The innate human quest for meaning is so strong that, even in the direst circumstances, people seek purpose in life, famous psychiatrist Viktor Frankl discovered. Popular Wharton professor, Adam Grant notes that, “For decades, Americans have ranked purpose as their top priority – above promotions, income, job security and hours.” Furthermore, finding meaning in our work increases our motivation, engagement, empowerment, career development, job satisfaction, individual performance and personal fulfillment. Here are five ways you can make your work more meaningful and productive.

1. Spur Talent-Building and Employee Engagement Via Tours of Duty

Most any kind of organization can foster innovation, talent building, and camaraderie by adopting the tour-of-duty approach used at LinkedIn and advocated by its founder and co-author of The Alliance Reid Hoffman. “Employees might embark on a rotational, transformational or foundational tour of duty,” notes The Optimistic Workplace author, Shawn Murphy in describing LinkedIn’s culture. 

The three steps to such tours are:

1. Learning the basics about the company.

2. Participating in a transformational task, “such as starting a department.” 

3. Being trained to lead by diverse others in the firm.

2. Get Specific to Boost Self-Clarity and Mutual Understanding

“Employees must commit for the duration of each tour in a mutually beneficial deal, with explicit terms, between independent players.” Reid Hoffman even suggests providing term sheet that explains what the company expects and what it offers, whether it’s an exchange of contacts or help finding a job elsewhere,” former Bloomberg Business journalist Bryant Urstadt wrote in characterizing the specificity in this LinkedIn policy that boosts it’s popularity and power for all parties. 

Hint:  We tend to speak in generalizations. A specific example, goal or other concrete detail can prove a general conclusion, yet not the reverse. Your specificity boosts clarity within yourself and with others, thus reducing the chance of being misunderstood. Plus your specificity boosts your credibility and your memorability.

3. Advocate Creation of a Network That Enables Employees to Help Each Other Faster and Better 

Any company can optimize employees’ shared learning from the tours of duty, by having an aptly designed, social-enabled enterprise intranet, according to Enterprise Strategies founder, now at IBM, Andy Jankowski: “The last thing you or your employees want after a successful tour is the loss of that shared experience. Enterprise social networks allow for key collaborations to happen digitally - in a format that is stored, searchable, findable and reusable. These networks provide the needed glue and context for meaningful and efficient knowledge sharing and engagement. As well, these networks can extend beyond the company firewall, and thus maintain and grow networks of current and past employees who share a common experience that can often continue to contribute to the company.” 

Also, some trailblazing organizations such at MITRE, invite others to provide specific insights that both help the firm and demonstrate their value as potential consultants to hire.

4. Cultivate Career Flexibility to Help Employers and Employees

When a company policy supports employees and their bosses to collaborate on a zig-zag career path (rather than a traditional corporate ladder) that supports both the career and lifestyle goals of the employee and the overall mission of the company, all parties win, suggests Deloitte game changer, Cathy Benko and Molly Anderson in The Corporate Lattice. Like the tour of duty policy, it’s a mass career customization way to retain top talent too.

5. Adopt Mutual Mentoring to Accelerate Self-Organizing and Innovation

For starters, establish a system to facilitate the connection of mentors and mentees using the Salesforce1 app, Shadowr. Then take the complimentary next step: an under-utilized, no cost opportunity for cross-departmental learning and relationship building that can also spark serendipitous insights for innovation in a company is mutual mentoring. That can take several forms. For example, an aptly designed intranet could facilitate employees at all levels in finding employees with the exact expertise or experience from whom they could learn for an immediate, one-time or longer term need or interest.

Rather than just spurring reverse mentoring, where 20-something employees guide older workers in, say, digital technology, why not encourage mutual mentoring across your company? Also, some employees might seek colleagues with complementary talents who share a sweet spot of mutual interest that reflects a company need or possible opportunity. They might explore creating a self-organized team to tackle it, especially if the company encouraged such exploration, with guidelines as explicit as Reid Hoffman’s for tours of duty.


Kare Anderson, Say It Better CEO, is the author of Walk Your Talk: Grow Your Business Faster Through Successful Cross-Promotional Partnerships.