Motivation

This is the Truth Behind Employees and Meaningful Work

This is the Truth Behind Employees and Meaningful Work
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Why do employees show up five days week, all year long? In a July Workfront study of 606 employed adults, the U.S. State of Enterprise Work Report, 74 percent of employees surveyed named the ability to pay their bills as their motivation for work; 27 percent of employees cited the mental challenge involved.

Related: Good Things Happen When You Put Employee Motivation First

By and large, then, employees work for a paycheck. Yet, the modern workplace is attempting to improve employee satisfaction by placing a higher importance on the meaning behind work -- and this implies a major disconnect between employees and employers.

Is meaningful work a dead issue for employees? No. But the implication is that they do need motivation beyond the work itself. Here are four ways to connect compensation, motivation and purpose:

1. Make goals accessible.

In May 2014, the American Psychological Association (APA) studied 158 undergraduate students in its survey, Within-Person Analyses of Situational Interest and Boredom: Interactions Between Task-Specific Perceptions and Achievement Goals. On average, the APA found, when study participants had a high expectation of success and reward and a lower perception of difficulty, they were more interested in the activity.

Giving employees complicated or difficult-to-reach goals can be discouraging. Frustrated team members will be less likely to put passion and drive into their projects.

So, the message: Be transparent about your employees' goals, how those goals can be reached and the reward they’ll receive. Meet with your team often to discuss goal progression, and rewards attached to hitting those goals. Motivation is heightened when employees understand there are clear opportunities to make bonuses by hitting an attainable goal.

2. Recognize hard work often.

Valuable employees put forth a lot of effort in order to earn their salary and push the company’s mission forward -- and they deserve recognition for their hard work.

Some employees go above and beyond for the benefit of the organization -- and they should be appropriately recognized. This doesn’t mean handing out a gold star during an annual evaluation, but rather incorporating regular acknowledgement of outstanding employees into the company culture.  

Invest in a recognition tool, such as Bonusly, where managers and coworkers can send points to those who break the mold at work. Accumulated points can be used toward gift cards, days off or bonus pay.

Show employees how much they’re appreciated by adding small but valid touches around the office, like favorite creamers in the break room. Employees will be much more motivated to perform meaningful work if they know it’s being acknowledged and appreciated.

Related: What Really Motivates Employees? [Infographic]

3. Show growth opportunities.

Since most employees are motivated by the ability to pay their bills, some companies may be losing valuable employees to jobs with higher salaries. This high turnover makes it even more difficult for employers to create a connection between hard work, purpose-driven goals and compensation.

It’s important to evaluate where the company stands on employee pay, in comparison to similar job opportunities. Using an online tool like Paysa can help employers easily see how their employees’ salaries compare to competitors'. Apply this information by creating a plan that shows employees they can have similar growth and pay opportunities if they stay in their current role.

Give employees a chance to see their potential within the organization. Motivate the team by creating a growth chart to show where each employee can be promoted -- and the compensation tied to those positions. Seeing that there’s room to grow both their salary and profession increases employee productivity, motivation and retention.

4. Give them a purpose.

Deloitte surveyed nearly 7,700 millennials from 29 countries in September and October 2015 and found that 56 percent said that at some point they had ruled out working for an organization because of its values. Only 70 percent believed their personal values were shared by the organizations they work for.

Employees are highly motivated by their paychecks, but meaningful work shouldn’t be ruled out completely. Satisfaction with a paycheck rises when purpose is attached to an employee's daily tasks.

Give the team an in-depth look behind your company’s mission statement and values. Explain specifically how employees' roles are contributing to the mission and bettering people’s lives. Show the history behind the values, expand into the organization’s goals for years to come and highlight how each employee has a purpose in the grand scheme.

Related: This Is What Happens When Employees Find Meaning at Work

If possible, take everyone on a volunteering opportunity connected to the organization’s mission to give employees a firsthand look into what their work is accomplishing.