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Monday, November 20, 2017

What Does It Mean?

The Chicago Tribune has been featuring articles relating to the top workplaces in our community. Results were determined through a study by Energage (formerly WorkplaceDynamics) on behalf of the Tribune. Rankings were based on employee surveys “assessing everything from work-life balance to confidence in company leadership.”

The 2017 list of champions included Baird & Warner, Impact Networking, and Holiday Inn/ ChicagoMart Plaza. They win in the large, midsize, and small Chicagoland workplaces respectively. Let’s give them three cheers!

Following up on this announcement, the Tribune gave us a window into meaningfulness at work. The article was titled, “Employees want their job to matter, but meaning at work can be hard to find.” It’s worth reading.

This concept of meaningfulness is noted as having been “consistently and overwhelmingly ranked by employees as one of the most important factors in driving satisfaction.” It impacts motivation, job performance, and the desire to stay in the game. Can you say "priority one"?

Thankfully, people can find meaning in virtually any kind of work. Chicagoans score higher than the national average on nearly all measures of employee satisfaction. But the area of meaningfulness seems ripe for improvement by employers. This is derived from the responses of 67,000 local employees from 219 companies.

The question we must ask is, what constitutes meaningful work to an employee? Jaclyn Jensen, associate professor in the department of management and entrepreneurship at DePaul University, has studied this. She claims that no particular kind of work has to connect to a calling to be perceived as meaningful.

From her research of 40 years, Jensen has determined five factors that determine a job’s meaningfulness. Here are the three most important: 1) It allows you to use a variety of skills, 2) It has an impact on other people’s lives, and 3) You are able see the product of your work through from beginning to end. The remaining two are “having autonomy to do your best work and receiving feedback about your performance.”

The Tribune article goes on to explain how companies can kill a sense of meaningfulness. One clear example is to overload employees so that they work under stress or cannot achieve a level of performance that they feel is needed. This makes perfect sense. 

I would like to add the spiritual dimension to the conversation. It involves the deeper question of why we work at all. It’s one of my “big three” concepts in getting a healthy perspective on how to think about work.

The answer is found in a call to serve. Every job, at every level and in every field…involves service. However, not every person in every job comes with a heart to serve. But if they did, the workplace would become an entirely different environment. I’ll say that again. If every employee showed up every day with a heart to serve, the workplace would become an entirely different environment.

I could wax on about the myriad of ways this would play out. One way in particular that would be impacted hugely: meaningfulness. Something apparently most every employee desires.

It was C.S. Lewis who said, “Never, in peace or war, commit the virtue of your happiness to the future. Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.’”

If you learn to approach your work with a heart of service—as to the Lord—you will never lack for meaning at your job. An important truth to gobble up.

Happy Thanksgiving!

That’s The Way WE Work. Click on the link to the right to connect via Facebook.

Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.

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