HR executives are more tuned in to the value of employee engagement than most anybody else at a company – how engaged workers are less likely to steal, negatively influence their coworkers and miss workdays.  “Engaged” here is defined as employees who are “involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace”, according to study sponsor Gallup.

A recent study outlined in the Harvard Business Review adds yet another statistic to the stack of reasons to engage employees in their work.  Nine out of ten people are willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work.  In fact, people would give up 23% of their lifetime earnings in order to have a job that was always meaningful.

And that’s not all.  They also spend one additional hour per week working, and take two fewer days of paid leave per year, and are more productive at work.  All of these benefits translate to $9,078 per worker, per year, in extra value a company can derive from making an employee’s work highly meaningful. That’s the beginning of your return-on-investment calculation for employee engagement initiatives.

Given the tremendous amount of money at stake, why are companies so bad at making work meaningful? In the US, just 33% of employees find work meaningful – far better than almost anywhere else, but still pitifully low.

Of course, employees aren’t going to find work meaningful if they’re surrounded by a bad work environment and misbehaving coworkers.  But it takes much more than just integrity to make a job meaningful.

Select Managers Who Care

There are many reasons that people get promoted.  As you well know in HR, unfortunately not all of them involve a desire to manage people.  In some cases, managers don’t even have the ability to manage people.

One of the most important things a manager can do is to help an employee believe they have their own best long-term interests at heart.  Among other things, this means helping employees identify where they’d like their professional career to end up and helping them get there.

If your managers aren’t helping interested employees plan their professional development, you’re missing out on an easy opportunity to help employees find meaning in their work.  Make sure all of your managers are trained in how to do this, and make sure they’re doing it regularly for each of their reports interested in professional development and growth.

Encourage Contributions and Put Them Into Action

Many jobs require the efficient execution of a strategy created by someone else.  It’s difficult to find meaning in a job when you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing, especially if you think there’s a better way.  There’s also a tremendous amount of knowledge sitting untapped on the front lines of companies – knowledge held by people who don’t believe it would be valued by the company.

Both of these problems can be fixed by encouraging better communication between those building strategy and those implementing the front-line tactics to realize it.  Processes should come with explanations for why they’re important, so people understand the value they’re contributing.  And employees should be encouraged to submit ideas for improvement to a group of people empowered to consider them, and implement them into the company’s strategy.

The most important part of this process is to let the contributing employee know their input is valuable, even if their idea wasn’t implemented.  Explain to them why the idea wasn’t implemented, and encourage them to submit more ideas in the future.  Finally, don’t forget to let front-line employees know when one of their ideas was implemented.  This creates positive feedback, which will lead to more front-line ideas in the future.

Make the World a Better Place

Most companies are primarily focused on increasing the earnings of their shareholders.  In fact, public companies are mandated to do this.  Why then, do so many companies sponsor good causes with millions of dollars of donations and in-kind contributions of employee time?

It’s not just for the advertising benefit.  Providing employees with an opportunity to improve the world in a way they can personally experience adds meaning to their work.  It increases their devotion to the company and makes them work harder at their primary role.  In short, it helps them find meaning in work.

If your company doesn’t currently support a charitable cause, find one that brings energy and excitement to your employees and work together to make a difference.  You’ll see exactly what so many companies already do – that it yields far more benefits than it costs.

To learn how CMTS:HR helps companies improve their workplaces, call us at 855-636-5361 or email us at