Does the job have meaning?

By Élisée Hazan, Internal Communication & Content Manager, Prodware.

If we stick to its traditional definition, a job is a production contract allowing a person to obtain remuneration. It is therefore important for the employer to give meaning to work, if only to support its employees in carrying out their tasks, an achievement which is not always fundamentally pleasant or self-evident, the Latin etymology of word work (tripalium) – let us remember – referring to an instrument of torture…

But at the same time, work carries meaning, as a source of personal fulfillment and freedom. The role of companies is therefore to put in place a work organization that allows those who perform it to appropriate it and achieve their fulfillment, both personally and collectively.

Nothing is less simple, because a “job”, a function are, by their very essence, “anonymous”, disembodied. A position as such is intrinsically meaningless. For the latter to be born and to last, it is necessary for the employee to be able to transfer a little of himself, of his history, of his experience, a little of what constitutes him intimately and matters to him into his daily activity. In short, there is only meaning when the employee manages to take ownership of the tasks he performs every day, to project himself into them and recognize himself in them.

Companies, and especially managers, have a key role to play in this appropriation. By providing employees with personalized support and concrete information allowing them to better understand what their work is for and in what larger “whole” it fits, managers help to strengthen their adherence to the company’s culture and, more generally, consolidate team cohesion. They thus avoid the “disintegration syndrome” whereby employees no longer manage to grasp the usefulness of their role or their place in the organization.

Beware of fashion effects

Marketing is a discipline crossed by fashion effects. And the question of the meaning of work can, alas, too often be perceived as one of those trends which we know will soon be driven out by a new one. However, this question is not a fad. It crystallizes the deepest concerns of employees, those who have been set aside for too long in the establishment of working conditions, when they are the first concerned.

Be careful, for example, not to fall into certain faults such as the excessive communication carried out by many leaders and middle managers on the values ​​of their company. It is indeed necessary to ensure that these values, for lack of real convictions on the raison d’être of the activity of the company, are not only a marketing layer. These values ​​must be embodied, understood, adopted and, above all, communicated wisely. In other words, if language and communication are necessary to give meaning to work, this redefinition must not be confined to language. Between language and pipe, there is often only a slight difference. The effects of announcements not followed by concrete actions are indeed disastrous because they bring great disappointment.

Just as work is a form of partnership between an employer and an employee, these values, in order for them to be adopted, must be built with all of the company’s stakeholders. Very often, top management determines values ​​in a small (management) committee, communicates them to its base and urges it, with more or less subtlety, to make them its own and embody them. This new partnership is, without a doubt, the next new frontier to be conquered in order to obtain a world of work that is more conducive to fulfilment, both individually and collectively.

Creative autonomy and new corporate culture

Managers and executives have other levers that allow them to give meaning to the work of employees. Granting them considerable flexibility (in terms of pace and organization of work) and granting them significant creative autonomy is undoubtedly a primary differentiating factor. According to a study conducted by BCG and The Network (1), 80% of talents say they are interested in the possibility of arranging their working hours to suit them.

At a time when everything is becoming hybrid, this flexibility and this level of autonomy are now essential prerequisites. They are an integral part of the “new deal”. Telecommuting now allows much greater flexibility in schedules, while offering a stronger ability to federate. From now on, the collaborators have exchanges with correspondents present in very different geographies, which allows a richer and more intense collaboration.

And to compensate for the lack of physical meetings, it is necessary to create a new corporate culture. The values ​​it is used to promoting remain, but they are enriched by events and rituals organized in the premises. This makes it possible to bring teams back to the office, which corresponds to a request on their part, even if the younger generations are very comfortable with remote work.

The question of meaning has more and more meaning

In tight markets such as those linked to the digital transformation of companies, where the war for talent is raging, the main risk – in the absence of meaning – is to see young recruits who have barely been trained leave after two years, even to see that employees who have been there for longer are also leaving the ship.

One of the major risks for companies is letting a certain form of demotivation set in, and thus seeing commitment weaken. The impacts can be rapid and drastic: the performance of a complete service can suffer and this “gangrene” can quickly spread to other departments.

The question of meaning is therefore no longer an optional subject. Managers and leaders can no longer do without it. This question calls into question the very raison d’être of organizations, but also their mission and their vision. It requires rethinking the fundamentals of corporate culture. A vast project that can be highly unifying…

Bio :
Coming from the call center and direct marketing sector, Elisée Hazan has proven herself in the field. Alternately responsible for international telemarketing operations, call center manager, he evolved in operational marketing in sectors as varied as databases, IT, graphic arts, telecommunications.
Since 2017, he joined Prodware as Internal Communication Manager. Particularly involved in this subject, he is a stakeholder in the “Employee Engagement” policy initiated by the company.

(1) « Decoding Global Ways of Working », mars 2021.