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Creating Shared Value and Meaningful Work

A couple of articles have caught my eye this week, and whilst on the surface they don’t immediately appear to be linked – they reinforce the need for businesses and organisations to create shared value – a virtuous cycle of reward that goes beyond the paycheque and quarterly results.

The first is HR Magazine’s ‘The New Model for CSR‘. Companies such as Legal & General, KFC and Anglian Water are taking a much harder look at how to integrate their CSR programmes with the business strategy, and to pursue what Harvard Business School professors Porter and Kramer have called ‘creating shared value’ (CSV). They’re doing this by partnering with charities and creating real-life opportunities to put into practice what leaders have learned through training and development programmes. It’s not just about giving opportunities for volunteering, it’s about gaining first hand insight into what their customers are experiencing – taking it from the theoretical to the practical and experiential.

The second article is Tanveer Naseer’s blog post on ‘The Case for Creating Meaningful Work’, following a Phillips work/life study conducted in North America. I’ve been a fan of Tanveer’s blog for a while now, and a couple of points stood out for me in this post:

A whopping 60% of people admitted that they hadn’t fully considered how their job could add meaning to their lives before accepting it, and yet  ‘over 90% of the study’s participants said that being able to connect their interests and passions with their work would motivate them to work harder, would reduce their stress levels regardless of their workload, and that it would make them feel more successful’.

So on the one hand we’ve got organisations who are wanting to do the right thing and make a difference, and who are investing heavily to ensure that there is synergy between the organisation’s purpose and the local community. On the other hand we’ve got individuals who want meaningful work but who don’t know how to bridge the gap between what they personally believe in and their role within the larger organisation.

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Who’s responsibility is it to bridge this gap? My answer is – both. As coaching cultures become standard across business, leaders will have the confidence to ask what have previously been deemed ‘soft and irrelevant questions’ relating to beliefs, values and personal drivers. ‘Management’ will learn to incorporate values-based messaging into company communications, reinforcing the importance of shared purpose. And as the Millenials continue to enter the workforce, they themselves will drive the re-examination of how work can be meaningful. The Phillips study reported that 43% of this generation would take a 25% pay cut for more ‘meaningful work’.

As many of you who have met and worked with me will know, I’m always looking for the opportunity for dialogue. What does ‘meaningful work’ mean? CSR programmes are a great start, but they have to be tied to the day-to-day reality of staff to truly make a difference at the individual employee level – that’s why it’s called ‘shared value’.

I’d love to hear your experiences or case studies of where this has worked in practice – let me know!

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