employee, you bring in revenue and contribute to the growth and success of the company. This brings back the question; how meaningful is your work? To answer the question, it is best to focus on different angles, mainly from your angle as an employee and that of your manager/supervisor lead as your employer.

Employee Perspective

Once you find out the meaningfulness of your job, work becomes a hobby. And common sense makes humanity understand that it is easier to be engaged in a hobby than work. As an employee, when looking for work, first and foremost, you focus on what you can possibly make/month after taxes and bills. The rest follows after. On the other hand, it is easy to forget that money is not everything. Yes, money eases pain and makes life more bearable, but what about fulfilment?

When you are looking into how meaningful your work is, you need to take into consideration the following factors; responsibilities, duties and interactions about the surrounding psychological conditions.

Responsibilities

Responsibilities are the everyday tasks that you’re employed to ’solve.’  These have a significant bearing on your self-sense of meaningfulness at work. Based on the responsibilities outlined in your letter of employment, you need to know the worthwhile cause which is the end result. After identifying the outcome, is it valuable and does it relate to your beliefs? And how about your mental health? Meaningful work contributes to the greater good of humanity.

Duties

When evaluating how meaningful your work is, the relationship between your duties and self-worth plays a huge role. At times, it becomes necessary to reflect and look at your expertise, compensation and status in relation to your duties in the company. Try and make it a point that your duties complement your natural abilities, fit with your skill set and challenge you to be better every day. A fulfilling duty gives power to the meaningfulness of your work.

Interactions

In line with interactions, you can tell whether or not your work is meaningful by the significance of conversations. Interactions that fall into the category of work include those with colleagues, employer and customers. Depersonalization is one quick way of putting an individual down. As part of the main psychological conditions, the environment has to advocate for and promote a sense of self. If the interactions promote your self-worth, appreciation, dignity, sense of value and do not affect your mental health negatively, then…yes, there is meaningfulness to your work.

Employer Perspective

The 2009 study Linking Meaningfulness in the Workplace to Employee Creativity: The Intervening Role of Organizational Identification and Positive Psychological Experiences conducted by Abraham Carmeli, Ravit Cohen-Meitar and David A. Waldman helps understand meaningfulness. The study concludes that;

“The results confirm a sequential mediation model in which meaningfulness in the workplace is positively associated with supervisor ratings of employee creativity, via identification and positive psychological experiences (vitality, positive regard and mutuality, and organization-based self-esteem).”

As far as psychological experience goes, it is the duty and task of the employer to ensure that the workplace promotes mental health. A healthy mind is a healthy soul. An absent employee does not simply mean physical absenteeism. An employee can check in for work but mentally be miles away. This all starts with psychological balance. In his study of psychological conditions and employees, William Kahn declares that “people occupy roles at work.” The study Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work makes investigations which indicate that all psychological conditions correspond to existing theoretical concepts. Theoretical concepts are set and predetermined by the employer. So, the question becomes, does the workplace provide a sturdy psychological environment for all employees at any given time?

Finding a psychological balance within the workplace is another approach that can help employees find meaning in their work. Although most people think that physical fatigue is draining, mental exhaustion can be worse. In any case, there must be a psychological balance between the environment and employees. Kahn explains that employees’ experiences of themselves and their work contexts influence moments of personal engagement and disengagement. Based on an individual’s psychological experiences of self-in-role, employees can swiftly express, withdraw, defend or apply their preferred selves to the task at hand. The best solution to date is to strike a balance on psychological conditions to motivate employees’ internal work motivations.

Conclusion

It is possible to fully engage an employee and get their undivided attention. By building high levels of employee engagement, immediate supervisors and managers can develop a sense of meaningfulness in the workplace. Employees need to be empowered to find what they can do that is worthwhile and will leave them feeling valued and valuable with the ability to give and receive from their work. As an employer, try to make it a point that your employees’  duties complement their natural abilities, fit with their skill set and challenge them to be better every day. And when discussing employee productivity, it is important to look at it from an angle of employee engagement. Because engaged employees find meaning in what they are working on. A fulfilling duty gives power to the meaningfulness of work.

Written by: Aleksander Tchernov