Friday, January 15, 2016

meaningful work

At Concordia University Texas, it is our goal that those who graduate will find meaningful is also our goal that all employees find their work meaningful at the school.  But what exactly is meaningful work...and what does it feel like when one has that in their lives.  As a part of the exploration, I have begun to ask people what gives them meaning in their work, and last evening I had the chance to talk on this subject with one of the bartenders at a new restaurant and cocktail bar in San Antonio called Juniper Tar.  He described his work as a chance to educate people, to give them a great experience, and a chance to learn and grow himself.  His opportunity to entertain...and to give another person an "AHA" experience provided meaning for him in his work.  It is no longer just a job - working at Juniper Tar has become his mission.  And yes, he enjoys a good cocktail himself, so this mixes his passion with what he enjoys and what he does well.  And he can make a living in this work.

So what can leaders do help create a place where work can have meaning for others?  Here are a few thoughts:
  • hire well - ensuring that someone is a good "fit" for the work they are asked to do goes a long way in helping that person find meaning in their work over the long haul
  • train them well - when people know how to do their work in a manner that is both efficient and effective, they can find greater joy in what they do (I found out last night that there is a proper way to shake a cocktail so as not to strain one's muscles)
  • give them freedom - everyone has a different way of thinking about the world and how they should interact with others.  Letting people be themselves allows them to bring their whole selves into the workplace
  • work in teams - while some people are more of a loner than others, being a part of something bigger than oneself provides the chance to accomplish great things together and feel pride in the outcome
  • allow them to fail - trying new things may (and probably will) lead to failures.  Celebrate the failures as something learned as a result of taking a risk
  • reward them - part of meaningful work is the ability to make a wage that allows that person to take care of themselves and those they love (including charitable causes).  While rewards can and should encompass more than financial gain, recognizing people for a job well done through some type of bonus system provides great incentive for continuing that type of work
  • engage them - people love to be asked their opinions and when they contribute to the organization, they feel good about themselves, they feel good about their work, and they feel good about the institution
I had a great time engaging with the bartender last night...and I found out more about meaningful work in the process.  So what about you - what does it mean to you to engage in meaningful work?  Feel free to leave your answers below.

1 comment:

LearnerJim said...

Providing a framework of values and expected outcomes is also critical to meaningful work for many of us. To see how our work has been meaningful not jjust to us but to others.