Thrive or Dive: Development and the Role of Meaning During and After the Storm

April 12, 2020

A company’s decision to develop its people during an economic crisis is not an easy one to make. Organizations contemplating this, may want to consider the impact meaning and a meaningful employee experience can have before, during and after the storm; it may be the difference between giving up or getting up.

Development in a Downturn

As Alex Langshur reminded us in a Linkedin post, Hit ’em where they ain’t: What history can teach us about marketing during COVID-19,   “McKinsey (2019), Bain (2019) and Harvard Business Review (2019; 2018) have all published studies that demonstrate companies who used economic downturns to strategically invest, manage their workforces with an eye to the future, and unlock their balance sheets, far outperformed those that did not.” 

Developing an organization’s workforce is challenging at the best of times. When times are good bank accounts are flush, but employees are often running flat out to make “hay while the sun shines”. During these times, organizations are not able to do the staff development they would like to, as staff “don’t have time” and everyone is just “way too busy”. Then, when times get tough, corporate bank accounts shrink, cuts are made, and spending is frozen. As workloads lessen, it seems like a great time to start developing staff as now they have the time. This leads to the question; can we afford to further develop our staff as cash flows are being choked? But perhaps the question should be, can we afford not to take this time to develop our staff further? 

When the Dust Settles

At some point, things will return to (a new) normal. When they do, will your organization resurface running, walking or crawling? 

A couple of months ago, employee turnover was rising and reaching all-time highs in many sectors. This was in large part due to organizations failing to understand how their actions and policies helped to maximize or decimate the employee experience (or more simply put, the level of meaning experienced at work). As the economy has been hammered recently, and the ranks of the unemployed have ballooned, turnover rates will drop radically. This is good news as the cost of employee turnover is huge. In the professional service sector, for example, turnover costs can easily reach $100,000 per person. 

When physical distancing and lock-downs disappear, people will start getting back to work. Consumer confidence and spending will increase, and businesses will grow again. When that happens, the best organizations will have behaved in ways that will Maximize Meaning for their employees and they will not see their top talent run for the exits in search of meaning in their work with other employers. Those firms who don’t seek to Maximize Meaning for their employees will see a run on top talent and their employee turnover will spike now that people have options to seek meaning in their work elsewhere. 

The Impact of Meaning

Brivia has been researching the area of employee meaning for years. We’ve observed the positive and profound impact a meaningful experience has on employee motivation, engagement and overall performance.  

Our work has identified a core set of factors we refer to as Meaning Maximizers. 

Here is a partial list of Meaning Maximizers, as identified by Brivia Consulting:

  • Role Clarity 
  • Recognition/Appreciation 
  • Compensation/Benefits 
  • Professional Growth 
  • Company Living its Values 
  • Fairness within Organization 
  • Tasks of Interest 
  • Autonomy 
  • Social Interactions 
  • Quality Leadership 

Organizations need to know what is most meaningful to their people.  

What can your organization do now to improve the meaning you experience at work? Knowing what’s meaningful is key!

We’d love to hear from you about what is most meaningful to you. Please follow this link and answer our two-question Meaning Maximizer Survey.  

We will share the results shortly. Until then, if you would like to learn more about meaning and “how-to” create and measure meaningful experiences, check out our M3 Employee Experience Measurement Tool, or contact us.

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