Thursday, 29 March 2012

Creating meaning at work

A couple of days ago I watched a clip from 1972 where Viktor E. Frankl (Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School) spoke about the human search for meaning in life. He spent three years in concentration camps during the War World II, the time when he formulated many of his key ideas about this topic.

Indeed, search for meaning apply to work with people looking for work that is meaningful to them. 
We all have reasons to come to work and meanings that we give to it. Finding those meanings and nourish them is vital in order to engage.

In fact,  it is not enough to recognise people, to make them aware that their work counts and that it is appreciated. Also it is not enough to give them the chance to make progress if the progress itself is not considered of importance to them, if they cannot find any meaning in it.

Understanding those meanings, finding them out whatever they are for each individual is the first step to be followed by real action. It implies focusing on the individual rather than on the general mass. 

Those meanings indeed have a strong impact on the way people work, how engaged or disengaged they are. For that reason, leaders and people should work together to find out and define those meanings first, then to create scope for nourishing those meanings within the organisation and its goals. 

Storytelling could be very helpful within the engagement journey of employees in that respect. People could be helped with understanding not only the mission, vision and values of the organisation, but also helped with refashioning their own meanings within the boundaries of the business goals. 

Leaders and people could end with having both a better understanding of how they could make a real contribution to the organisation's future while at the same time achieve a personal sense of fulfilment at work.

This search for meaning at work would imply a shared and co-creational work between leaders and employees.