Series on Meaningfulness at Work – Enjoying what you do

Finding meaning at work does not always mean social work and doing a dream job. As Mr. Jim Banasik, store director of Rock Island Hy-Vee store will tell you. He loves his job, employees, customers and what the company stands for.

Most people would consider a 40-hour work week normal. For Mr. Banasik, that would be a short week. He said a “typical” work day is 10 to 11 hours, with an occasional “short” day of 6-8 hours. Six days per week. “But I really enjoy it, and that’s not forced; that’s just what I do,” Mr. Banasik said. “We are very hands-on.” Before Mr. Banasik walks through the front door, he already has walked the entire parking lot, looking for trash, weeds and any unfavourable conditions. Once inside, he spends the next three to four hours of his day walking every inch of the store, front to back, every department, saying hello to each employee. But he isn’t just walking by, he’s checking every shelf in the store, looking for empty spots, checking the signage to ensure everything has a price and making out a cleaning list for the employees to work on throughout the day.

“I change my day based on customers’ needs and what is going on in the store,” Mr. Banasik said. “But the weekends are all spent with the customers.” He said the job is never boring, there is very little down time and there is always something to do. “The fun part for me is working on the front end, sacking groceries and checking,” Mr. Banasik said. “I like to get carts and teach the new courtesy (employees), hey when you walk by a piece of trash, pick it up.”

Training new employees and promoting people into management is an “exciting” part of the job for him. “It’s really neat to find that 16-year-old kid and you can groom them and watch them work their way through high school with you, and they become an assistant manager while they are going to school,” Mr. Banasik said. “That’s what’s rewarding to me, is taking that shy person at their first job and watching them become successful.”

Mr. Banasik was born in Chariton, Iowa, about one hour south of Des Moines. He started his career with Hy-Vee in 1998 in Blue Springs, Mo., stocking lunch meats and cheeses. “You know when you are young and don’t know what to do, I went to heating schooling thinking I wanted to go the tech route. I never thought of a grocery store as a career,” Mr. Banasik said. “The assistant store manager at Blue Springs talked me into staying with Hy-Vee and I should try to go the store director route; it’s a good career. He saw a lot of potential in me and thought I would be a good fit for management.”

“You have to keep your drive; you have to be very driven to make it to this point,” Mr. Banasik said. He said he plans on staying at the store level, saying he is “one of those crazy people who loves retail. “I have reached my goal; this is what I wanted to do,” Mr. Banasik said. “I really love the staff I work with every day and the customers. For me, I just always want to work with the customers directly and employees.” The ability to make decisions at the store level on everything from what items to stock to the specific store specials is something Mr. Banasik also enjoys about the job.



Categorized as Media

Series on Meaningfulness at Work – Each to his own

It might not always be some great selfless charitable act that makes your job meaningful to you. There are several people who will say they find their work meaningful because they find meaning in them for different reasons. Meaningfulness does not always mean the same thing.

Let’s take Erik Soderberg, a structural engineer, for example. Here he talks about his job and how he finds it meaningful: I have been in my current position for almost ten years. When I was a kid I always built things. My father built little clubhouses in the backyard. At first I would just put nails in the table, and then I started nailing pieces of wood together. I was four or five when I actually nailed something together that resembled something in real life.

I thought I was going to be a carpenter; then I actually worked in construction, and I noticed that the young guys were having a good time but the old guys were looking haggard and worn out. It seemed like it would be more fun to dream [things] up.

When I was first learning math the teacher was always presenting the problem as “This is how you solve for X or Y”—they never explained what use that would be. It was actually when I started learning engineering and physics that I became less ignorant and realized math could be used to solve real problems. I like that you can model something physically and understand how big you need to make a column or beam just using numbers. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it — you can sit down with a piece of paper and design everything before you even build it.

My work is always varied and generally challenging, especially now that I can give tedious work to the people below me. Usually someone will have a problem — they will run a ship into a crane, for example — then the first half of the day, I look at the damage and figure out what needs to be done to define the problem. I wouldn’t say my work is fascinating, because the types of problems I deal with aren’t spectacular. I think it’s meaningful because I facilitate a solution.

