It’s been around ever since the dawn of the modern office. The concept has been heard in workplaces for decades. But what is “meaningful work,” really?
Best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell said in an interview that in a nutshell, “Meaningful work is work that is autonomous. Work that is complex, that occupies your mind. And work where there is a relationship between effort and reward — for everything you put in, you get something out… If you are convinced that the work you are doing is meaningful… there’s no cost to it.”
There you have it, a workable meaning of the popular workplace lexicon coming from and employer or manager’s point of view. However, there’s still some shadow overcast as to which definition is subjective enough to define work that is complex and that occupies the mind. So how can an employer provide meaningful work opportunities and environments to his or her employees?
Make employees realize that work is an extension of their passion.
As a manager, you need to fuel passion among your workers. Don’t neuter their desire to continue doing what they love just to push individual, team, or company goals. This might be hard to do especially for those employees who end up having careers that aren’t aligned with their educational backgrounds, personal hobbies, and such; but at least try to make a connection.
For instance, I had a colleague before who landed a computer programming job straight out of college, but he was passionate about playing music. Obviously, my boss had to assign him projects that didn’t have anything to do with his hobbies; but he still imposed a rule that went something like devoting an hour a day to work on side projects like a music app.
I, for one, have had this experience too. I was a technical writer for a time for a multinational company focused on providing phone services. Most people (my bosses included) were well aware of the fact that I loved technology news and updates. One work day, my boss walked up to me and handed me a piece of paper containing a web domain and some login details. He said I could play with it. Up to now, I’ve been running this technology blog and have been very active in the tech blogging scene in my area. I’ve been very grateful to this company because it helped me nurture my personal pursuits.
Make all the WHYs clear for your employees.
As an employer, you must be able to clearly define your employee’s purpose in the company and the impact that they can make if they do their job brilliantly. Why are you hiring them? Why are you making them work on Projects X and Y? Why do you want to achieve Goals A and B? If possible, keep the answers to these questions as inviting and as attractive as possible so that they’ll be able to re-wire their thinking into the agenda that you’re trying to set. Present to them the opportunities that are important to you as an employer, the factor that matter to them as employees, and the takeaways that your audience, market, or clientele will get try to meet in the middle when executing your processes.