5 Benefits of Managing for Job Fulfillment

Post 5 in the series The Three Signs of a Miserable Job

Today we are getting back to our series on Patrick Lencioni’s book The Three Signs of a Miserable Job.

In our last post we looked at what makes a job miserable. Before looking at the three solutions to this, we are going to take a look at the benefits of overcoming miserable jobs — or, in other words, managing for job fulfillment.

Which is what this is really about. As we continue through Lencioni’s book, it strikes me as slightly depressing to talk about “miserable jobs”!

But the point of his book, and this series, is not to focus on miserable jobs, but on job fulfillment. Looking at the causes of job misery is just a lens to help us learn better how to manage for meaning in our work — and not just for our own sakes, but, if we are managers or leaders in organizations, for the sake of those who work for us.

There are four benefits of managing for job fulfillment that Lencioni discusses: increased productivity, greater retention, lower costs, and cultural differentiation. Then I’m going to add one more at the end, and then one nuance. (And to these reasons could be added some of the other benefits covered in the first post in this series, when we discussed why this issue is important.)

1. Increased Productivity

The simple and basic truth is that when you find your job to be more fulfilling, you do a better job at it. You work with “more enthusiasm, passion, and attention to quality” because you’ve developed a sense of ownership in what you are doing. This matters in itself; but if an organization needs more justification than that, it’s that this greater engagement and passion results in higher productivity for the organization — whether that is defined in terms of greater accomplishment of the mission (for a non-profit) or greater profits (for a for-profit — which also should be driven first by their mission, rather than profit, as I’ve blogged elsewhere).

People that love what they are doing do better work. They are more creative, they work harder, and they are willing to go the extra mile — and do it joyfully.

2. Greater Retention

High job fulfillment results in high retention because people typically don’t want to leave jobs that they love. Further, this has the added benefit of attracting more solid employees, because “fulfilled employees tend to attract other good employees to an organization, either by actively recruiting them or merely by telling friends about their enthusiasm for their work.”

3. Lower Costs

One result of greater retention (and better recruiting) is obviously lower costs, because you have to spend less time finding and training new employees.

4. Sustainable Cultural Differentiation

This is perhaps the most significant benefit to the organization. Here’s how Lencioni puts it:

The opportunity for differentiation from competitors by building a culture of job fulfillment cannot be overstated. In a world of ubiquitous technology and rapid dissemination of information, it is harder and harder to establish sustainable competitive advantage through strategic and tactical decision making. Cultural differentiation, however, is more valuable than it’s ever been, because it requires courage and discipline more than creativity or intelligence.

In other words, cultural differentiation not only makes your organization a better place to work overall, but is also hard to copy — and thus is a competitive advantage.

5. It Serves People

The fourth reason managing for job fulfillment matters is that it serves people. People ought to find fulfillment in their work, and organizations should manage themselves in such a way as to be intentional about this. Not to do so is to fail to respect and honor your employees and treat them as real people who matter.

And thus, managing for job fulfillment is not optional. If people were machines, it probably wouldn’t matter much. But since people are in the image of God, we ought to manage our organizations in such a way that our people are treated the way we would want to be treated. The Golden Rule does not cease to apply when we walk into the doors of our organizations. (For more on this, see my article “Management in Light of the Supremacy of God“; Lencioni also talks about this a bit in the epilogue to the book — on which, see my post “Management as Ministry.”).

One Nuance

Discussing the nature of job fulfillment can seem like we are putting to much focus on extrinsic factors — as though whether a job is fulfilling or not depends on our environment rather than our response to our environment. So let me say loud and clear that I am not affirming or encouraging that type of thinking.

Instead, the point is that, if we manage people, we ought to be looking out for our people in this way. It’s simply a matter of serving people well (see above). And job fulfillment is not necessarily automatic, because there can be things that get in the way (namely, the “three signs” that we will be discussing next). So managers have to be intentional in clearing out obstacles to job fulfillment, and this is one key part of their role.

And, second, the point is that regardless of whether anyone else is looking out for your job fulfillment, you can and should take responsibility for it. Finding your job meaningful is not simply a matter of deciding to find it fulfilling. There are real things about the structure of a job that can make it more or less fulfilling — just like there are real things about food or any such thing that make it more or less satisfying. Being aware of those things can enable you to change your environment to make it so that you are maximally able to excel in your role. That is part of being proactive and responding well to your environment — namely, changing your environment to make it better.

There are other things you can do besides addressing the three signs that we will talk about next. One of them is to take seriously Paul’s command to “work heartily as unto the Lord” (Ephesians 6). And it would be enjoyable to do a whole series just on that passage to mine what that means.

But I would also propose that “working heartily unto the Lord” includes doing what is in your power to improve your environment in order to reduce the presence of any obstacles that make job fulfillment more challenging. And that’s what we are going to talk about next.

Posts in This Series