The Meaning Economy; it’s just an evolution

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“Meaning” seems to be all the rage these days, but is it really something new? Harvard Business Review writes about Making Your Work More Meaningful, but is it the revolution it’s been hyped up to be? Having been at this for the past 30 years, experience tells me it’s more of an evolution. Just like social media is the evolution from the previous means of communications and relationship building, so is “meaning”. Even in the Industrial age, people looked for meaning from their lives. They spent the first half surviving and climbing the corporate ladder, to then search for meaning in the second half after having reached their plateau. And if you weren’t careful, you likely searched in some of the wrong places, delving into conflict of interests and questionable moral grounds. But that’s a conversation for another day.


Possibly one of the most expensive words in any industry theses days, it’s actually all about relevance and contribution. Forbes highlights that a full three-quarters of employees are not fully engaged (aka productive), and this is costing american businesses over $450 Billion. There are studies that focus on specific age groups, like “boomers“, but this is just a sampling of the situation. The fact is that regardless of the industry, gender, age grouping, ethnicity & even geographical location, this is a global epidemic because it’s been ignored for too long and practical solutions haven’t been put into place. Do a team building exercise and 9 out of 10 times you’ll find it’s just a bandaid solution. Wouldn’t you rather that Friday night beers be a team driven event to celebrate success instead of a company sponsored attempt to increase engagement? 9 out of 10 times your employees are back at work on Monday morning bitching about everything that’s wrong in your organization instead of proactively pursuing practical solutions that are going to change the environment long-term, and thus giving you truly sustainable (length of time) & scalable (size of impact) engagement & productivity.

Across 5 continents, from the North to South America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and all the way down-under in Australia & New Zealand.. the common denominator for sustainable & scalable engagement is employees finding meaning through relevance in their contribution to the overall success of the organization. That’s the simple & secret formula that many overlook because they under evaluate the situation and over complicate the solution.

The Importance of Emotional Intelligence

Scholastic intelligence will loose out to emotional intelligence every single time when it comes down to creating engagement that drives productivity. There are other key components to increased engagement & productivity that drive company results, such as effective communication, focus, attainable goals, rhythm, agility, momentum, etc.., but none of that matters if an employee can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. If they can understand, align & agree with where your company is headed and why you’re in business in the first place. That’s called company culture, and it’s the first place employees look for relevance. It’s the foundation of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs! Company culture represents the physiological, safety & love/belonging needs of a productive human being.

How employees contribute to the overall success of the organization, tied to rhythmic conversations, small wins / momentum and transparent communication is the esteem layer. Get these right, and you’ll find people overcoming all obstacles to self actualize along with your organizations newly found high performance.

Call to Action

What are you going to do differently? Are you going to measure KPI’s like staff attending training or are you going to measure palpable behavioral changes & techniques applied back into the business as a consequence? Changes that drive results? Are you going to take broad and meaningless (in terms of company performance) employee surveys, or are you going to be focused to discover which underlying employee engagement issues can give you immediate rewards when turned-around? A targeted and agile approach or big-bang lengthy one?

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