Jan 16, 2019

COOs: Tips on Creating Meaningful Work for Your Team

Do you know if your employees are finding meaning from their work?

Do they feel fulfilled and believe that their efforts are contributing to the common good?

The Harvard Business Review reported that studies had substantiated the claim the American workers expect something deeper than a paycheck in return for their labors. Since 2005, HBR says, the importance of meaningfulness in driving job selection has grown steadily.

HBR found that more than 9 out of 10 employees are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work. When employees are satisfied in this way, the company benefits:

  • Employees who find work meaningful are 69% less likely to plan on quitting their jobs in the next six months

  • They have job tenures that are 7.4 months longer on average than employees who find work lacking in meaning

However, the reality is:
  • People today find their work only half as meaningful as it could be, according to Harvard Business Review  

  • Only 1 in 20 respondents rated their current jobs as providing the most meaningful work they could imagine having

Statistics Tell the Story

Employees seek greater meaning and purpose in their daily work. Many would gladly trade some of their compensation for more meaningful work, according to a new ServiceNow/Edelman Intelligence survey.

Service reported the following results:

  • 58% of employees surveyed wish their work were more meaningful

  • 61% of employees plan to ask their bosses for more meaningful work

  • 40% of their time is spent on mundane office work

  • 45% would rather clean the bathroom than read through HR benefits

  • 37% would rather be stuck in traffic than troubleshoot a broken printer by themselves

  • 36% would rather stand in line at the DMV than troubleshoot an IT issue. found that mundane work made people feel like they’re wasting their time, unmotivated, stressed, frustrated, and underutilized.

The study found that if the work had more meaning, people would enjoy their work more, be much more efficient and happier at their jobs, be further along in their careers, and stay at their jobs longer.

What are the Solutions?

As the COO, you are right to be concerned about these statistics. How can you create more meaningful work for your team?

HBR advises:

  • Employees who reported the highest levels of workplace social support also scored 47% higher on measures of workplace meaning

  • A sense of collective, shared purpose that emerges in the most robust company cultures adds a boost to meaning

  • Average turnover risk reduces by 24% for employees who experience both social support and a sense of shared purpose

How can you increase social connection and shared purpose at work?

  • Encourage employees to share experiences of meaningful work

  • Have managers talk with their employees about what aspects of work they find meaningful

  • Management should articulate the connection between current projects and the company’s overall purpose

  • Offer employees opportunities to creatively engage in their work, share knowledge, and feel like they’re instrumental in deciding how work gets done, suggests HBR

  • Provide mentorship programs to increase the feeling of belonging for younger workers., which caters to a Millennial readership, added these four tips:

  1. Offer frequent validation. A Globoforce study found that 93% of workers surveyed who were recognized in the last month said their work had meaning, versus 72% who were not recognized.

  2. Connect jobs to a greater cause. Encourage employees to recognize how their work contributes to the greater good.

  3. Create a strong sense of community. Maria Weaver, chief people officer at Funding Circle, a peer-to-peer small business loan platform, said, “This means giving people the opportunity to share who they are with their colleagues, and the chance to create the kind of place in which they want to work.”

  4. Encourage and sponsor continuous learning. Eighty-seven percent of millennials and 69% of non-millennials rate “professional or career growth and development opportunities” as vital to them in a job, according to Gallup.


Professionals choose employers with similar values -- they choose work with a purpose. As COO, you no doubt find meaning in your work and are committed to your organization and its people. By validating your co-workers, letting them know that their work serves a greater purpose, and by fostering a sense of community where lifelong learning is possible, you will be creating a positive and secure workplace.

Next Steps:
  1. Do you work with an impulsive CEO? Here are 5 tips to managing this relationship.

  2. Review the importance of providing transparent feedback as a COO.

  3. Learn why authenticity is so important for the Chief Operating Officer and how to become more authentic.


Subscribe to Blog