For decades we have been asking technology to take care of the more mundane aspects of our work so that we can be free to apply our talents to more creative endeavors. In large measure this is what technology has done. As we work deeper into this new economy we find a new culture of work taking hold. That culture places a huge value on productivity and creativity.
The shocking worker engagement numbers we’re seeing (Gallop shows that globally only 13% of our workforce is actively engaged in their work) has a positive purpose in that it reveals the collective yearning to do work that has meaning.
The average worker on our project teams isn’t content with performing the same function project after project, year after year. They’re looking for work that stretches them intellectually, emotionally, creatively, and even spiritually. As I train workers in emotional intelligence, they’re actually acquiring the skills they need to find that meaning and therefore that satisfaction in their work.
So the question becomes, what is work that has meaning? Primarily, it’s work that aligns with our values. It’s work that serves a purpose larger than just advancing us financially. It’s work that cultivates us intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually.
Workers are seeking that kind of experience on the job (#wholeworker). I hear it from project leaders and managers everywhere in the trainings I conduct. It’s not just a particular project they’re looking for; it’s a particular team as well. It’s the experience they’ll gain from working with particular people. It’s a network of connected relationships they’re looking to build.
Look at what software applications are thriving today; they’re mostly communications oriented. Notice how “social” the Internet has become. We crave that connection. This is a pendulum swing from decades of disconnected, cold, analytical, machine-like business thinking (think: cubicle farms). This is the product of seeking work that has meaning.
As we advance in this new economy, business culture, and digital age, meaningful work will be the chief characteristic today’s workers seek. Helping them find and engage in that is our job as managers and leaders.