What’s that work mean to your staff?

Oaxaca Mop
Creative Commons License photo credit: AlexPears

Yesterday, we talked about Roger Ebert and how his TED talk was such a great validation for the Apple speech synthesis team.

I asked you about your work and talked a little about finding meaning in it no matter what you do – as well as considering where your current work is taking you.

Employers have a role in that discussion too.

Who cares?

If you employ people, you don’t escape these things. In fact, they become more important. Are those you perceive as your “most valuable” staff members being challenged by work they find meaning in? If not, you risk losing them. The situation is no different for the rest of your staff.

Your responsibility as the leader in your business includes helping your staff find meaning in their work.

You might feel the staff should find their work meaningful because if they don’t you will replace them. After all, they should be happy just because they’re getting paid, right? While you might have fit in nicely during the days of copper barons and coal-fueled railroads, smart business owners know better.

Showing your staff how to find meaning in their work is what helps them care about what they do and, ideally, who they do it for. The last thing you want is a staff “going through the motions”. Show me a restaurant with a dirty floor and nasty restrooms and I’ll show you a restaurant with ineffective management.

Menial, schmenial

Even those who are commonly undervalued (such as the people who sweep the floors and shovel the sidewalks) find value in their work unless you’ve devalued it for them. This “menial labor” can reduce on-the-job injuries due to falls (reducing insurance costs as a result) and has a substantial impact on the first impression your customers have of your business.

Ultimately, helping people find value in their work is as simple as showing why it means something to you.