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Finding Meaning and Fulfillment at Work (Part I)

Your Organization's Role


4-Part Mini-Series: Work Fulfillment

It is never too late to reflect on the work we do and the context in which we do it. Consider your answers to these questions:

  • Is your job making full use of your strengths?

  • Do you have meaningful work and feel valued for your contributions?

  • Are you making an impact?

  • Are you feeling fulfilled at work?

A recent study by Facebook, published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR, 2018), found 3 primary motivators at work, rank-ordered by importance from low to high - a modern-day Maslow’s hierarchy of sorts:

  • Career: Referring to work focused on utilizing strengths and providing learning and development opportunities to continue growth

  • Community: Referring to feeling valued, cared for and connected to others

  • Cause: Referring to making a meaningful impact

(Note: This research did not find differences in the order of these motivators based on age, level, organizational level, performance level, or generation (i.e., Millennials, Gen Xers, Baby Boomers), counter to what some might have expected. Rather, there is great alignment across groups as to what is important.)

Why should we care? Most of us do care about spending the majority of our waking hours in jobs where these motivators are present. Aspects of these characteristics are typically included in the answer to, “What brings you to work every day?”. Organizations care because these motivators have been shown to increase employees’ productivity, engagement, and commitment.

In Building a Fulfilling Employee Experience, PwC reported that 83% of the 2,100 respondents indicated that “finding meaning in day-to-day work” is a top priority. The study also found that 70% of respondents are open to offers for roles they believe would provide greater fulfillment, and 30% would take the offer, even if meant lower pay.

Whose “Job” is It?

So, whose responsibility is it to ensure increase employee fulfillment at work? Like many things, there is not just one person or entity to turn to for the answer to this question. There are several that I have boiled down to three (3) groups -- your organization, your manager and YOU!

This series of 3 articles will provide thoughts and tips on what each of the 3 roles can do to help employees increase their level of fulfillment at work. This article (Part I) will focus on the organization’s

role and will be followed by the manager’s role (Part II) and your role (Part III).

The Role of the Organization

Simply put, an organization’s culture is defined by its values and beliefs and drives how things get done. The organization’s processes and practices are created to reinforce the culture by the messages it conveys, the behaviors it elicits and so forth. Both are important components of the organization’s role in increasing fulfillment.


Your organization’s culture is defined by its values and beliefs, which then drives how things get done. Taking the time to articulate your company’s cultural values - whether creating them for the first time or realigning them to better fit a changing or changed organizational context - plays an important role in communicating to your employees the desired, acceptable and expected behaviors. It is these behaviors

that provide the foundation for creating and sustaining an environment within which employees can continue working towards their professional fulfillment . . . or not.

While we may know intuitively that organizations benefit from having fulfilled employees, there is plenty of research that provides support for this gut feeling. Research has repeatedly shown that organizations that have “fulfilled employees” also have:

  • Engaged employees who demonstrate a:

- Commitment to the organization (higher retention)

- Motivation to work

- Likelihood to meet and exceed goals (higher performance levels)

- Desire to engage in learning and development opportunities

  • High levels of customer satisfaction

  • Strong business results

Therefore, making culture a priority is a win-win for your organization and your employees.

Processes & Practices

As we said above, your organization’s culture drives how things get done. More specifically, your organization’s culture drives the processes and practices (i.e., the tactics) that employees follow to do things, such as enroll in benefits, attend a training program, prepare for and engage in a quarterly performance “check-in” with their manager or gain approval for a budget or a business plan. Your organization’s processes and practices are driven by or serve to reinforce your company’s culture, whichever perspective makes the most sense to you.

There are many processes and practices your organization can build and implement to help employees feel they are valued, that they are making meaningful contributions and that they are having an impact in your organization. Below are just a few for you to consider:

A formal cascading goal-setting process clearly communicates an organization’s priorities - what matters most. This provides an employee with the context as to how what they do connects to what their department, business, and organization does. It also sets the expectation that all work performed is ultimately related to one of the top-level goals; any work that is not related to one of these top-level goals should not be the focus of anyone’s time or attention. This is good information for the employee to have!

Performance review processes can be carefully designed to provide your managers and employees with a mechanism built into their work cycle during which they discuss the degree to which employees have made meaningful contributions feel valued for their contributions, and have made an impact. Managers can learn how they may be able to better support their employees going forward.

Creating a culture of ongoing coaching and feedback is supported by the practice of managers,

as well as peers, direct reports, and cross-functional team members providing each other with

feedback as to how they performed at a meeting, in a presentation, or at the end of the day on

the floor of a manufacturing plant. At its best, this becomes a natural everyday occurrence that

no one thinks twice about. It’s something to aspire to.

Organizations that understand the connections between fulfillment, performance, engagement, and retention provide a range of learning and development opportunities for their employees. Classroom and/or online assessments focusing on what fulfills employees, as an example, often help participants create a path for themselves that will result in greater fulfillment. Some organizations, typically those which are larger and more evolved than others, offer opportunities such as job rotations, expatriate assignments, mentoring relationships, leadership and high potential development programs, and cross-functional teams, for many reasons, including to provide the important Career, Community and Cause-based motivators referenced earlier.

But, none of these processes and practices will matter if there isn’t visible top leadership buy-in, support and commitment to sustain a culture that fosters employee fulfillment. To do this, senior leaders at the top of your organization need to role model behaviors that are aligned with the organization’s cultural values and beliefs; they need to continually reinforce these behaviors in everything they do and say, each and every day. All leaders and managers throughout the organization should follow suit.

In fact, your organization should hold all employees accountable, from top executive to the hourly paid worker, for demonstrating those same behaviors. To successfully create and ultimately sustain a “fulfillment-focused culture” (coined by yours truly) requires a keen focus by your entire organization. Like so many things, it’s about making it a priority.

What Role Can You Play in Helping Your Organization?

Clearly, your organization plays a huge role in creating a culture that demonstrates to employees that they are valued, that their contributions matter and that they are making an impact. Your company can do this by instituting processes and practices, having your leaders be role models and reinforce the desired behaviors, and holding everyone accountable.

Naturally, your organization can’t do it alone. Your managers play a big part in helping your employees on their journey towards fulfillment, and so do you! Stay tuned!



  • Make culture a priority.

- Take the time to articulate your organization’s values and beliefs.

- Modify the values, beliefs and how things get done as the organization evolves.

  • Build and implement a cascading goal-setting process.

  • Build and execute a performance review process.

  • Incorporate coaching and feedback into a part of everyday practice.

  • Provide learning and development opportunities.

  • Top leaders need to visibly buy-in, support and commit to sustaining a culture that fosters employee fulfillment, by role modeling values and behaviors and engaging in processes and practices.

  • Ensure accountability by all leaders and employees.


We want to hear from you!

Please share with us what your organization is doing to help your employees find greater fulfillment. Just click "Reply" to let us know!

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