Is Meaningful Work the Key Driver of a Positive Employee Experience?
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“Meaningful work is the key driver of positive employee experience,” says $1,000-per-hour, work-from-home consultant.
Okay, I made that quote up, but doesn't it feel like we constantly read outlandish headlines, only to find out that the reality is far from the truth? The meaningful work lie is one of the media’s favorite.
I get it, everyone one wants to save puppies. I want to save puppies. Puppies are awesome! If I could only do one thing all day, it would be to go out and save puppies! Wouldn't that be wonderful, glorious meaningful work? You bet it would!
Unfortunately, the job of "Puppy Saver" doesn't pay well. In fact, it usually pays zero. Do you want a really crappy employee experience? Try making zero dollars and working a full-time job, with no way to pay your bills. How's that meaningful work treating you now?!
The WorkHuman Research Institute’s Employee Experience Index shows that while meaningful work is certainly a driver to a positive employee experience, it's not the top driver. In fact, there are many drivers that, when combined, will lead your employees to a positive work experience.
Here are the main drivers of a positive employee experience:
- High work performance. Yep, it turns out if you're a high performer in your job, you actually have a more positive work experience.
- Organizational integrity. If you work for an organization that you feel has high integrity, you are more likely to have a positive employee experience.
- Co-worker support. I'm a huge fan of this because it's something we've all experienced. When you work in a group where everyone supports each other, your employee experience is off the chart!
- Feedback and recognition. This one is tricky because we think giving feedback will lead to high employee experience, but in reality, it's giving positive feedback. No one likes being told they suck! We all love being told we're rock stars! So, while constructive criticism is necessary for growth, it’s positive feedback that drives a positive employee experience.
- Empowerment and the belief you are heard. It's tough to deliver a great employee experience if your employees feel like they are never heard. How do you show them they are heard? Clarify what you heard, then do some of those things, then tell them, “You told us X and we did X.”
In the study on positive employee experience, all of these things ranked higher over meaningful work. Don't get me wrong, meaningful work also has a high correlation to positive employee experience, but defining meaningful work is a very personal thing.
I run a technical staffing firm. Yep, I'm a headhunter. I know, you hate most of us, but let me tell you a little about the meaning of my work. I have three sons. When they were little, like most children, they wanted to know what I did. As a parent, I tried to break it down in the most basic way, "I find people jobs."
Simple, but meaningful to me. I help people find a better job than they have now so they can reach their career and family goals. My job is meaningful to me, or I have found meaning in the work I do. I get to help people and also take care of my family. My employee experience is positive, but is it because I found meaning?
I think it's a combination of all the factors, it's not one thing. When I ran talent acquisition at a large health system the meaning of my work hit me in the face every day. We were hiring people who saved lives! That's incredible meaning! But the job sucked. The leadership sucked. I had no voice or empowerment. Meaningful work, without the other factors, is still just a job.
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About Tim Sackett
I’m a 20 year HR/Recruiting Talent Pro with a Master’s in HR and SPHR certification, currently residing in Lansing, MI. Currently the President at HRU Technical Resources – a $40M IT and Engineering contract staffing firm and RPO. Prior to joining HRU, I was the Director of Employment at Sparrow Health System, Regional HR and Staffing Director with Applebee’s Intl., Retail Health Recruiting Manager and Regional HR Mgr. with ShopKo Stores and Pamida respectively. I’ve split my career half between recruiting and half between HR generalist roles – also split half between the HR vendor community and Corporate America – So, I think I get it from both sides of the desk.