Finding Meaning in Your Work


Work is a central feature of any society, and the range of tasks involved varies widely. From gathering natural resources to operating complex technologies, work demands specific skills, equipment, tools, and resources. Across history, people have expressed a variety of attitudes toward work. As a result, humanity has evolved various institutions to situate work in society.

People look for meaning in their work when there is a clear connection between their work and their values. However, this connection is not always obvious. In this case, leaders can help employees find meaning in their work by articulating the values of the company, shaping the story of how work fits in with those values, and sharing stories about how these values are lived out by actual people.

Finding meaning in work can increase productivity and happiness at work. Research shows that people who believe their work has meaning tend to stay at their jobs longer and earn higher salaries. They are also more likely to receive raises and promotions. Furthermore, aligning work values with company values can lead to increased productivity, lower turnover, and increased employee retention.

With currently available technologies, about half of all paid work globally could be automated. Only a small percentage of occupations consists of fully automated activities, and the rest contain at least a third of automated activities. The most affected occupations are those with predictable environments and repetitive physical tasks. Automation could displace large amounts of labor in certain occupations, such as mortgage origination and back-office transaction processing. In other occupations, however, automation may not affect employment.

Work processes define the methods employees use to create value for the company. Companies develop specific work processes for each industry. For example, a manufacturing company might create a work process for clothing production, while a marketing company might develop one for social media ad campaigns. A work process can include any task that enables employees to create value for the organization.