In a rapidly changing industry, finding a measure for meaningful work has been a bit like describing the length of a piece of string.
There has been no yardstick, no measuring jar or even a conclusive definition.
It was precisely this that inspired leading recruitment agency Beaumont People to tackle what could be considered a daunting task – to provide definitive answers to the recruitment industry.
The resulting Meaningful Work Survey, the first in Australia, cuts through the talk to actually provide a measure for meaningful work.
With the survey completed at the end of October, data is now being extracted, profiles compiled, and numbers crunched to deliver what Beaumont People CEO Nikki Beaumont expects will be an exciting leap into the future workplace.
“We know that what people are looking for in the workplace is changing, and that this will be ongoing,” she says.
“We wanted to know exactly what they want and expect from the workplace, and to take that back to organisations, so they can keep them engaged and make their work more meaningful.”
For companies, it is connection. If they know what is wanted and have the information to provide the best environment, people are happier and doing a better job and the organisation is happier.
“For the first time we will be able to detail exactly what makes work meaningful for people,” Nikki says.
“One of the things is understanding that there are two sides to this – individual and organisational.”
And from the beginning, it had to be authentic, “not just something that Beaumont has come up with”.
She said connecting people with organisations that empowered them to do meaningful work had been part of their business for years, but when she stepped back and asked what that really meant and how to measure it, it was impossible to give a definitive answer.
Nikki began to dig further into the tools available, only to discover that there was nothing at all. While there was plenty of global research, not so much in Australia, there was no reliable measure.
Early this year, she set about changing all that, deciding to make a research investment that is generally not a part of the remit of a recruitment agency.
“Measures were one-sided around the psychology, but they didn’t necessarily address the sociological side,” Nikki says.
“There was a gap and we quickly realised that there was no integrated approach.”
Academics Dr Elizabeth Shoesmith and Dr Jill Rathborne of The Inclusive Foundation, were engaged to undertake the research.
Their brief was simple: “We need a profiling/measuring tool, we can use to connect people with work that is right for them on a lot of different levels.”
Nikki worked with the researchers, identifying additional material to improve the quality of the data.
“For the individual, it’s not just looking at what meaningful work means to them – flexibility, security, workplace culture, ethics, salary – but about the level of importance placed on them and how it connects to everything else,” she says.