Some jobs by their very nature seem more meaningful than others. But really, all jobs are potentially meaningful. All companies serve their customers, their stakeholders, and their workforce, and the employees are in a unique position to make a real difference. Quint Studer says it's up to leaders to help people see this. Great leaders create an environment where employees feel valued (and valuable), and this is what connects them to purpose.
"There is no such thing as a job that does not count," says Studer, author of Wall Street Journal bestseller The Busy Leader's Handbook: How to Lead People and Places That Thrive. "And yet, we tend to work in environments where an employee is more likely to hear about their work when there is a problem. It is assumed that the impact of work is obvious, and because of that, leaders are not taking time to emphasize to each worker the why of their job and the important contribution it makes." Research shows that 53 percent of workers wish they had more insight into the effect their contributions have on their company's success. Further, there's a big disconnect illustrating that while leaders may think they're doing a good job of helping employees understand their company's purpose, they really aren't. See these statistics from a Deloitte survey:
Explain to each worker how what they do impacts customers and coworkers. Remember, making a difference doesn't have to mean saving the world. It can be as simple as being the best florist in town or being the restaurant that serves up the most delicious burgers and shakes. Narrate this to employees. Help them connect the dots on how they make a difference in people's lives and in the success of the organization.
Drill down on the why. An article on Inc.com (the one that shared the Deloitte statistics referenced earlier) suggests going up to employees and asking them why they're doing the task they're doing. The author explains: "Their immediate answer might be because it's part of the project they're working on. Ask them why they're working on that project. When they give an answer, ask why again. Follow this chain long enough and you should eventually arrive at your company's mission statement."
Connect with customers and share that you like to recognize staff. Ask if there are any staff members they would like you to recognize and why. Being very specific about what they did or said (or both) to positively impact customers will mean more to the employee. It will also reinforce that behavior so the employee will be more likely to repeat it. Customer praise and gratitude can have a huge impact on an employee's sense of meaning and purpose.
Ask recognized employees who is helping them behind the scenes. Then, pass the message along to them. "People who provide direct customer service will get the most compliments, so when recognizing these folks, ask them who supports them that the customer does not see," says Studer. "Think accountants, cooks and dishwashers, and other back-of-house employees. Take the time to recognize these people as well and connect them back to their role in the customer experience."
Share meaningful stories every chance you get. When you are talking to customers you will hear stories about how much your company's product or service means to them. Quite often, they will share details and expressions of gratitude that staff may not hear. Make it your business to make sure all employees hear those stories. Share them at staff meetings, in company newsletters, on your website and social media pages, and in casual conversations. Stories are very powerful because they resonate on a human level. People remember them. These don't have to be huge events. Simple things work just fine.
Finally, pay passion and purpose forward by thanking people outside your company. When you receive great service, whether it's from a TSA employee, a ticket taker at a theater, a server at a restaurant, or an usher at the baseball game, let them know they are making a difference. It's amazing how seldom they hear this.
About the Author:
Quint Studer is the author of Wall Street Journal bestseller The Busy Leader's Handbook and a lifelong businessman, entrepreneur, and student of leadership.