employee rewards
Feb 22'

3 Ways to Enhance the Employee Experience through Purpose and Meaning

Disengaged employees can cost organizations a fortune in turnover, low productivity, and absenteeism. To avoid the risks of having an unmotivated workforce, companies have long supported their staff through things like pay increases, unique company perks, or employee rewards. A more cost-effective yet logical way to ensure employees are engaged is to work towards creating an employee experience where employees feel that what they do matters

By creating a sense of purpose and meaning in the workplace, you can help make your staff’s personal and professional lives feel more fulfilling, and at the same time, benefit from building a high-performance culture. In this post, we’ll share 3 ways you can start doing this. 

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The difference between purpose and meaning 

Purpose: why you’re doing something 

In simple terms, purpose means the reason why you are doing something. Just like you might brush your teeth to avoid cavities, organizations also have their purpose. We can typically figure out a company’s purpose through its mission statement like:

  • • “To spread ideas” — TED Talks
  • • “To connect the world's professionals to make them more productive and successful.” — Linkedin
  • • “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” — Nike

Purpose is so important to human psychology that it matters more than ever to businesses. One study found that 70% of people define the purpose of their whole existence through their work (McKinsey). This makes sense. If people are spending 40 hours a week of their lives working, they want to feel like what they’re doing actually matters! 

Meaning: what you personally get out of it 

Meaning, on the other hand, is a lot more personal. A whole team can work together to help meet your company’s purpose, but what each person gets out of the experience can be completely different. Some people get meaning out of personal growth, some out of serving others, and some find meaning when they feel a strong sense of inspiration in what they do. 

Finding meaning in work has become so top-of-mind for the average job-seeker these days that a Harvard Business Review article refers to meaning as the new money you can “pay” your workforce in.

Research from BetterUp on Meaning and Purpose at Work took a deep dive into the subject of meaning, giving us some serious food for thought:

  • • On average, employees will give up 23% of their total future lifetime earnings—nearly a quarter of their income — in exchange for work that is always meaningful.
  • • Employees are more satisfied at work when their jobs feel meaningful. The resulting gains in worker productivity add up to over $9,000 per worker, per year.
  • • Individuals who experience the highest degrees of meaning at work are 69% less likely to intend to quit in the next six months than those who experience the least meaning.
  • • Employees who rate their work as very meaningful report 14% greater job satisfaction than the average employee, and 51% greater job satisfaction than employees who have the least meaningful jobs.
employee rewards

How to build meaning and purpose into company culture 

So helping employees feel like their work has meaning and purpose absolutely matters. It only makes sense that you do what you can to embed this idea into your company culture. Here are 3 ways you can do this: 

1. Build shared purpose by sharing the bigger picture 

It’s almost too easy for employees to get lost in their jobs and feel a huge disconnect from their daily to-do lists and the impact they make on the company or on the world as a whole. To build a visible shared purpose, you need to actively and regularly link your employee’s roles to your company mission, vision, and core values

Some ways you might do this is by building this messaging into your internal company communications, taking the time to remind your workforce of your company’s purpose in your quarterly meetings or through an employee rewards program. There is a huge opportunity to build your core values into your employee rewards program by recognizing employees for living out specific company core values. This way, your company core values are top of mind for all employees because they are recognizing and being recognized for specific core values daily.

The more you can train management on building a culture where employees understand how their roles contribute to the bigger picture, the more meaningful and purposeful their roles will feel. 

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2. Build a culture of recognition, celebration, and gratitude  

The same BetterUp study found that employees who rate their jobs as highly meaningful are more likely to have received direct feedback about their performance than those who rate their work as meaningless. It’s not rocket science — if you were never given thanks for the work that you did, it would be hard to see your work as meaningful in any way; but if you were regularly reminded that your work matters, you’re much more likely to feel a sense of fulfillment from doing it. 

Building a culture of social recognition, celebration, and gratitude helps make your staff aware of how they’re contributing to your company vision, gives them a sense of belonging, and simultaneously helps build a strong culture of connection that yields even more business benefits

While you can give recognition verbally every day, an effective way to give regular and timely recognition is to add an employee rewards and recognition software to your tech stack. Platforms like Bucketlist are built to help make recognition a more common occurrence, increase visibility of staff success, and even tie recognition and rewards to your company mission, vision, and values.  

For a deeper dive into tactics for building a culture of celebration and recognition read:

employee rewards

3. Invest in professional and personal development opportunities 

Since we know that personal growth is a major source of meaning for many people, it’s wise to provide your workforce with opportunities to level up in both their professional and personal lives. Giving your staff chances to develop their careers through courses, mentorship, and conference attendance is great, but you win even more when you take an interest in your staff’s personal goals outside of work and use company resources to support them in achieving them. 

One way you can support employees outside of work is to offer a personal spending account as part of your benefits package. Employees might choose to use this amount towards fitness, purchasing music equipment, or Spanish classes. Another way to support your staff in their personal lives is to build an element of choice into your employee rewards and recognition program to give staff more flexibility in how they want to be rewarded. Some may choose unique experiences, cooking lessons, or a bonus day off that they could use towards performing with their dance crew without work getting in the way.  

By doing this, you express that your relationship with your employees is caring and genuine, rather than transactional. Employees are much more likely to stick around long-term if they feel that your company truly supports their growth and passions outside of work. 

Looking for more ways to enhance your company culture in 2022 and beyond? Check out these recent blog posts for more employee rewards and recognition ideas.

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