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Use your values and strengths to make work meaningful

Perhaps more than any generation before them, millennials here and around the world want more than just a job. They want to do work that is meaningful and serves a higher purpose.

Use your values and strengths to make work meaningful
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Perhaps more than any generation before them, millennials here and around the world want more than just a job.

They want to do work that is meaningful and serves a higher purpose.

To meet their needs, some companies are doing more to put purpose into work — and finding that this helps with recruitment efforts as well as retaining workers.

Millennials can benefit by looking for these companies and taking full advantage of the opportunities.    


The World Economic Forum reported that young people around the world do not think that the contribution of a business or company stops at creating jobs.

Millennials expect companies to address social and environmental problems as well.  

Based on a 2019 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 36 per cent of millennials in Singapore said that making a positive impact in their community or society is one of their top five ambitions.

Not surprisingly, recruitment firm Manpower Group found that in Singapore and globally, a majority of millennials say that serving a purpose is a priority in their work.

Mednefits, a Singapore-based employee benefits platform, also said that millennials are more driven when they see the company they work for making a difference in society. It added that if millennials believe in the company's mission, they will put their all into their work.


Rather than waiting for the company they work for to change, millennials can take the lead in making sure their work is meaningful.

A key first step is to identify what you are passionate about and what you value. Once you identify your values, you can take steps to incorporate them into your work.

Organisational psychologist Adam Grant from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in the United States said that if you value helping others or being responsive in your job, then find ways to make them part of the work you’re doing.

He said in an interview with CNBC: “For example, answering emails can seem trivial, but when I remember that it’s connected to one of my core values — responsiveness — it takes on a new meaning. Instead of focusing on the boring aspects of replying, my attention shifts to the meaningful act of helping.”

Yale professor Amy Wrzesniewski, Wharton professor Justin Berg and University of Michigan professor Jane Dutton have come up with a process called “job crafting” that can help you make your work match your purpose.

This technique can be a powerful tool for re-energising and re-imagining your work life.

It involves redefining your job to incorporate your motives, strengths and passions, so that you put personal touches on how you see your job and gain a greater sense of control at work.

The crafting can involve figuring out how to change the boundaries of your job by taking on more or fewer tasks, expanding or diminishing their scope, or changing how they are performed.

Job crafting requires three things, the professors say.

First, focus on using your own individual strengths or the organisation’s strengths to create value for others in the work that you do.

Second, build trust with others in the company, so that they will support your initiatives to put your values into your work.

And finally, direct your job-crafting efforts toward colleagues or supervisors who are most likely to accommodate you.

A sales manager might take on more event planning responsibilities because he likes the challenge of organising people and logistics, for instance, or a marketing manager might shift her focus from traditional to social media because it fits her interests and benefits the company.

As part of their jobs, employees could run a recycling programme that benefits the company as well as the environment, for example, or develop programmes for hiring marginalised workers that benefit jobseekers as well as their firm.


While millennials working at a company can change what they do, companies may need to change how managers interact with millennials if they want to tap employees’ talents fully.

One technique is for companies to have their management team improve social connections with staff members and emphasise their shared purpose.

Businesses may encourage managers to ask their teams about what work they find meaningful and then explain how they can do that type of work within the company.

Even when millennial employees are doing mind-numbing work such as filing or entering data, companies can help by adding meaningful tasks or projects to keep them motivated.

Linking mundane tasks to serving customers better, developing skills or networking can add greater value to what staff members are doing. 

Branding firm Sustainable Brands suggests that companies engage millennials on social media and social change platforms on issues that matter to them and that match the company’s brand.

Ultimately, if companies use techniques such as these to help their employees find purpose in their work, they benefit as well.

A survey in the US by coaching firm BetterUp found that more than 90 per cent of employees are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work.

Moreover, employees with very meaningful work spend an extra hour a week working and take two fewer days of paid leave a year.   

Companies, then, can energise their workforce and improve results by making work more meaningful.

Millennials shouldn’t just accept what they are given, though, as selecting the right company and using job crafting can create a more meaningful role that they will enjoy more.

Related topics

millennials meaning purpose job recruitment career opportunities

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