Helping Employees Find Meaning in the Workplace

This year, a Pew Research survey found that people who find their job “meaningful” tend to be more satisfied with their lives, regardless of income or education level. It’s no secret to businesses that happy employees are often better employees, but data on life satisfaction gets at something deeper. Finding “meaning” in your job correlates with satisfaction, which is more than just happiness. What does it mean to find one’s job meaningful? Here we look to some expert sources to help you as a leader create a more meaningful workplace and hopefully find personal significance in your work as well.

The Purpose-Driven Organization

Having a meaningful job often means seeing some sort of higher purpose in one’s work. All of us need income for practical reasons, but those who feel most fulfilled by their jobs see themselves as contributing to a bigger picture, to goals greater than themselves. In an excellent article for Forbes called “The Why of Work,” leadership experts David and Wendy Ulrich discuss the creation of meaning in the workplace. They explain: “leaders are in a great position to articulate the values a company is trying to enact and to shape the story of how today’s work connects with those values.”
Connecting the day-to-day work to higher, more meaningful values is the key. How could you do this in your organization? In a team or one-on-one meetings, invite your employees to think about how the goods and services they provide affect customers. For example, a client to whom you provide sweeping services wants a clean parking lot, but you are also giving them peace of mind by maintaining their property while they are away. When your employees do power washing for a small, local business, they are helping that business present a facility in which they can take pride, promoting a positive image to the community. You might even consider inviting some loyal customers to share these perspectives with employees. When your team understands the impact of their work goes beyond the simple delivery of services, they will start to see their jobs, and their contributions to those jobs, as meaningful.

Meaning at a Personal Level: Seeing the Service

Another way to help employees see the significance in their work is to remind them how their job connects to people in their lives. Business writer John Coleman explains that all work has an element of service to it, service that matters deeply to our loved ones. He explains, “Who are you working for? Identify that person or group of people. When the hours are difficult or the tasks are unglamorous, remember that your work is an act of service for those you care about in your personal life. Keeping this front of mind will help you tie more purpose into your work, even when accomplishing the most tedious of tasks.”
As a leader, you can create opportunities to include employees’ families and loved ones in the company, perhaps through an employee appreciation event or holiday party. Incentives which could benefit employees’ families such as scholarships, vacations, or even smaller items like movie or sports tickets will remind them of the ties between their work and their personal lives. Be mindful as well of the employees who are flying solo: the independent people on your team can also find these personal connections in their work. For example, you can invite your teams to consider how coworkers are affected by the quality of their jobs—in most organizations, everyone’s tasks have some level of interconnection. Doing one’s job well eases stress and difficulty for others in the company, just as the effects of poor quality work can be felt beyond one’s immediate role. When employees see themselves contributing to a larger cause and how they see themselves serving others, you are on the road to creating personal meaning in your culture. All of us at NiteHawk wish you success in your business.

Works Cited

Coleman, John. 29 Dec 2019. To find meaning in your work, change how you think about it. Harvard Business Review.
Duncan, Rodger Dean. 11 Sep 2008. The why of work: purpose and meaning do matter. Forbes. Available at
Van Kessel, Patrick. 5 Feb 2020. How Americans feel about the satisfactions and stresses of modern life. Pew Research Center. Available at

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