For the vast majority of jobs, research has proven that
employees who know how their work has a meaningful and
positive impact on others are happier and more productive.
In industries with traditionally low morale and high
turnover, a simple 5-minute discussion with the people who
benefit from an employee’s work has made significant
positive improvements in morale, turnover, and
One research project had the traditional control
group (A) with no changes and two experimental groups.
The first experimental group (B) read testimonials from
beneficiaries of the company’s business and the other
group (C) briefly spoke with beneficiaries about how they
were helped by the product. The result in terms of
morale, productivity, and task persistence was:
Group A – no change
Group B – Significant improvement over Group A.
Group C – Significant improvement over Group B.
HR CONTRARIAN POINTER: It may sound touchy-feely but the
mere process of having employees briefly meet the
beneficiaries of their labors can help employees add
meaning to their jobs.
The challenge for management is to design ways to help
employees find more meaning in their jobs by interacting,
even in small ways, with end-users/clients. Years ago,
Saturn would tape a picture of the person for whom a car
was being built onto the vehicle as it traveled down the
assembly line to help workers realize that there was a
real person counting on the quality of that vehicle.
The truth is that every job has a “customer.” For an
employee who does not have direct contact with external clients,
he/she has internal clients such as payroll, purchasing,
finance, HR, or just the person in the next office whose
work depends on receiving information from that person.
As such, simple conversations with upstream and downstream
coworkers can help employees find more meaning and
satisfaction in their jobs.
If there are those rare jobs that truly do not have a
clearly defined group of end-users who may benefit from
the work product of the positions, there is an
alternative. Research in Fortune 500 companies has shown
that getting an employee involved in company-sponsored
community service activities (1) can help give meaning to
the employee’s position and (2) allow an employee to have
a sense that “I am making a difference by working at this