Making Work Meaningful for Employees

Congratulations. You’ve hired a staff of dynamic entreployees and your business is percolating with innovative energy. And then one day you suddenly panic: What if they leave? With visions of larger companies poaching your talent, you wonder where you are going to come up with the salaries, benefits, and perks necessary to keep them happy, productive, and, most of all, working for you.

Relax. Grab a cup of coffee and put your feet up. In this article, we’ll explain exactly how to keep your entreployees happy and loyal, and the energy ramped up—and do it all without breaking the bank.

It’s Not Just About the Money

The great psychologist Victor Frankl once said, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” And therein lies the secret for retaining your talent: it’s not about the salaries and bonuses. Monetary rewards are important, of course, but as employment experts will tell you, they don’t play a critical role in a worker’s decision to stay at a job. The more decisive factor is whether their job means something. And a meaningful job is one in which entreployees have the ability to make a difference, both in their company and, ideally, in society as a whole.

Alan Weiss, Ph.D., best-selling author, business guru, and president of Summit Consulting Group, concurs. When trying to retain talent, “it’s not about the money,” he says. “Employees who are most motivated are those who have the ability to make decisions about their own work, apply their talents, and be recognized for them.” For Weiss, an employee’s loyalty “equates to the degree they feel they ‘own’ the business: autonomy in actions, freedom to fail, and reward for achievement.”

Create Meaning at Work

The good news is that meaning is not an existential concept that drops down from on high—it can be cultivated, consciously. A recent University of Alberta study examined a program called “Spirit at Work,” designed to help healthcare workers create personal action plans focused on the deeper purpose of their work and foster a sense of community. The results were astonishing: in the five months following the program, absenteeism dropped by some 60 percent, cutting employer costs some $12,000. And employee turnover was reduced by a whopping 75 percent.

If you don’t have the wherewithal to create your own “Spirit at Work” program, don’t let that stop you. Meaningful work blossoms in a meaningful work environment, and there are many low-cost steps you can take to cultivate such an atmosphere, from allowing employees to help design the office workspace, to offering work-from-days as a regular benefit.

In fact, a recent study from Georgetown Law School’s Work Flexibility Initiative found that 90 percent of employees who received telework options affirmed that it helped them strike a more harmonious work-life balance. “People respond to the environment in which they find themselves,” says Alan Weiss, “and that’s something business owners can control.”

Learn to Let Go

But even with enhanced workspaces and flexible work programs, it is a fact of life that some employees will choose to seek greener pastures. In a world where the average 25-year-old has already changed jobs more than six times, the idea of stable, lifetime employment is no longer the reality it may have been for our parents. And this, says Alan Weiss, is not necessarily a bad thing. “Having people stay with you for 10 years is not always the best idea for you—or for them. Fresh talent on a regular basis is important.”

The important thing is to create a work environment that will continue to attract the best new talent and allow your entreployees to thrive with you, for whatever time they choose to remain. And instead of seeing employee turnover as a burden, or even a tragedy, you can choose to see it as an opportunity to renew your company with diverse perspectives and new mindsets. By opening to the unknown, you are making your business more resilient and less reliant on any one personality—the hallmark of companies that go the distance.

You may also be interested in: