April 25th 2023
By: Josée Lavoie

Meaning at Work & Well-being: A Powerful Pair

According to the IRSST [1], “for work to have meaning, it must provide satisfaction to the person doing it, correspond to his or her interests, call upon his or her skills, stimulate the development of his or her potential and allow him or her to achieve his or her goals.”

What gives a person a perception of meaning can vary greatly from one individual to another. Each person may have different, but equally good reasons for enjoying their work and its environment. However, the benefits are the same for everyone: making work meaningful improves the mental health and psychological well-being of employees in your organization [2].

That’s a big impact!

A person who finds meaning in his or her work will tend to adopt behaviours that are positive, such as arriving on time, paying attention to workplace safety, performing well, and even becoming a role model for others, all while maintaining mental health [3]. As an employer, we have everything to gain from this: employees feel good, they become attached to the company and want to stay. In addition, the feeling of well-being they give off can be contagious!

Factors to Consider

What factors contribute to a positive perception of work and over which the organization has control? If we go back to the definition above, they are the use of the individual’s skills, the development of potential and the achievement of goals. Let me make an aside here. Just for fun, I asked my 2 teenagers, that are 15 and 16 years old, who are new to the job market, what elements would make them stay in a company and give more meaning to their work. Money aside, of course, I got a very interesting answer: ’’The company should give a job that aligns with the employee’s interests, and use their strengths to make the person feel good about what they are doing“. As the saying goes: ’’Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings come grains of truth.“! Indeed, when possible, why not utilize the very strengths and skills that a person already has at their core?

A number of other important factors can also contribute to meaning at work. A good work-life balance allows employees to feel fulfilled both professionally and personally. Organizations should promote flexible and supportive policies to help employees manage their personal and family commitments. Opportunities for professional growth, such as training, internal promotions, and challenging work, are also crucial to providing employees with a sense of accomplishment and progression. Finally, a positive and inclusive corporate culture, in which diversity is celebrated and differences are respected, can strengthen employees’ sense of belonging and commitment. Organizations that strive for these factors not only foster a healthy and productive work environment, but also contribute to the overall well-being and satisfaction of their employees.

The Role of the Human Resources Professional

As human resources professionals, we have a responsibility to ensure that the employees in our organization find meaning in what they do for the company. Human resources professionals have several tools at their disposal to help them develop and build on the skills of their employees. First, when selecting personnel, we can ensure, through psychometrics and adapted selection tools, that new hires have the skills that correspond to the nature and requirements of the job. Once hired into the organization, knowing the skills of the resources can also be used to establish succession plans, training programs and workforce planning and cross-training in general.

Finally, a good way to help our staff feel useful and keep a sense of purpose in their work is to involve them, make them responsible, give them autonomy in their tasks and collaborate with them in order to find efficiency in their work, promote team spirit, all in a healthy and respectful work environment.

The importance of leadership and management

Leadership and management are essential elements in helping employees discover meaning in their work. By adopting a collaborative and empathetic management approach, leaders are able to better identify the needs, motivations, and goals of their employees. By setting clear goals and providing regular coaching and encouragement, leaders and managers contribute to the professional and personal development of their teams. It is crucial to create a work environment where employees feel appreciated and their contribution is valued, which strengthens their attachment to the job.

The impact of corporate social responsibility (CSR)

Another aspect that can bring meaning to work is corporate social responsibility (CSR). When an organization is actively involved in environmental, social, and ethical initiatives, it can strengthen employees’ sense of pride and identification with their company. By integrating CSR projects into the organizational culture, companies can allow their employees to feel connected to broader goals and have a positive impact on the community at large. This can include activities such as corporate volunteering, sustainability strategies or collaborations with nonprofit entities. Ultimately, employees who view their work as having a meaningful impact on society tend to remain engaged and enthusiastic over the long term.

In conclusion

As an organization that takes care of its workers, we certainly have a role to play in helping to give work meaning. But we must not forget that motivation comes first from the worker. Despite all the good practices that can be put in place, each person has a responsibility for their own well-being and must contribute fully to developing his or her full potential! Together, the chances of success are better!

To learn more!

The IRSST study referred to throughout this article is a gold mine of information and references that I invite you to consult!

Josée Lavoie

Executive Director, Talent Management


[1] Reference : R-624.pdf (irsst.qc.ca/en)
[2] Idem
[3] Idem
[4] Idem