Sunday, December 11, 2011

Satisfaction through meaningfulness

Three key things lead to satisfaction: meaningfulness, awareness, and responsibility. One of the most natural things people do is to search for some kind of meaning or purpose for their lives. It seems to me that because we spend so much of our lives working our jobs, we ought to be able to derive some meaning from those jobs. Unfortunately, that isn't the case.

If we want satisfied workers (and you should because they are more likely to come to work and more likely to share an idea if they are satisfied)we have to make the work they do meaningful.

There are three parts to meaningfulness: significance, identity, and variety. All three need to be deliberately designed into the work.

We can make work feel more significant for our people in several ways:

- Make people feel valued. Everyone has something to contribute. Be grateful for their work (say Thank you!) I had a boss once who would never acknowledge the skills and abilities I brought to the job, focusing instead on reminding me consistently that if it weren't for all the support staff we had, I could do nothing. I loved that job, but hated the leadership, so I had to go. The support staff was great, but that's not what I - or anyone - really wants to hear. Acknowledge the gifts everyone brings to work.

- Require them to become experts in their jobs. Let everyone know that the jobs they're doing aren't simple-minded, menial jobs. They require expertise and then build that expertise by developing, teaching, and supporting standardized work.

- Link them more closely to customers. If people can see how the work they do affects customers, they will usually take more pride in what they do. Collect more customer feedback and share it all with your people (not just the customer complaints.) When customers come visit, create opportunities for them to interact with your people. Place pictures of the end product or of individual customers who have benefited from your product or service in prominent places throughout the workplace.

Next time we'll talk about identity and variety, which gives us a great opportunity to re-emphasize the importance of teams.


  1. David, I especially like the comment about photographs. Close up shots of the details, which augment the photographs of the overall project, can bring even deeper ownership and pride in the work.

  2. It amazes me how something so easy can have such an impact on people, but too few organizations seem to care.