Work is a big part of our identity. It reflects our values and beliefs. Leaders have a strong influence on employees' work behavior and the relationship employees have with their work. We have identified five key elements company leaders can incorporate at their organizations to create a meaningful work environment for their employees.
The end goal of any company should be to create work cultures that are mutually beneficial to organizations and people who work there. Look beyond the bottom line. Yes, financial goals are essential but define the organization's purpose in a way that focuses on the company's positive contribution to the broader society.
Nurture a shared culture that is aligned with the values of leaders and employees. Demonstrate to the employees how their jobs fit with the organization's overall purpose. Help them focus on the good that they do every day and explain why they are doing what they are doing.
One of the best ways to help people grow and innovate is to empower them to take ownership of their work. When employees think and act like owners, control many aspects of their work, have the leeway to rearrange, modify, and improve their assignments, their mindsets start to change from what cannot be done to what can. They become innovative and push their companies forward.
Employees who experience high levels of social support have higher workplace meaning. When establishing social support, managers can explicitly share the aspects of work they find meaningful with their employees. Encourage employees to understand that while certain parts of their jobs may seem tedious and repetitive, those tasks have value and contribute to the organization's purpose. This will prevent people from thinking that managers assign them pointless work.
Create a safe environment where employees can propose novel ideas and regularly engage with direct reports to have a good sense of what is important to them. Provide actionable feedback to support employees' growth.
Embrace people's humanity – all of it; embrace who the people are and what they bring to every team and organization. Today's employees desire a workplace that values them for who they are, allows them to convey their true selves to work, and rewards authenticity. When people behave in alignment with their values, they have a stronger work ethic and are more morally engaged.
Employees are looking for leaders who prioritize the humanity of leadership, demonstrate hard and soft power, and cultivate open and transparent work environments. This type of leader is called the "Human CEO." Human CEOs create a human-focused environment based on trust, respect, recognition, gratitude, and autonomy. They commit to cooperation, listening to employees, and distributing leadership across levels and functions. Also, they help their employees reach their full potential, which, in turn, contributes to the overall growth of their organizations.
Create a respectful and inclusive work environment where employees feel a sense of belonging and see how their work has a positive impact on others. Get employees involved and seek out their opinions on important issues. Show them that their opinions are valued, and everyone's voice is heard.
Treat everyone in the organization with respect and dignity, creating an environment of community and friendship. Learn about other cultures to understand cultural contexts and build teams with diverse thinking. Make decisions in a transparent, informed, and consistent way paying close attention to unconscious biases.
Ensure alignment between employees' compensation and the company's interests. Organizations should have a fair reward and recognition system in place that acknowledges employees for hard work.
Listen and implement feedback from the employees, sharing credit for success. Reward employees for creative work after giving them decision-making authority.
Transformational leaders and "human CEOs" inspire and articulate an appealing vision. They motivate employees to look past the tasks that may seem tedious, repetitive, and menial and attach more meaning, purpose, and significance to their jobs. The most effective organizational leaders create work environments with a shared purpose, social support, a sense of humanity and inclusiveness, and a place where employees are recognized for hard work. As a result, employees achieve superior business performance by generating ideas and translating these ideas into successful products and services, contributing to the organization's financial success.