It’s about a year since Marjolein Lips-Wiersma and Lani Morris published their groundbreaking book ‘The Map of Meaning: A guide to sustaining our humanity at work’, which encapsulates decades of study and insights into one of management’s most vexing questions: why do some workplaces packed with engaged and motivated workers while others appear packed with apathetic clock-watchers?
Their research shows people want personal meaning via:
- Unity with others
- Having an opportunity to provide a service to them.
- Being able to express our full potential
- Having an opportunity to develop our full selves.
When people are in a place of meaning, they reclaim their strength and become responsible.
Yet ‘The Map of Meaning’, suggests that leaders are routinely destroying employees’ ability to fulfil themselves in these ways. Some leaders try to get engagement among their workers by setting up even more systems with which employees must comply. Unsurprisingly, these culture, vision and engagement management initiatives only alienate people further.
On the other hand, leaders who help to create ‘meaningful workplaces’ are rewarded with greater productivity. Their people are more creative. There’s less stress, less absenteeism and more commitment to work. Challenges are faced constructively as people find energising ways of working together on what is important.
People who not only have talent and skills but also a deep engagement with what they do are more likely to collaborate, innovate, look for multiple solutions to a problem – and seek the best one rather than the easiest. These are the people who take ownership. These are the people whom employers and managers want.
Leaders and organisations wanting to explore how to make their workplaces ‘meaningful’ can get advice and guidance from EPICC’s consultants – who use The Map of Meaning as a key guiding influence in their work. EPICC is the consultancy arm of Workplace Matters, a charity with over 50 years’ experience of taking Christian values into the workplace, including providing chaplaincy to a wide range of organisations within the private, not-for-profit and public sectors. EPICC aims to:
- Restore a sense of meaning and purpose to work – enriching motivation and job satisfaction
- Affirm and develop people as individuals – supporting real vocation which is empowering, reduces stress and enhances performance
- Move beyond ‘conventional wisdom’ and explores more life-giving approaches to leadership
- Provide a supportive experience with positive relationships
- Uphold spiritual and emotional intelligence
- Promote relationships, ethical practice and inspiration among workers
Comment: While meaning in our working lives may be something for which we’re all searching and the potential benefits of finding it – both personally and organisationally – are enormous, the current economically-induced caution towards any new investment in HR or learning & development activities is preventing these benefits being realised. Surely it’s worth taking a low-cost risk?