How to drive meaning, purpose, and productivity during the pandemic

Posted by Mike Ryan

How do businesses encourage and maintain a productive workforce with purpose, throughout a pandemic? Mike Ryan provides three key tips to achieve this

Even as they remain holed up in their homes, today’s employees are looking for work that is more psychologically fulfilling. In fact, most say it is the biggest benefit a job can offer. Still, many are not finding the emotional returns they seek. Only a handful of employees would describe their work as “meaningful” and/or having a “purpose”.

Make no mistake about it, both are powerful motivators. Employees who feel an emotional connection out produce others. They put in extra hours and they take fewer days off. In fact, elevating an employee’s sense of purpose from “average” to “high” can result in thousands of dollars of additional output per year.

So, what can companies do to provide the type of conditions that generate meaning and purpose? And how can those investments improve business results—especially during the pandemic?

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Creating a resilient workforce

Organizations that have made the fiscal connection between promoting workplace meaning and purpose and are tracking the measures that matter most for their business, understand the role recognition plays in the overall equation. During the hiring process they look for applicants who enjoy specific types of tasks and who will thrive inside their ecosystems. That’s the first part. They then go out of their way to create cultures that are socially connected on all levels. Mostly, they apply an abundance of rewards and recognition as employees contribute throughout their careers.

That coordinated effort results in a talent base that derives more purpose and meaning from their work. And it builds a constituency of employees who can thrive under any circumstance, COVID-related or not. These companies literally construct a talent base that is more resilient: They are more connected, feel more appreciated, and are more involved in what they do and who they do it with.

1) Why meaning and purpose comes less from money than it does from feeling connected

Money may lure some people to certain jobs, but purpose, meaning, and the prospect of being involved in interesting and invaluable work determines how long (and how hard) an employee will work at any position.  Nine out of 10 workers admitted they would trade money for a role that offered them meaning, be it in the form of personal or professional growth opportunities. On average, they’d sacrifice 23% of their paycheck for a job they consider to be more purposeful.

Employees who feel emotionally and socially connected at work are more likely to derive a sense of purpose from what they do. They want to feel aligned with the company’s mission and the values it stands for and they seek out trusting relationships with their managers and coworkers. Organizations that have cracked that code have created a shared commitment across all their workers—one that reinforces a mutual connection and a sense of belonging across each employee.

Recognition plays an important role here. It reaffirms the value of an individual’s effort, but at the same time it forges significance across shared groups. By allowing workers (no matter what their status in the workplace or their stations across a shut-downed work environment) ample opportunities to celebrate one another, it reinforces the collective mission all employees share.

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2) Pandemic or not, employees still want to be recognized for what they contribute 

Of all the factors that make employees feel as if they belong at the companies they work for, being recognized for their achievements—and feeling that those accomplishments are valued by others—tops the list.

Recognition acknowledges the importance of what an employee brings to the table. It clarifies how they’ve helped the company (and others) move forward. And in an age where not everyone is exposed to the organization’s overall objective every day, recognition emphasizes the critical nature of their work.

How so? Most organizations speak about themselves (and their work teams) as being mission driven. But not every company actively addresses what that means—especially when workers are sequestered away from one another. Without an ongoing sense of purpose and commitment, it is difficult for most employees to see meaning in their jobs. And when they stop hearing from the people they work with—or the companies they are a part of—they can easily lose their way.

One of the most effective ways to make work more meaningful—especially now as we remain separated—is to cultivate a “we’re all in this together” attitude among employees and do so across all levels and all locations. With their recognition systems, smart companies are spelling out (and then rewarding) exactly what employees need to do, why their efforts are important, and how their achievements advance the collective cause of everyone involved—even in difficult times.

3) The right system brings it all together

Companies are constantly examining the processes they put in place to support employees. And while technology plays an increasingly important role in streamlining things like organizational workflow, you should never overlook how it can also reaffirm the meaning behind what employees do.

Even though they are employed from home, the people who work for you want to feel connected with—and appreciated by—those they interact with. In fact, being recognized (along with having the ability to do the same for others) makes the whole working experience more meaningful, purposeful, and rewarding.

With an automated process at their fingertips, an employee can receive praise from anyone they interact with, no matter where they are. Or they can acknowledge another’s efforts just as easily. Why is that important? Promoting the personal connections that employees form while they work together (even when they are in complete seclusion from one another) is a big part of the engagement equation. Do all of these things and you will be helping each employee find more meaning, more purpose and, above all, be more productive during the pandemic.

To discuss how we can help build a connected and engaged workforce within your business, contact us today. Or check out how we have successfully implemented reward solutions in these businesses.

A 25 year industry veteran, Mike is responsible for expanding CR Worldwide’s business portfolio in the United States.