Work That Matters Starts with Matters That Work

by John Bell

Every workplace has a future. Bill Fox, a thought leader and author, works hard at helping leaders ensure that tomorrow’s workplace is the best it can be. Bill and I are birds of the same feather. His passion for the cause can be found between the pages of his new book, The Future of the Workplace. It’s must read.

Work That Matters

In my view, the core idea in getting to a better future is finding Work That Matters. The phrase infers job satisfaction with an outcome of lower stress, lower turnover, and higher productivity – a ‘win-win’ for employees, customers and shareholders. The logic seems infallible. So, I ask you, why is there such a gap between the theory and the practice? Why are so many organizations and so many workers struggling to find workplace nirvana?

Work That Matters is a key success factor for every business. As a concept it is no different than the long list of success factors that organizations strive to enact. We read about these factors in the over-promise mission statements that occupy real estate in annual reports and gather dust on the walls of reception lobbies. Companies say they want to be customer-centric, to be innovative, to produce outstanding products and services, to be environmentally responsible, socially responsible, and so on. They continue to fall short of these superlatives. Herein lies the difference between objectives and strategy.

Matters That Work

It’s impossible to find Work That Matters without implementing Matters That Work. Some of these matters are the responsibility of the company, others are shared between the company and the employee. Without 5 prerequisites in place, Work That Matters will continue to be elusive. 

  1. Matters of Vision. The starting place is a corporate purpose that will not only resonate with employees, it will bind them together. Sure, we’d all prefer a moral purpose, such as working for a company that is saving lives or saving the planet. But, that’s not to say you can’t be inspired by a vision that thrills customers the way Zappos does.
  2. Matters of Values. For the 200,000 employees at Costco, the idea of selling good merchandise at a reasonable profit is worth the effort. For Wegman’s Food Markets, it’s about caring, high standards, making a difference, respect, and empowerment. Those who walk the talk create Work That Matters.
  3. Matters of Teamwork. Teamwork is more than the ability to work together toward a common goal. It is an opportunity and a privilege to do so – a matter of allowing ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results. When they do this, they collectively celebrate the results.
  4. Matters of Excellence. Those who settle for mediocrity will never be happy in their work. Likewise, those who strive for excellence in an organization that blocks their ability to realize excellence, will never enjoy their work. A matter of excellence is a shared responsibility. The company must create an environment in which achievers can achieve.
  5. Matters of Focus. Is vision, values, teamwork, and excellence, enough? Not if you are working on a plethora of matters that aren’t adding value. So why do you do them? Is it because you cling to tasks that make you feel busy or important? Look at your daily tasks and decide which ones can either be dropped, delegated, or outsourced. Ultimately, when you Do Less Better, you’ll find yourself doing more of the things that make a difference.

Of course, there’s a lot more to job satisfaction than these 5 prerequisites. That said, for those keen to realize a more human way to do business, the starting place is simple. Seek out organizations who know that happy employees make for happy customers, and that happy customers make for happy shareholders. These companies are easy to find, but are job vacancies in those organizations? Not so much, for the obvious reasons.

About the Author

John Bell is interviewed in 2019 Apress release The Future of the Workplace and is the former CEO of Jacobs Suchard.