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In the words of Jerry Maguire, “Help me help you…”


Too often we think that advancing our careers means changing jobs or leaving an organisation. This shouldn’t have to be the case. In the initial 2019 research into meaningful work, we discovered that there were four factors of meaningful work: individual, job, organisational, and societal. When you are engaged in meaningful work there are significant benefits for you, including increased job satisfaction, better career development, reduced work stress, and improved health and well-being. Let’s look at how you can optimise the organisational factor to increase the meaning you derive in your work. 

The organisational factor is a common ‘go-to’ factor for people when seeking meaningful work. It relates to all the aspects of work that make it meaningful from the organisational level. The subsets of this factor are leadership, organisational culture, organisational policies and practices, and the social environment at work.

Before we break these down, the first point to understand about meaningful work is that everyone’s path to meaningful work is unique. This was made abundantly clear in the different journeys of the case studies in my book, Meaningful Work, Unlock Your Unique Path to Career Fulfulment. As we go through each of these subsets, I want you to think about how important these aspects are to you. In each one, I’m going to pose some questions for you to think about. As you read, consider how you could discuss them within your organisation to improve the overall levels of meaningful work for both you and others. In other words, how could you help your organisation, to help you….

People don’t leave organisations, they leave leaders

If you nodded as you read that, leadership is likely an important subset of the organisation factor for you. When has the leadership of an organisation inspired you? Think beyond one specific person to the leadership more generally. Was there a consistent culture among your leaders? What was it about the leadership culture that made it great? Has a great leadership culture motivated you? When have you worked for poor leaders? Did this affect your motivation levels? What type of leadership gets the best out of you?

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

The next subset of the organisational factor is culture. We all know that a good culture in the workplace is crucial, but different cultures suit different people. What type of culture gets the best out of you? Do you need a workplace that is innovative and creative? Could you or have you worked for an organisation that provides products and services that conflict with your ethics and values?

Excellence is a continuous process, not an accident

Another subset of the organisational factor of meaningful work is the policies and practices of your organisation. What do the practices of your organisation mean to you? Is it important to you that the organisation you work for gives back to the community and makes a meaningful difference to people’s lives? If so, in what ways? Do those ways align with the kinds of organisations you have worked with? How important is it for you that the organisation makes a profit and you make a good salary compared with contributing to society?

Life is better with friends

Finally, for many of us, the social environment at work is key. It is such a popular factor of meaningful work that many engagement surveys assume that if we are not friends with people at work we are not engaged in our work. However, this may not be true, as it may not be the case for you as an individual – you may already have the relationships in place you need outside of work. How important are working relationships to you? How social do you need your workplace to be? How collaborative? Do you like the opportunity to make new friends at work? Is it important to you that you are supported by the people you work with?

Helping your career is helping your company.

The reason this is a Jerry Maguire conversation is that the benefits of meaningful work are not just for you as an individual, it is also good for your organisation. When their staff are engaged in meaningful work, they have team members who have higher commitment, lower turnover rates, and increased organisational performance, even during challenging times. If you are at a stage where you are evaluating your organisation, and potentially thinking of a career move, perhaps instead it is worth thinking about the organisational aspect of meaningful work and having some internal conversations first. Lifting the levels of meaningful work will improve outcomes for you personally, and for your organisation. What have you got to lose?


 Nina Mapson Bone is a people strategist, consultant, and author of Meaningful Work: Unlock your unique path to career fulfilment. She is a highly sought-after speaker about people strategy, culture, and leadership.

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