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Helping employees find meaning in the job they have

FindingMeaning

Take a second to look at the new generation of workers. Those early-20 to late-30 year olds.

How often do they change jobs?

Extremely often. In fact, it’s normal for the new generation to job hop every year or so. It’s a new generation where they’re not seeking job security, but rather job satisfaction.

Why is this happening?

To say it bluntly, this new generation is spoilt for choice. Growing up with an education, while also having access to the internet and social media, has created the social generation. This is a generation that is hyper-aware of human rights issues and social welfare issues from around the globe. This is a generation that wants to solve all the problems in the world that social media tells us exists.

It’s also a generation that has a torn identity. On the one hand, we want one of those stable careers with clear growth opportunities. On the other, we want to make a change, because so many messages are telling us that we can.

And so begins a wild search for that perfect job that can give both, changing jobs every 2 years or so while complaining about the stress of the current one. Unfortunately, these are also the most capable of the employees, and the ones who are able to switch companies at will. The ones who aren’t so capable would prefer to stick to the job that they have now, that guarantees a paycheck.

But how much is this costing the country/nation’s economy? Retraining new people for the same job. Losses in specialized productivity. The brain drain isn’t just going overseas, it’s also going to other companies.

It’s a wake-up call for the many companies in the country that it’s time to start marketing their jobs in a different way. There needs to be a clear way for those in the company to work for great causes. Google does this by giving you 20% of your own time. Other companies can do it in other ways.

Mind you, your target market is the creme de la creme. These are the 20% of your workers who bring in 80% of your results (Pareto’s Rule). They are also often the ones who want to make a difference in the world. It’s tempting to use every ounce of ability they have, but don’t make that mistake.

The best employees aren’t worried about job security. They’re worried about job satisfaction.

Obviously everyone wants employees who feel that the company vision is the most important thing in their lives and will stay out of that belief. But the truth of the matter is that you will rarely get employees who are willing to go the distance due to their belief in the company. Often, you may have to choose between employees who are loyal and employees who are capable. And those who are capable are not necessarily loyal. In fact, the ones who are capable are often the least loyal due to having options to work elsewhere.

So… what should you do about it?

Companies can help create these spaces for the employees to work for great causes, but ultimately it’s important that the workers themselves should know that they can create value from within the company. They don’t need to create it outside the company on their own time. They don’t need to quit and join another company. They don’t need to continuously change jobs in a never ending cycle of escape.

They need to see a path where they can create their own spaces to contribute back to the community while doing their job & contributing to the company/their career. One of the ways is for the employee to:

  1. Organize a community around a passion. Create local leadership in a field/specialty/whatever makes you different. Combine it with the company’s product/service. e.g. Love futsal? Make a company futsal club.
  2. Expand the community beyond their own company. Get a following. The following builds brand loyalty for the company too. e.g. Invite other companies to make their own futsal clubs too.
  3. Organize events. Contribute your passion/talent to continuously communicate with your followers. Keep the followers interested. e.g. Volunteer to train futsal to a school or orphanage.
  4. Create a system to keep it in place even when you’re gone. The company (if they’re smart) should support this. It helps keep capable employees form leaving the company, creates good PR and markets the company brand, and (if done cleverly) allows the company to fund donations to tax-deductible events.

 

There are many other examples of contributing to great causes without leaving your current job. Doctors and lawyers do pro-bono work (free work to help needy people), a newspaper like the STAR has a youth segment and a women’s segment and (insert minority / movement) segments. And an economics lecturer could teach debating to generations of university students and bring a third-world country to win an international inter-varsity English debating tournament.

Create your own great causes through the company structure. Not outside of it.

What this means for the young employee who is still finding themselves

It means that you often don’t need to switch jobs just for the purpose of finding a job that fulfils your life purpose. By all means change jobs when you get better opportunities! But don’t try so hard to find a job that will fulfil you. Because often you can find meaning and fulfilment in the job you already have, as long as you think a little outside the box.

Don’t just find a cause that deserves your energy. Create one.

Everyone knows that a marriage won’t automatically complete you if you’re still finding yourself. Surprise surprise, it turns out that a job won’t automatically complete you either.

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