Crafting Meaningful Work: Exploring the Three Key Sources
By Stavy Papasotiriou, Organisational Psychologist and Founder of Work Unlocked
Ever wondered what it takes to infuse your organisation's jobs with a hearty dose of meaning? In a world where employees invest a substantial portion of their lives at work, discovering the essence of meaningful work isn't just a noble quest; it's the secret sauce for bolstering their well-being and overall job satisfaction. Scholars and researchers have been on a mission to unravel the mysterious origins of work meaning, and here's the treasure map: three primary forces that can help your organisation create more meaningful jobs. In this blog, we're setting sail to uncover these sources and unveil how they shape the meaning of work.
1. THE WORK ENVIRONMENT
The way jobs are designed, the tasks that employees undertake, and the rewards they reap—all these elements play crucial roles in the quest for purpose. Consider roles that offer challenging tasks, room for personal growth, and recognition for effort. These are the ingredients that can elevate your employees' jobs from mere tasks to meaningful missions. Think of iconic companies like Google or Apple; they've transformed their workplaces into creative sanctuaries where innovation thrives. Employees in such organisations often report finding profound meaning in their work because the environment itself exudes a message: "You're here to make a difference."
2. THE POWER OF PERSONALITY
In this grand adventure, the personalities of your team members serve as their compasses. Renowned psychologist Roberson (1990) ventured into the wilderness of personality and found that traits like conscientiousness, extraversion, and openness to experience influence the meanings employees attach to their jobs. Some may thrive on structure and order, while others seek purpose in roles that involve interaction and a social impact.
3. THE SOCIAL SCENE
In your organisational journey, interactions with colleagues, supervisors, and the overall workplace culture add layers to the quest for work meaning. Salancik and Pfeffer (1978) revealed how the social environment shapes how employees perceive job attributes. A supportive and inclusive workplace culture can be the magic potion that turns routine tasks into meaningful adventures. When colleagues and supervisors appreciate contributions, offer guidance, and foster growth, jobs take on a whole new dimension of significance.
The story of work meaning has evolved over time. In the past, work may have been seen as a means of survival, but today, it's a pathway toward personal fulfilment and self-actualisation. Historical events, societal shifts, and technological leaps have all played their part in this transformation. Fast forward to today, and we're in the era of remote work, the gig economy, and the sacred pursuit of work-life balance. These factors are shaping our current understanding of work meaning. As your organisation embarks on this journey, consider how these three sources of work meaning can be harnessed to create more satisfying and enriching jobs than a treasure trove of gold doubloons.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stavy Papasotiriou is an organisational psychologist and the visionary behind Work Unlocked — a leading HR consultancy on a mission to revolutionise employee engagement, performance, and retention in businesses worldwide. With a profound understanding of HR practices, Stavy leverages psychological principles to unleash the untapped potential of workforces. At Work Unlocked, Stavy crafts bespoke strategies that are grounded in research and tailored to each organisation's unique needs. These strategies are designed to yield remarkable results while requiring minimal resources.