Work is all about the paychecks, right? Well, not exactly. Especially among newer generations, work isn’t just about the money. It’s also about purpose and about feeling comfortable in a positive workplace environment. As much as it seems that this trend has picked up significantly in recent years, don’t be too quick to write it off as a “generational” thing. Truthfully, finding meaning in your work and feeling significant in the workplace is perfectly aligned with the basic human need for mattering. Research shows that this isn’t anything new.
Especially after COVID, people are feeling a meaning deficit at work, which is perfectly understandable. Most of us spent a few weeks at the very least in an existential crisis or in prolonged anxiety—what does your “job” matter in the face of a global pandemic? Between a stronger commitment to matter and pandemic-induced lack of meaning, then, getting your workplace to feel like a safe and comfortable environment for your workers to grow as people can be…challenging. By building a culture of significance, however, you can be well on your way to doing just that. Here are 4 ways you can create a culture of significance in your workplace.
Collaboration is more important than ever in the modern workplace, which can be a good thing for the workplace environment—humans are social creatures, after all. Not only are humans social creatures, they are prosocial creatures, meaning that humans are driven to help and benefit others due to the euphoria of positive feelings. That being said, the workplace isn’t always the most inviting environment for collaboration and selfless actions, especially if incentives are only put in place for progress.
If everyone is striving for individual progress, then business is practically optimized, right? Again, not exactly. Like we said, humans are social and the workplace is increasingly collaborative, but this communal mindset isn’t always compatible with individual progress. If I’m going to help my coworker with a task that isn’t also assigned to me, then I’m going to lose time and resources that I need for my own progress, even if this collaboration is ultimately better for the business.
By shifting the focus of different rewards and recognitions from solely individual progress achievements to also prosocial actions and purposeful collaboration, you can tear down an implicit (and traditional) wall that has been up in the workplace, discouraging collaboration and community.
You hired your team for a reason, and that reason likely isn’t for them to be mindless machines completing repetitive tasks. If you hire talent, you should not only let that talent shine, but encourage it as well!
Humans aren’t just social, we’re diverse and expressive. Everybody on the team comes from a different background and has different ideas and experiences. Putting all of these perspectives together creates a unique and powerful hivemind that can set your business apart from any other, because nobody has those exact same building blocks. Make sure your team has the ability and agency to be creative, to collaborate, and to problem solve without having to cut through too much red tape or undermining their ideas.
By not only permitting but also highlighting these individual contributions, you aren’t just recognizing the brilliance of team members, you’re also allowing these team members to exercise different parts of their business brains and ultimately grow as individuals and employees. That builds a sense of community and of mattering!
Perform Purpose Audits
Even if you’re doing all of the above, how can you be sure that it’s working? Or better yet, how can you know that something that worked in the past is continuing to work? Simple: just ask.
In more syllables: perform purpose audits. While it will require a culture of openness and transparency, simply bringing your team together and speaking openly about the purpose of the business, but also the purpose each team member feels both in their lives and insofar as their professional roles go is a great way to learn if you’re even getting through to your team as a leader. If you aren’t getting through, it might be time to go back to the drawing board about your organization and leadership styles.
Of course, depending on your crowd and workplace, bringing everyone into the same room to talk about this might not be the best idea (or even feasible). You can organize smaller or individual meetings, anonymous assessments, or whatever mechanism works best for your context. Just remember: audit for purpose.
Keep Purpose in the Loop
Finally, don’t get lost in translation! If you’re a small team with a handful of members, communicating the company’s authentic purpose can be quick and painless. As the team grows, however, you need to do your best to avoid a broken telephone.
Make sure managers of any capacity are both aware of the purpose and culture of significance, and are genuinely committed to upholding both of these. As a founder, CEO, etc., it’s great to be committed to a purpose and committed to certain leadership and workplace philosophies, but if the chain of command muffles or loses the message along the way, you’re really just running mental exercises. Making sure these messages are kept in the loop of management is essential to creating and sustaining this culture of significance.
As much as we’d like to “return to normal,” the truth is that it’s a new world for everyone. For many, it’s a scary one. Fostering this culture of significance is likely one of the only ways to help people continue to “come back” to work comfortably and securely. It’s better for you, it’s better for your employees, and it’s better for business. What’s the alternative?
Living Pono is dedicated to communicating business management concepts with Hawaiian values. Founded by Kevin May, an established and successful leader and mentor, Living Pono is your destination to learn about how to live your life righteously and how that can have positive effects in your career. If you have any questions, please leave a comment below or contact us here. Also, join our mailing list below, so you can be alerted when a new article is released.
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