The Market Value of Why
You intuitively know that you and your work team would be more productive, more satisfied, more creative if work engaged not only your head and your hands but your heart and your soul. What most of us know intuitively, research confirms: When employees find meaning at work, they care enough about it to develop their competence; they work harder and are more productive; they stay longer and are more positive about their work experience. But there is more: When employees are more positive, customers generally respond in kind. Employee attitude is a key indicator of customer attitude, and satisfied customers help the businesses they frequent to thrive. In brief,
1. Employees who find meaning at work are more competent, committed, and contributing;
2. In turn, employee competence, commitment, and sense of contribution leads to increased customer commitment;
3. In turn, customer commitment leads to better financial results for the company.
Leaders as Meaning Makers
So, how are abundant organizations created? This is the task of leadership.
Ultimately the crisis of meaning is always a crisis of leadership. We hope to structure for leaders the private conversations and corporate decision criteria that shape abundant organizations.
The Great Places to Work Institute has conducted surveys of the best companies to work for in America since 1980. They now do work in over 30 countries. Their surveys serve as a confirmation of the impact of the why of work on business results. A portfolio consisting of all of the publicly-traded companies on the Best Places to Work list each year from 1998 to 2008 would have earned an annual return of 6.80 percent, compared to just 1.04% over the same period for the Standard and Poors 500. Even purchasing stock in companies on the list in 1998 and holding it for the ensuing 10 years would have achieved a return of 4.15%, which is also much higher than the comparable indices.
Leaders have the task of creating a direction for their organizations that is charged with meaning – that resonates with not only the minds and hands but the hearts of those they lead. In this book, we go beyond cases to synthesize and integrate theory, research, and experience from multiple disciplines to propose seven meaning drivers successful leaders have used to shape meaning.
Many of us have personally experienced both economic malaise and the pitfalls of success, either first hand or among our families and friends. Unfortunately, these cases are not isolated events; they represent developing patterns in today’s world. Without over-focusing on depressing realities, leaders will recognize something of the depth and breadth of this malaise.
1. Declining mental health and happiness.
2. Increased environmental demands, social responsibility, organization purpose, and individual motivation.
3. Increased complexity of work.
4. Increased isolation.
5. Low employee commitment.
6. Disposability trends.
7. Hostility and enmity.
These daunting trends suggest that many people you lead face personal and societal demands that affect their well-being, their families, their communities, and inevitably their work experience. Even in the world’s wealthiest nations, deficit thinking predominates.
And there is something organizational leaders – not just politicians, psychologists, parents or priests – can and must do about it.