Bringing meaning to the everyday with core values at work
Engagement 4 minute read

Bringing meaning to the everyday with core values at work

Megan Orr | April 13, 2021

On average, employees whose work serves a social purpose are 13% more satisfied with their jobs. However, there’s long been a proverbial line in the sand when it comes to personal and professional values. Although that boundary has become increasingly blurred with remote work, the question still remains: do your core values belong at work?

 People want to do work that matters, at companies that recognize what matters too. Being able to embrace core values at work is an important part of bringing meaning to what we do. 

Having core values at work doesn’t necessarily mean introducing often-divisive topics like religion and politics into conversations with coworkers. It does, however, mean incorporating the things that bring meaning to your life into the work you do. 

Employees and leaders alike want to work for organizations that align with their own values, whether it be environmentalism, social justice, or mental health awareness (to name a few). There are many ways, both explicit and implicit, that core values at work can come into play. 

Having social purpose at work enables employees to both do their jobs better and find more meaning in their work, improving overall happiness.

It can be difficult to check every box when it comes to core values at work. It’s not always the case that an employee finds a role with a company that matches all of their values. However, that doesn’t mean that they can’t find ways to bring purpose to their work. 

Job purposing is a term used to describe how employees can engage in a social purpose during the regular work week. Having social purpose at work enables employees to do their jobs better and find more meaning in their work, improving overall happiness. According to research, employees who have a job purpose “likely have higher job satisfaction and performance, and they may even be happier and healthier”.

Core values are a set of fundamental beliefs, ideals or practices that inform how you conduct your life, both personally and professionally.

First, you must know what your core values are to determine how they impact your professional and personal life. Indeed’s definition of core values is “a set of fundamental beliefs, ideals, or practices that inform how you conduct your life, both personally and professionally”.

This means that employees should look for roles with organizations that they feel support their overall values. For example, if they’re an environmentalist, they may want to work for a company that has green initiatives. Core values at work can also include things such as creativity, honesty, and humility. Those values will likely inform the type of roles an employee will want, too. If they value creativity, they will want a role where they are able to express themselves and feel their unique voice is valued.

Organizations should also want to find people that match their core values at work. It’s important to hire people that add to the culture.

This doesn’t mean that you have to search for people whose values line up with every single one of your organizational values. However, as the Harvard Business Review writes: “Workers at every level of an organization can make coworker and customer interactions more human, meetings more meaningful, operations more inclusive, and marketing more charitable”.

Creating an environment where meaning and values are emphasized can mean a number of things, such as:

  • Having policies and practices in place that reduce bias and discrimination. 
  • Supporting local businesses when possible, whether it’s ordering supplies from a local company or getting lunch for the office from the new donair shop down the road. 
  • Encourage employees who don’t speak up in meetings often to voice their opinions. Statistically, women and people of colour are disproportionately quieter in the workplace, by as much as 25%.
  • Ensuring that any sort of “housekeeping tasks” that you may have are assigned fairly, since women report doing these tasks 20% more than “their white male counterparts, whether it’s literal housework (arranging for lunch or cleaning up after a meeting), administrative tasks (finding a place to meet or prepping a PowerPoint), emotional labor (‘He’s upset—can you fix it?’), or undervalued work (mentoring summer interns)”.
  • Holding meetings at times that will work for everyone. Working parents, for example, may not be able to meet or be online after 5 o’clock.

HR and leaders have an important role to play in ensuring core values at work, by creating an inclusive workplace and allowing people the opportunity to express themselves and be heard. 

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