In a recent interview with the New York Times, Benjamin Zweig, a labor economist who teaches at New York University’s Stern School of Business, recognized that the companies with the highest ratings from their employees during the pandemic were those that had some connection to the pandemic itself – medical research organizations and even food-delivery services – leading him and other experts to conclude that workers are more satisfied with their jobs, and more likely to stay, when they feel their work matters.
So, how do you make work meaningful for your employees?
Promote growth and mobility
Workers are increasingly eager to see opportunities for learning, development, and advancement in their workplace. In addition, recent research from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations shows that those who have moved internally within a company not only tend to be high performers but are also more likely to stay with the organization over time. Tthe highest-performing internal hires actualy tend to stay the longest.
While some employees are looking for promotions, research suggests that many are not necessarily interested in vertical growth. Rather, they are simply seeking new challenges and the chance to explore something different. According to the MIT Sloan Review, lateral career opportunities are 12x more predictive of employee retention than promotions. So, to create a meaningful work experience for your employees, give them opportunities for growth, movement, and the development of new skills.
When employees feel they belong, they are 3.5x more likely to contribute to their full potential and are significantly more likely to feel connected to their work, according to research from the Harvard Business Review. That’s why company social events, like happy hours, team-building excursions, dinners, and other fun activities outside the workplace are a great way to promote a healthy corporate culture, help your team members connect with each other, and increase their sense of belonging at work.
Give your employees a voice
Employees tend to feel more connected to their work when they feel they have a real voice on the team – the ability to influence decisions and processes. In fact, IBM research found that 90% of workers said that they are likely to stay at a company that takes and acts on their feedback. So, whenever possible, give your employees the chance to contribute their ideas, encourage them to take ownership, and involve them in decision-making processes.
When employees recognize the impact of their day-to-day activities, they are much more likely to find their work meaningful. So, take the time to help your team members understand how their role connects to your company’s mission and values. It can be useful to share real data and relevant customer testimonials with your team to highlight the ways in which their efforts are affecting others and helping the company achieve its goals.