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Three Ways to Find Meaning In Your Work


What makes work…work?


There are tons of possible definitions, but two central characteristics of all jobs are:

  • A series of tasks and projects that you have to do, whether you enjoy them or not.

  • Some kind of extrinsic motivation. In other words, you are compensated or rewarded by an external source for performing those tasks. (as opposed to play, which you do because it is internally rewarding).


Most of us work, but not everyone is engaged with what they do at work. This is a problem, because dozens of studies have tied individual performance, employee retention, and company outcomes to how engaged people are in their work.


So, what can we do to make the experience more engaging?


One big factor in employee engagement is finding meaning and purpose in work. People need to feel like their contributions matter, that the tasks they complete are part of something bigger than themselves. We want to see how our work connects with others, and how all the pieces make some difference in the world.


In our BarometerXP Pressure Matrix, we define three categories that contribute to employee engagement. If you want your team members engaged in their work, every project, every meeting, every task should align with at least one of the following:


  • The Why: What is the overall purpose of the company or organization? Does the work relate directly to mission, vision, and values?


  • The What: Does the task or project advance defined goals and metrics? Does the work contribute to the company’s capacity to implement the mission and vision?


  • The How: Are the right processes and resources in place to accomplish the goals? Does the task or project help ensure that work is being done efficiently, effectively, or strategically?


Not every task you perform at work will be exciting, or even align strongly with your talents and interests. But if you can connect a task with the Why, the How, or the What of your company, it can still be meaningful.


Using this approach, how can you find new meaning to your work?