Finding Meaning in Work


High performing organisations are always built by great talent and it is important to continuously listen to their views, perspective and engage as much possible to ensure talent is well aligned with business realities and perceptions are managed equally from both the sides.

Let’s have a look into few situations from some our workplaces:

Not Our Priority

Prakash a graduate engineering trainee, who was in his 8th month of training, was working on an interdisciplinary project that required him to work with supply chain planning, operations and ERP teams from multiple plant locations. The project was to assist the SCM head at the corporate office to develop a new model and get it tested with real life data. He went around various plant locations, followed up with other members only to realize that everyone was busy with their daily jobs and functional priorities. Prakash had the energy to make things happen but success eluded him and soon he realized he was working on something which had least value in others eyes.

Doesn’t Work Here

Mahima recently joined an FMCG company in Gurgaon in a Marketing role. She had earlier worked for 10 years with an advertising agency and then wanted to experience “other side of the table”. Working on several campaigns from the agency side, instilled the confidence and added various perspectives that she gathered during multiple company assignments, including the current one, which she could utilize and add value to the new company. 

Soon into the new role and set up, she started feeling that people are averse to experiment with new ideas and work with a set pattern which may have made them successful earlier. Most of the senior people across sales and marketing were extremely cautious about trying something and all her attempts to bring a new perspective came to a halt quite soon. She started feeling probably there was no need to take any new initiative and contemplated to go back to her agency life, which was full of newness and adventures.


Akashdeep had worked extensively in the space of management consulting and also had some experience in mergers & acquisitions with one of the leading US based private equity firm. He had worked in US and Singapore for many years and moved back to India after 20 years of work life primarily for family reasons. He had joined a large family owned conglomerate to Head the Corporate Strategy function. The promoter CMD wanted him to first focus on improving the business performance and operating efficiency including conducting a benchmark study with their global peers.

Akashdeep brought all his domain competence together on this assignment and formed an internal cross functional team to study all aspects of the project and got them trained on certain improvement tools as well. He and the team interacted with various business unit heads and corporate heads to understand their challenges and perspectives. A good six months efforts resulted into a plan of action which could generate 25% additional revenue over next 2 years and optimise atleast 15% operating cost on immediate basis. One of the significant recommendation was to create shared service centre for Finance operations. Post the presentation, CMD took Akasdeep to his office and congratulated him. He also cautioned that some of the recommendations are ahead of time and Akashdeep needed to go slow as many of the existing senior people would not be comfortable with so many changes at one go. Akashdeep understood the cultural nuances, which he himself was experiencing so far but he was not sure why change and transformation cannot be at a higher speed as the outcome can be much rewarding for the company.

Each one of us look at our work and contribution from various perspectives basis our life and career stages, interest, passion and try to find meaning for which we spend 45 to 50 hours every week. This excludes average 10 to 15 hours of weekly commute to work.

In my view some of the important aspects of organisation culture can really help as we examine “Meaning of Work” –

  • A collaborative workplace where everyone has shared goals and willingness to put extra effort to support each other to make the “whole part” of the organisation win rather than wining alone.
  • A work culture which is inclusive, open to ideas and embrace different ways of working. A place where you can express yourself freely without the fear of being judged or suppressed. The one that fosters a spirit of innovation.
  • To build competitive edge and serve customers better, the rate of internal change shouldbe faster than the external change. This should not only be exhibited in the intent but also bring speed to actions and demonstrate agility for change.

While each person looks into the meaning of their work, adequate opportunities for conversations at personal and organisation level can always help to build clarity. Many a times people need more clarity while organisation may or may not be able provide all the clarity at one go as things are changing fast in today’s economic environment and certain things may evolve over a period of time. Therefore, candid and periodic conversation may help in managing perception and mutual expectations, especially for the identified talents.


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