Employee fulfilment: Attainable or chasing rainbows?

There are four main levers that influence employee fulfilment: Balance, community, growth and purpose. These elements together create meaningful and memorable employee experiences that help employees to feel totally content in their roles.

Forget trying to pursue higher levels of employee engagement. By doing so, you might end up neglecting elements which have a real and measurable impact on how happy an employee is, and how likely they are to stay. Instead, it’s time to focus on ‘employee fulfilment’ which provides a more holistic measure. Employees that have found fulfilment in their jobs are likely to stay three years’ longer at their organisations than unfulfilled employees, and are 578 per cent more satisfied with their employee experience. But is ‘employee fulfilment’ one of those terms that sounds appealing, but can’t easily be achieved in the real world? In other words, is it actually attainable or by trying to achieve it, are HR leaders simply chasing rainbows? My view is that it’s perfectly reachable and here’s what you need to know about helping your workforce find fulfilment.

It’s tricky to define fulfilment in a few words, but in essence it’s a feeling of ‘completeness’ or ‘total contentment’, and this comes from attaining our highest personal aspirations. But fulfilment can only occur when we identify strongly with a purpose and connect to others in meaningful ways.

Research* with over 36,000 employees, leaders, HR practitioners, and business executives from 20 countries around the world discovered that there are four main levers that influence employee fulfilment: Balance, community, growth and purpose. These elements together create meaningful and memorable employee experiences that help employees to feel totally content in their roles. And by understanding these levers and how to influence them, HR leaders can work towards achieving the nirvana of employee fulfilment.

With regards to ‘balance’, this isn’t about employees’ splitting their lives equally between work and their personal lives. Organisations need to create a culture where everyone feels supported and empowered to balance their work and personal needs in a way that works for them. This requires employees’ being given control and autonomy over their time at work, with senior leaders regularly communicating the importance of balance, and so making it a normal, natural part of the culture. When employees’ feel a strong sense of balance, there is a 774 per cent increased likelihood of them feeling fulfilled at work.

HR leaders must also find ways to achieve an organisational community in which connection and belonging are prioritised. This means ensuring everyone feels included and part of a supportive and accepting organisational culture. Training leaders so they understand the importance of getting to know employees as individuals, including showing appreciation for their unique contributions, is key here. Leaders must also find ways to connect employees to the company’s purpose, their accomplishments and each other as this is vital for achieving a strong sense of community.

Finding ways for employees’ to grow, above and beyond promotion, ensures that they feel challenged in their role and are able to learn new skills. All too often, employees are given limited pathways for career advancement, and yet there are so many ways to enrich employees’ experiences that don’t involve being promoted. These include secondments, leading special projects, training, mastering new skills, volunteering opportunities and mentorships.

Finally, people need to feel that their work has meaning. A job that isn’t connected to an inspiring organisational purpose lacks meaning, and so will never make employees’ feel a stirring sense of achievement and ultimately, fulfilment. And so, leaders must consistently communicate the company’s purpose and help employees to understand how their work contributes to it.

As it stands, if just one of the four elements are done well, this will give employees a greater sense of fulfilment. However, the magic happens when all four elements are recognised as being important, are implemented well and are continually reinforced across the organisation. In fact, when employees rate all four areas highly, they are 21 times’ more likely to feel fulfilled in their job.

Achieving employee fulfilment is therefore perfectly possible rather than being an unreachable, ethereal entity. HR leaders just need to influence the four key levers of balance, community, growth and purpose, and by doing so, they bring their workforce ever closer to true contentment!

* Research findings taken from O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report

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    29 November 2023


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