Building a Meaningful Employee Experience


December 6, 2018

In the new world of work, it is fulfillment – the ability to feel a personal sense of purpose and meaning – that is the new standard.

An evolution of the employee value proposition.

We are in a new era, where employees are looking for more from their work experience—one that is optimized for meaning and personal fulfillment, and encourages development and generosity. A new report, a collaborative effort of CECP, Imperative, and PwC, explores the implications of these evolving expectations for business leaders and how a better understanding of neuroscience can help shape a more human employee experience with relationships, impact, and growth at its heart.

What we mean by fulfillment.

Over the past two decades, engagement as a human capital concept has elevated employees as stakeholders in their own right. They have individual needs which an organization must meet if it’s to succeed in the competition for talent and drive innovation. A more personal relationship with employees has paved the way for a work experience that goes beyond traditional measures of commitment, satisfaction, and discretionary effort—one that is based on purpose.

Fulfillment is a feeling people have when we are working with a sense of purpose, in alignment with our intrinsic motivations. The feeling is biologically generated by the neurochemicals oxytocin and dopamine, which reward behaviors that we have evolved to value for our survival.

We can create this at work through opportunities that emphasize relationships, impact, and growth.


1. Employees make the meaning.

While the organization plays a critical role in providing the right environment for a fulfilling employee experience, it’s the employees who shape how to make work more meaningful for themselves. Indeed, an astounding 82% of employees agree that it is primarily their own responsibility, and 42% say that they are their own greatest barrier to finding fulfillment at work. Organizations can support employees in unlocking this insight through tools such as personalized resources and facilitated reflection.

2. Programs provide structure—but not too much.

Efforts to build a more meaningful work experience will only endure if employees feel they can explore. Providing them the space to build deeper relationships, create impact that matters to them, and grow in meaningful ways will reward both the employee and the organization.

3. Culture is critical.

By focusing on select behaviors that promote belonging, enable people to make an impact, and foster individual growth, organizations can begin the shift toward a culture that values and cultivates a fulfilled workforce. We know that a staggering number of employees—96% of survey respondents—believe fulfillment at work is possible, but they need to see and feel what it looks like in practice. Thirty-one percent of workers surveyed identified senior leaders as barriers to their fulfillment at work. Senior leadership must pave the way for more meaningful work; they must rise to the occasion with behaviors and authentic stories that exemplify that purpose at work is possible. In addition, mobilizing informal influencers at all levels will accelerate a shift toward a fulfillment mindset.

4. Shared experiences can be especially potent.

Not all team experiences are created equal. When designed effectively, they facilitate human connection and a collective sense of impact. Getting people to come together for ongoing, shared experiences can accelerate fulfillment while building stronger teams in the process. Aim for the sweet spot of highly meaningful, highly challenging activities that will reframe how people think about their work and how it creates meaning for themselves and others.

5. Employee surveys need an update.

Reconsider your approach to employee surveys, as both the questions and frequency with which they’re asked matter when attempting to capture how fulfilled your people are.

More frequent pulse surveys reveal how consistently meaningful work is being supported and reinforced. They don’t have to be taxing—try asking three simple questions on the major sources of fulfillment: sense of belonging, impact, and growth.

Download: Building A Meaningful Employee Experience

More than ever, people want to know they’re more valuable than machines and are seeking out uniquely human elements of their work experience. If we want to tap into what helps people find meaning at work, how do we do it? When we explored this question, we uncovered scientific support, employee perspective, and bright spots to show how to move the needle in building a more fulfilling employee experience.


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