The Role of People Experience Teams in Enabling Meaningful Work

Making the case for a shift away from traditional HR
Investing the People Experience team’s time in exploring ways to enable a sense of meaning for employees, has a number of benefits to both employer and employee that are hard to ignore.
Benefits to the organisation
  • job performance
  • organisational citizenship behaviour
  • work engagement and commitment
  • Lower rates of turnover
  • Less counterproductive behaviours
Benefits to the employee
  • Job and life satisfaction
  • life meaning
  • general health
  • heightened motivation, hope, efficacy
  • Better work relationships
  • Lower rates of burnout and stress

Beyond these benefits, it is becoming increasingly recognised that organisations have an ethical obligation to provide the basic conditions that cultivate a meaningful workplace. 

Why? Because working in a meaningless role has been correlated to psychological suffering

Have you ever dreaded the question, “what do you do?”.  The internet is filled with criticisms of this question and offers an abundance of alternative options to ask instead. It shouldn’t be surprising, considering the majority of people feel unenthusiastic about the thing they spend most of their waking hours doing: working.

In fact, in 2017, Gallup reported that worldwide, 2 out of every 3 employees were not engaged, and 1 in 5 employees were actively disengaged in their role

This is actually staggering. 

Put another way, if your organisation has 100 employees, it’s likely that only 16 of them will be actively engaged, and feeling “involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace”.  

If you’re asking yourself how to improve this statistic, the answer is by leveraging People Experience teams to find ways to make work meaningful for people. 
In contrast to traditional HR, People Experience teams involve employees in the process of making decisions about the policies and processes that affect them.

There are two types of meaningful work

Meaning in work is where a person perceives that the work they do as part of their role is contributing to something greater than themselves. As what is perceived as a is highly personal, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to creating opportunities to experience meaning in work.

Meaning at work, however, is easier to address because it occurs when the employee perceives their job to be personally significant and worthwhile as a result of their experience of the working environment. It is also a prerequisite to experiencing meaning in work.

People Experience teams support employees in feeling meaning at work by ensuring the working environment is providing employees opportunities for their following needs to be met:

Physical and psychological wellbeing

Humane work environments and supportive cultures

Not feeling overburdened or overworked

Having basic resources are provided

Social connection and belonging

Applying strengths at work 

Identifying how one’s work can be beneficial to others 

Perceived opportunities for personal or career development

Being able to be oneself at work

Feeling appreciated

Establishing positive relationships with others

Feeling acknowledged important contributions

Personally significant or meaningful work

However, for a company to build these foundations of meaning at work is no mean feat. To create an Employee Experience (EX), that leads to meaning at work, it should be considered an Experience Design problem. In Experience Design, a Design Thinking approach would be taken to ensure the nuances of these groups of needs are understood, before then delivering solutions through a collaborative approach that involves employees in the creation of them. 

People Experience isn't another name for HR

Where Traditional HR typically looks at solving business problems by following a top-down, ‘waterfall’ process, People Experience Teams adopt the view that EX problems are Design problems solved with a Design Thinking approach. As a result, People Experience teams are far better positioned to increase meaning at work and thus employee engagement.

Many companies state that they invest in their people, but unless they have also invested in a full transition of their HR team to a People Experience team, there will be a lack of capacity to go above and beyond meeting the most basic needs of employees to begin meaningful employee experiences that boost engagement.

Given this, the fostering of meaningful work for employees should not be left to chance –– it should be an intentional part of the business strategy. If you truly want to increase employee engagement, efficiency and performance levels, so your business can thrive, your organisation must invest in growing a solid People Experience team and integrate their work into the business strategy. 

The outcome will not only benefit your business, but provide opportunities for employees to experience meaningful work and become more enthusiastic about answering the dreaded “what do you do?”

Got any questions on where to start or how to put these concepts into practice? Get in touch.

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