Conventional wisdom says money can’t buy happiness. Anyone who has struggled with bills or paid to adopt a dog knows that isn’t exactly true. Sometimes, the correlation between money and happiness seems pretty darn clear.
But what about happiness’ deeper, more complex and mature older cousin? Surely you can’t assign economic value to meaning, can you?
Apparently, you can. Thanks to a group of researchers at BetterUp, we can now estimate the approximate financial benefits and costs related to a feeling of purpose—or lack thereof—on the job. BetterUp’s Meaning and Purpose at Work report, released last week, surveyed more than 2,000 workers and found the following trends:
- More than 9 out of 10 employees are willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work.
- On average, workers would be willing to give up 23% of their entire future lifetime earnings for meaningful jobs.
- For organizations, meaningful work generates about $9,078 more annually per worker.
- Employees in meaningful jobs are 69% less likely to quit within the next 6 months, and stay 7.4 months longer on average than other employees.
- For every 10,000 workers, enterprise organizations that offer meaningful jobs can save an average of $6.43 million in turnover-related costs every year.
The team explores these findings further in a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, arguing that although the benefits of meaningful and purpose-filled work appear obvious, “companies are falling short in providing it.” They write:
“Our study found that people today find their work only about half as meaningful as it could be. We also found that only 1 in 20 respondents rated their current jobs as providing the most meaningful work they could imagine having.
This gap presents both a challenge and an opportunity for employers. Top talent can demand what they want, including meaning, and will jump ship if they don’t get it. Employers must respond or lose talent and productivity. Building greater meaning in the workplace is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s an imperative.”
The article concludes with 3 recommendations for employers looking to retain employees by providing greater meaning and purpose at work:
- Develop organizational support networks.
- Collect, listen to, and implement employee feedback.
- Support “meaning multipliers”—e.g. coaches, mentors, and service workers.
Frankly, any employer should understand that meaning holds implicit value with or without the aid of statistics. It may seem like a slippery concept, but what we’re talking about is as simple as the pleasure of that first sip of coffee in the morning or the feeling of coming home to your furry friend after a long day at work. And I suspect it’s worth a lot more than a single study can suggest. Learn how to create meaning—and improve employee retention and engagement—from day one.