Finding Meaningful Work: The Power of a Why, Mission and Values

Ange Connor

It wasn’t until I started Inspire HQ and started building a team that I realised the importance of a company why (vision), mission and values. I certainly don’t recall learning about the importance of them when I completed my HR studies – although that was some time ago now. My first full time job out of high school was with a real estate agency and to be honest, I can’t recall if they had a why, mission or values in place, yet the culture was one of the best I have experienced in my career. Other businesses that I have worked for have had them in place, but they were never more than words in a frame on a wall. They weren’t lived and breathed and they certainly weren’t role modelled from the top.

When applying for and interviewing for jobs, prior to becoming a business owner, I know I never researched the company’s why, mission and values, and I’m pretty confident they weren’t discussed at interview. Now they are the topic of conversation from the first meeting I have with a client and are continually discussed with candidates throughout the recruitment process. It never ceases to amaze me how many businesses tell me they have them in place, but don’t know them and on the flip side, many candidates ask about them; what they are, are they lived and breathed and role modelled.

Why is it that for many businesses they have invested the time in developing them and implementing, but have done nothing further with them and why is it that candidates are so focussed on them when considering a job opportunity?

For the majority of candidates I interact with when recruiting, the job opportunity is about more than just the pay they’ll take home at the end of the week. More and more candidates are seeking meaningful work and a connection to their employer; not just being what they do, but how they do it – from a values perspective.

I never really considered what meaningful work meant to me when I forged my career in the recruitment and HR sector. To be honest I completely fell into the industry just like many others in the sector. However, when I reflect on my career and the sectors I have worked in, there is definitely a theme of helping people and I have always had an interest in business operations.

But what does helping people really mean from a meaningful work perspective? While I love helping people, I could never be a nurse or a teacher. Yet, those jobs help people. For me, doing meaningful work isn’t something that I just found one day, it was something I created for myself by finding something that gave me satisfaction and that I was good at. Helping people be the best they can be in their career, helping businesses succeed through their people was what I found rewarding. Everyone I came in contact with had their own unique story and had a business and/or career goal that I could assist them with. The work became even more meaningful when I built in my values; the way I provided the service, built relationships, treated people and contributed to a team. That was what got me out of bed, it wasn’t the pay packet at the end of the week, and it’s what keeps me getting out of bed even after the toughest of days in one of the toughest recruitment markets I have ever experienced. Having clarity on Inspire HQ’s why, mission and values are what guide me in being able to achieve the feeling of meaningful work.

Many people ask me how they can find their purpose and meaningful work in the career coaching sessions we deliver. It’s not an easy question to answer and there is a lot of grey, plus, I think it’s a little different for everyone. Ultimately, though sometimes, the harder we look for our purpose the more it eludes us. My advice is to simply try different things, work out what you enjoy doing and what you don’t. Experiment with what plays to your strengths and what minimises the need to utilise your limitations. I worked in real estate for about seven years and it was my first job. I loved the industry, the work and I worked in a team with a fantastic culture. I had an amazing boss who taught me so much that I still apply to business today. I left to experience the bigger world of work and for about two years I bounced around in jobs learning what I did and didn’t like. On reflection, it was the biggest learning journey of my career and I learnt so much about myself. Without that experience, I never would have ended up in the recruitment and HR industry. Finding meaningful work in my opinion is about learning about yourself and what makes you tick. Once you understand that, it’s then about finding a business that you want to do that meaningful work for and that’s where a company’s why, mission and values come into play.

As I mentioned at the start of this blog, I didn’t realise how powerful a living, breathing why, mission and values could be. We have worked hard at Inspire HQ to develop ours and we have reviewed them over the years. At our most recent review, the feedback was that everyone knew and connected with our why and values, but they didn’t feel the same about the mission. They told me they didn’t hear me talk about the mission, yet, I regularly talked internally and externally about our why and values. It made me realise that I didn’t talk about it because it didn’t resonate with me and it needed tweaking.

The reason I believe our why, mission and values are so vitally important is because they guide each of our team members in the delivery of whatever meaningful work looks like for them. They guide our decision making, the way we do things, they help us decide if we should or shouldn’t work with a client or take on a piece of work. They help guide feedback conversations for team members’ growth and development because we all understand how we do things at Inspire HQ. The challenging part is when a team member decides to move on because their meaningful work no longer aligns with our why and they have come to the realisation that they don’t love what they do anymore. As a big promoter of #lovewhatyoudo, when a team member comes to the point in their career that they have outgrown us and it’s time to move on to a new challenge, it’s devastating, but it’s also super rewarding that we have contributed to their career journey and have hopefully left them with new and/or different skills than what they joined us with.

In this current market where candidates have many choices and it’s no longer all about employers picking the candidate they want, but instead the candidate picks the employer; there has never been a better time to revisit your why, mission and values and take them from being a picture frame on the reception wall to something that drives everything your business does and stands for.

About The Author
Ange Connor

Ange is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource (HR) and careers agencies. Ange is an ‘ideas’ person and a ‘big picture’ thinker. She loves to challenge the status quo – in fact, that’s how Inspire HQ began.

Ange has supported hundreds of businesses across Ballarat and regional Victoria to attract, engage, motivate, develop and retain their greatest assets; their people. Ange’s unyielding passion and invaluable knowledge of the recruitment and HR industry ensures she delivers the best solutions for her clients.

Ange has held various board positions and regularly volunteers her time to share her industry and market knowledge. She was recently a Councillor for the Victoria and Tasmania region of the Recruitment Consulting and Staffing Association (RCSA) of Australia and New Zealand, and she is a current Board Director of the Committee for Ballarat.

For more useful information, follow Ange on LinkedIn.

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