Why Employees Need Meaning

Employee engagement is at rock bottom levels.  That much is fairly well established, with a Gallup survey from earlier this year highlighting just how bad the situation is.

This problem of a lack of engagement and passion in our workplaces is especially challenging in a rapidly changing world.  Think about it for a minute.

To truly survive and thrive in a changing world, you need to learn and adapt every day.  You need to meet and engage with those in your industry, and further afield.  You need to network with those in similar fields and share knowledge with one another on a regular basis.

That’s a sizeable undertaking, and it seems unlikely that it is one you will try and undertake if you are working in a field or for a company that you do not enjoy.  If you don’t have a real passion for what you do, then you won’t put such an effort into ensuring your skills are the best they can be.

Can we learn from volunteering?

Of course, many of us put in just that kind of effort almost every day.  What’s more, we put that kind of effort into something we’re usually not paid for and are not compelled to do.  Whether it’s participating in sporting activity or volunteering for a cause we believe in, many of us give an awful lot of our time outside of work to various activities.

A recent study suggests to shed some light on this state of affairs.  The study, published in the Academy of Management, explored whether there were any direct links between our level of volunteering outside of work and our engagement levels within work.

Engaged at work equates to higher volunteering

It found a strong correlation between the sense of meaning we have in our working lives, and the amount of volunteering we tend to do in our personal lives.  They were suggesting, in other words, that people were giving their time and energy to causes precisely because they were already getting something valuable and important from their working lives.  This was prompting them to gain similar meaning from their personal lives.

Of course, it wasn’t only those who were engaged at work that volunteered in their free time.  The study also revealed that people would engage in volunteering to try and find a degree of meaning that was often missing from their working lives.

Volunteers are better employees

The conclusion of the study should make all managers sit up and take note however.  They concluded that not only does volunteering equate to higher engagement, it also equates with stronger performance at work.  It further supports the notion that loving the work that we do is of increasing importance to our performance levels.

It underlines the importance of giving employees work that is meaningful and valuable to them as individuals, especially if you want them to be both developing their skills on a regular basis, and volunteering to assist colleagues with their challenges.

Are you currently in a role you enjoy?  Do you volunteer to find meaning that is lacking in your work life?


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