Staff meeting

Meaningfulness at work: how to help staff feel they matter

Dr Luke Fletcher, a lecturer at Aston Business School, gave top tips on how managers can help make their staff feel more psychologically fulfilled at work.

Dr Fletcher explained ‘meaningfulness’ in his Fresh Perspectives talk on 16 March 2017, and summarised the concept to include feeling that:

  • what you do day-to-day at work is personally valuable and worthwhile;
  • you make a positive difference to something that matters to you;
  • you get a sense of purpose and value from being part of the organisation; and
  • you are contributing to something greater than yourself.

He said there were four main components to ‘meaningfulness’ at work, referencing Bailey and Madden 2016: the status and value of the actual job, the structure and design of day-to-day tasks, the quality of interactions with staff and customers, and the connection with an organisation and its vision.

Fletcher warned that there was also a “dark side to management” that can “erode meaningfulness”.

This, he said, could happen by “disconnecting people from values they hold as critical to their identities”, by a lack of or “inauthentic recognition”, by “not providing purpose to seemingly pointless tasks”, “not listening and acting upon advice of the employee” and “not creating opportunities to build camaraderie”.*

Fletcher told how his own research had proved that introducing ‘meaningfulness’ at work helped staff to feel they were valued, and improved both their engagement and initiative.

However, he said it was important that such ‘meaningfulness’ was “voluntary rather than mandatory”, and that the role of line managers was crucial, particularly in “setting time aside for individual/team reflection and discussion”.

Fletcher concluded with three top tips for how can managers can help to improve ‘meaningfulness’ in their work teams:

  1. Be authentic and self-aware: “Put yourself in your team members’ shoes. Reflect on your own meaningfulness first. Be open to change – you may need to adapt your preferred managerial style.”
  2. Deepening purpose and identity: “Providing cues and signals that allow for interpretation; don’t just ‘sell’ them what you think is meaningful. Utilise existing systems and processes like one-to-ones and team review meetings. Ensure you provide enough time, resources and support to encourage meaningfulness thinking.”
  3. Strengthening social bonds and personal initiative: “Creating ‘safe spaces’ for individual and team reflection. Challenge, and empower others to challenge, the status quo – focus on creating change through ‘meaningful’ goals. Utilise the ‘soft’ approach and ‘quiet evangelising’.”

Book your free place for the next Fresh Perspectives talk on Tuesday 25 April with Prof Christof Backhaus presenting’ the innovating role of frontline employees’


*Dr Luke Fletcher referenced Bailey and Madden 2016