learning resources

The role of meaningfulness in employee engagement


Welcome to these learning resources focusing on the role of meaningfulness in employee engagement. In the audio clip (to the right) your HR tutor Andrew gives an overview of topic and its relevance, and below is a summary of how this fits with the CIPD units.

1. Drivers of employee engagement

In 2010 the CIPD published its report on employee engagement in the UK. Written in partnership with Kingston Business School this reported some interesting results, not only about engagement but also the ‘drivers’ of engagement – drivers being the workplace factors that make possible higher levels of engagement.


The CIPD report Creating an Engaged Workforce contains a lot of great information but what we’re interested in here is what the research says about the drivers of engagement. The link below takes you to the report and the following questions aim to direct your reading.

  1. Summarise the research that was carried out (see page 5). You’ll also find some good background information on the definition of engagement here.
  2. On pages 2 and 3 you will find the Executive Summary. Read this and summarise the key findings.
  3. Referring to the Strategies for Engagement section (from page 23) summarise the key points relating to meaningfulness (pages 23 and 24) and management and leadership (pages 28 and 29).

2. Meaningfulness - the role of the 'why'

Now we’ve built our understanding of how meaningfulness and leadership and management style drive employee engagement, I’d like to draw your attention to the work of Simon Sinek. He explores leadership from the aspect of what makes the most successful leaders and organisations, such as Apple, when they have access to pretty much the same resources and talent. What he found is that they operate in the opposite way to everyone else. Using his Golden Circle model, he puts this in the simple terms of what, how and why, correlated to areas of the brain.

In the YouTube (see below) Sinek explains that leaders can be divided into two groups:

  1. Those who lead from a position of power
  2. Those who inspire and who people follow because they want to.

Inspired leaders think, act and communicate from the inside out, starting with the why – “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Sinek highlights the importance of defining organisational purpose and hiring people who believe what you believe. His model to some extent explains the Apple phenomenon and the company’s ability to successfully launch new products, often in new sectors. People buy Apple products because of why they do it.


Watch Sinek’s TED Talk clip (below) and look out for how this relates to the drivers we read about in the CIPD research. Please note that this gets a little technical around the 11 minute mark with the law of diffusion of innovation but stick with it.

2. And action!

To finish off this piece of learning, I’d like you to consider the action that can be taken in the workplace to improve meaningfulness in work, and therefore engagement levels.


Thinking about your own organisation, or one with with you are familiar…

  • Consider to what extent the workers feel there is meaning in their work. What factors affect this?
  • If low, what people management (HR) practices would help improve the sense of meaningfulness?
  • What role would line managers play in this? What would they need to do differently in terms of what they do and how they action?

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