Create a Meaningful Workplace
Organizations have blundered in their attempts to provide purpose and meaning for employees. But meaning and purpose are not something that companies can provide.
Meaning is a human need that runs an operating system intrinsic to itself. No one can plot it for us; we can’t download it and install it like an app. We can’t live up to or adopt values painted on the wall.
Until we understand the principles of how meaning works for the organization and for human beings, and implement processes that will allow meaning to occur, we’ll continue to experience the churn that comes from lack of alignment.
Consider these five break-through insights that can help create a meaningful workplace:
1. Learn how meaning works.
Meaning is created daily through experience and interactions we have with everything in our lives. We have an inner dialogue with our work, relationships and organizations. Our meaning is the result of how we interpret and interact with our world. When work is meaningful, we strive to improve and engage more deeply with it. When we share meaning with a group or company, each is enhanced and grows. But make no mistake: meaning can’t be given; it can only be shared.
2. Make meaning the key to organizational excellence, and to personal excellence.
BE Aerospace won a contract to create a product with multiple iterations in a highly regulated environment. It hired a slew of top engineers in the UK, but the flow of engineers out the door was as steady as the flow coming in. It was killing the company’s ability to deliver. By interrogating and mining the meaning of the company, it became clear that the engineers who were leaving weren’t aligned with those who were staying, even though they thought they were. The message from management in the recruiting phase missed the essence of who they were. Those who left described the work as overwhelming, with impossible challenges and unsolvable problems. The ones who were engaged and loved what they did were fulfilled by the challenge. As one employee put it, “It’s like being dropped into the ocean with no beach in sight — so you start swimming and soon you learn it’s a damn fine beach when you get there.” Because traditional job descriptions and marketing messages dominated the employment conversation, everyone missed the conversation about what mattered most.