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Meaningful Work: The Secret Ingredient in Retention

Finding meaning in work is important to employees, especially Millennials. In fact, a recent survey showed that 58 percent of employees say that they would take a pay cut if it meant moving to more meaningful work. How much of a pay cut? Roughly 23 percent of their salary, which is enough to make a dent in their standard of living.

Ascertain the fit between company mission and values and prospective employees during the hiring process.

If that’s the case, retaining workers may be difficult if they don’t feel their work is meaningful. Add to that the fact that the employment market is extremely good, which means that people looking for work can likely find it, and retention becomes even more challenging.

How to Make Work Meaningful, I: Cultural Fit

The fact is, though, that locating employees who find their work meaningful is not likely to happen by accident. It needs to be managed as part of business leadership.

Start with business strategy. Focus on your company’s mission and values statement. Most companies make these publicly available, on their website and other places. You need to screen employees for cultural fit with this mission and these values during the hiring process. Ask specific questions about why prospective employees want to work with your company.

Your company’s mission, for example, might be related to a cause, such as sustainable energy. Or you may be focused on selling the best product in its class. Or you may be known widely as an innovative company. Your employees should connect with some aspect of the mission; that’s one of the ways to ensure they will find work meaningful.

Your values should align with your employee values. Do you promote fairness, equity, and promoting from within, for example? People who want to grow and develop should align well with those values. Do you value a hard-charging, aggressive culture devoted to moving growth forward? Then hiring folks seeking work-life balance is not likely to foster alignment.

Meaningful work is especially important to Millennials.

How to Make Work Meaningful, II: Blending Meaning and Work

Another method is to make meaningful activities available to your employees outside of work. Many companies, for example, sponsor charitable giving or community volunteering as a way of supporting the community. Open up working on these campaigns to your employees. It’s a good way to make the workplace meaningful and build collaboration and communication both across and within departments.

How To Make Work Meaningful, III: Make Sure To Avoid Overwork and Stress in the Workplace

Don’t overlook the role of overwork and stress in the workplace in driving down meaning and engagement among your employees, either. Feeling like they are overworked and can’t get away from work demands is a recipe for demotivating your staff, no matter in what meaningful work or goals they are involved. Overwork and stress over long periods of time can lead to burnout, and burnout can harm both motivation and retention.

How best to avoid burnout? Make sure that employees have manageable workloads, and can delegate if they need to do so. Include them in decisions that can affect their workflow. Encourage all employees to take the holidays and vacation time they have coming. The ability to recharge is the key to avoiding burnout.