How to Create Meaningful Work (And Why it Matters) 

 October 18, 2016

meaningful work - woman on phone

Meaning. How do you give meaning to your life?

Well… I don’t know. But I can tell you how to create meaningful work, and why this meaning matters.

People experience work as meaningful when it resonates with chosen values, connects them with people they like, raises their sense of competence, or gives them an “ah-ha” moment of insight.

Helping employees to find meaning in their work is critical to a company’s success. Employees who find meaning are more driven, creative, engaged, and productive.

Every business leader should understand that these are not merely “soft benefits” the company is receiving. Each of these has an impact on the company’s overall bottom line.

What do you Need to Create Meaning

Before you focus on how you are going to create meaningful work, there are several components your business needs to have in place.


Your organization likely already has a mission statement (it seriously better), but is it following this mission?

meaning at work

Assess whether your business is following the mission you have outlined. You may find your mission has changed, or you need to adjust the way you are doing business.

Whatever your mission is, make sure that you have clearly defined it, and are sticking to it. Management needs to ensure that every employee knows what the company’s larger purpose is.


Demonstrate a level of trust in each employee. Show employees that you consider them trustworthy, and they will usually prove you right. It is hard to find meaningful work if you are not trusted with it.


Responsibility goes hand-in-hand with trust. You have to trust your employees to take on responsibilities of varying weight. Also, like trust, if you challenge your employees with greater responsibility, they are more likely to meet your expectations.


It’s easy to say that you care about employees, but to create meaning you have to show it. Use your benefits, actions, and overall behavior to demonstrate to employees that you care about them. Employees need to feel a sense of emotional safety when at work.

meaning at work 

Valuable Colleagues

Work to attract the best and brightest talent. When you hire the top talent, your business benefits two-fold. The first benefit is of course that you’re hiring the best people. Every company wants the premium talent out there.

A second benefit, though, is that having consistently outstanding employees helps to attract other top talents. The best people want to go where the best people are.


How to Create Meaning

Here are 12 techniques your business can use to give your employees’ work meaning.

1. Help your team understand their purpose and show employees that their work matters

Encourage employees to tackle why they do what they do. Detail how they fit with the team, and what their job does to help the organization and your consumers. Gather stories from clients or co-workers that describe how that person’s work helped them.

2. Help employees identify and creatively use the strengths, traits, and values with which they most identify

Aid employees in using their strengths and values that are important to them in their work. Help execute a plan to use these strengths as part of their typical day.

3. Build a learning environment that energizes and maximizes personal growth for your employees

Work with employees to create individualized learning plans that supplement their individual strengths. Every individual learns differently and will be the most qualified to organize a plan for their growth.

4. Foster friendships and critical relationship-building skills

Pushing employees to form friendships and hone their relationship-building skills helps to build and maintain high-performing work teams. Effective work teams can work together better, which makes them more efficient and effective.

5. Be intentional about building self-esteem so others feel valued and valuable

Show employees that you care about them and their well-being. Make employees feel valued by showing them what they mean to the company. Showing employees their worth gives them the confidence to live up to their full value.

6. Promote positive work environments

Encourage positive work environments through attention to personal characteristics such as humility, selflessness, order, and openness.


Ask employees how well they believe the company demonstrates these characteristics and create a plan to address any shortcomings your employees perceive.

7. Involve your employees in decisions to net a sense of control, and grant autonomy abundantly

Involving employees in decisions helps employees to feel like they contribute more. Giving employees autonomy gives them trust and responsibility that boosts meaning.

8. Build in time for both individual and corporate-level self-reflection

Self-reflection helps your employees to learn lessons from setbacks better and develop resilience. Learning from past mistakes can be a sizable influence on feeling meaning for your work.

9. Help others see where they fit in the mission, and that the mission depends on them to achieve it

Employees need a mission to define what matters to the company, and how they can help to accomplish this mission.

10. Encourage civility and delight from the little things that personalize the world of work

Give employees time to chat, create friendly competitions, take and hang pictures. Little things, such as these make the workplace and contribute to giving meaning to work.


11. Free the workplace from corrosive behaviors

Rid the workplace of behaviors such as fear, uncertainty, and lack of integrity can all work to erode a meaningful work environment. Stop these behaviors before they have a chance to grow and keep your organization’s culture running on meaning.

12. Identify and discover who is truly engaged and discuss why that is

Find out what initially drew employees to your business and what has kept them there. Then, bring employees and management together to discuss why.

Why Meaning Matters

Meaningful work creates employees that are more engaged, which translates to employees that are more productive.

Those who succeed at creating meaning [in their work] tend to work harder, more creatively, and with more tenacity. Employees who find meaningful work are:

— 3 times more likely to stay with their organization

— 4 times more engaged at work

— 7 times more likely to experience higher job satisfaction

All of these benefits impact an employer’s bottom line. When employees experience meaning, their employers enjoy higher rates of customer commitment and investor interest.

The Wrap

Companies need to understand that meaning in work does not rely on the company’s product or outcome. Meaning lies in the daily experience of how doing your work helps you develop as a human being.

Every business should work to develop meaningful work if they want to maximize their success. A portfolio of the 100 Best Companies (to Work For), from 1984-2009, exceeded its expected risk-adjusted return by 3.5 percent a year.

This type of stellar performance can be traced back to what makes each of these companies one of the best places to work: They provide their employees’ with meaningful work.