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Are Your Staff Happy At Work? Fulfilment Can Boost Company Performance

ReseEmployees who find their work meaningful brings significant benefits
Employees who find their work meaningful brings significant benefits
  • Staff who find their work meaningful deliver major benefits to their employer
  • Offering constructive ideas and suggestions leads to better performance reviews
  • Job satisfaction could come down to something you wouldn’t expect

As human beings we inherently look for meaning and purpose in our lives. Our careers are no exception and, for many, a it’s non-negotiable element of their work.

Meaningfulness leads to happiness, and so finding purpose is a must – a key marker of a successful career. But finding such fulfilment in work is often easier said than done. A study in the US revealed that despite over 80% of university-educated Americans aspiring to have meaningful work, less than half ever actually succeed in that endeavour. Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup – the US-based global analytics and advisory firm – goes even further, noting in a recent interview that, of the world’s one billion-strong full-time workforce, only 15 percent are “engaged at work”.

But, should companies be concerned that so few of their employees are truly fulfilled with their work? Why should firms care? Surely as long as the job gets done, that’s all that matters, right?

Wrong. According to research from Trinity Business School in Ireland, employees who find their work meaningful hold significant value for their organisation.

Undertaken by Dr Amanda Shantz, Associate Professor and MBA Director at Trinity, alongside researchers from ESCP Business School, the study revealed that people who find their job meaningful are more likely to offer constructive advice on how to improve their company.

According to Shantz, “cultivating an environment in which employees find purpose in their work goes beyond a ‘feel good factor’.

“Employees who find their work meaningful are more likely to offer constructive and innovative ideas, thereby increasing their work performance and ultimately contributing to organisational effectiveness,” she says.

Yet, according to the researchers, it’s not just the organisation that benefits when an employee feels as though their work is meaningful. The study also revealed that those who perceived their job to have meaning, and so offered new ideas and ways of improving how things are done, received better performance reviews.

Shantz and her colleagues used data from 249 employees at a UK-based construction and consultancy firm. The employees’ roles varied, and included positions in facilities management, logistics, building, property development, and administrative roles. Each employee taking part in the study was asked to fill out a questionnaire, which was later analysed against performance reviews from their supervisors.

So, according to Shantz, it really does matter whether your work fulfils you.

While not the most counterintuitive of findings – job satisfaction, fulfilment and meaning have long since be lauded by many of the world’s most successful business leaders as key factors contributing to their success – the research does give food for thought for professionals: you have to ensure that whatever it is you dedicate your professional lives to you can find meaning in. And satisfaction for that matter.

But that begs the question: “how will I know when I’ve found the role for me?

According to research from Houston University, job satisfaction can come down to factors as simple as the people.

“To be satisfied with a job, you don’t have to worry too much about finding a perfect fit for your interests because we know other things matter too,” says Kevin Hoff, an assistant professor of industrial-organizational psychology at the University of Houston and author of the research.

“As long as it’s something you don’t hate doing, you may find yourself very satisfied if you have a good supervisor, like your co-workers, and are treated fairly by your organization.”

He and his team analysed 39,600 interviews conducted over 65 years, reaching the conclusion that, ultimately, your relationship with the ones you work with and for matters most in determining job satisfaction. Hoff’s take on the importance of having a good relationship with your boss finds company in Trinity’s Shantz who notes a caveat in her research findings.

According to the Trinity professor, employees who find their job meaningful and so seek to improve the way in which their company functions through constructive advice only find that their performance reviews improve if they have a high-quality relationship with their supervisor.

So the morale of the story is two-fold. Firstly, perceived job meaningfulness does matter, for both the employee and the organisation. Both parties stand to gain when colleagues find their work fulfilling. Secondly, it’s not just about the work you do, but the people you work with. As both Hoff and Shantz point out, the relationships we have with our co-workers and, crucially, our bosses, can have a significant impact on your job satisfaction, as well as your performance.

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