I am paid appropriately. I could be making more money in other professions that I wouldn’t like as much, so money is not the top priority. I don’t think that there should be a huge disparity in what people are being paid. This company culture is pretty unique. If I knew that my boss didn’t look out for everyone, then I might have a different attitude. Basically it’s a mutual relationship and not me working hard for my boss to buy his fourth house.

I liked every job I ever had. I worked some jobs that I know other people didn’t like. If I were 35 and still the hot tub guy, I might not have had a good attitude. Some of the work that we do, there’s a risk that people will die if we don’t get it right; that’s probably 10 percent of the time. If I write a report, my name is on it as the author; for that reason, there’s incentive to do a really good job. But I invest enthusiasm, joy, effort into what I do anyway. I have a strong sense of ownership and responsibility for how the work turns out.


Categorized as Media

Series on Meaningfulness at Work: Passion vs. Making a Living

So when you get up each morning and think of the work day ahead, is it with a sense of trepidation or the thought fills you with renewed energy and excitement. The answer could well tell you whether your work adds meaning to your life or is just a means of making a living. Think hard…

If Sanjay’s story doesn’t make you go “Whoa he did what?”, we’d be surprised. A Stats, Maths and Computer Science major, Sanjay started working at Google as an analyst until Facebook lapped him up in their newly opened Hyderabad office. Soon after, Sanjay moved to the USA to work at Facebook Headquarters in Menlo Park, California, as a Marketing Analyst. His life was as perfect as it gets. A brilliant job in one of the most exciting companies in the world, in picture perfect California, with the love of his life – his wife – with him. But above all the comfort and glory, Sanjay had found a bigger calling.

Sanjay wanted to work on something that was more meaningful to him, and also at the same time had a direct impact on the society. It was then he introspected about the experiences that made him the person he was. “I regularly played volleyball and hockey in school, and also represented the Hyderabad team in Under 19 tournaments. I was in no way the best player, or the best athlete in the teams that I was a part of, but sports have a very special place in my heart. Sports has been the best teacher I’ve ever met. I’ve learnt some of the best life lessons from sports about attitude, team work, and leadership which will stick with me for life”

This introspection led to a conclusion that Sanjay wanted to use the passion he had for sports for a good cause. He came across ProjectKHEL, an NGO that was using sports, games, and other interactive methods to transform the lives of children. Without a second thought, Sanjay bid his coveted job at Facebook goodbye and moved back to India and to Lucknow to join the ProjectKHEL team. ProjectKHEL uses play and interactive methods to transform adolescents into positive agents of change within their communities. One of the main programmes at ProjectKHEL that Sanjay is actively involved is called ‘Made in Maidan’ where sports are used as a medium to impart life skills education to underprivileged children.

“I couldn’t have been happier with where I am right now, working on things I’m passionate about. Personally, although this job is more exhausting than my corporate job, the kind of satisfaction I have been getting is immeasurable. I go to bed with a sense of pride about the work I have done, and also wake up the next morning with double the enthusiasm to do more!”


Categorized as Media

Series on Meaningfulness at Work – Strengths vs Engagement

People who use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged on the job. That’s just one big finding from decades of research by Gallup Inc (a leading American research based global performance-management consulting company) into human behaviours and strengths. That research has established a compelling connection between strengths and employee engagement in the workplace — a connection that has the power to accelerate performance when companies work on enhancing both simultaneously.

In their extensive research, Gallup has found that building employees’ strengths is a far more effective approach to improving performance than trying to improve weaknesses. When employees know and use their strengths, they are more engaged, perform better, and are less likely to leave their company.

Gallup discovered that vast majority of businesses in the U.S. don’t focus on helping employees use their strengths — and this is a costly oversight. When employees feel that their company cares and encourages them to make the most of their strengths, they are more likely to respond with increased discretionary effort, a stronger work ethic, and more enthusiasm and commitment.

To test the effects of a manager’s approach to engagement and strengths, Gallup conducted a study with a random sample of 1,003 U.S. employees to determine how much they agreed with two statements: “My supervisor focuses on my strengths or positive characteristics” and “My supervisor focuses on my weaknesses or negative characteristics.” Gallup put employees who did not agree with either statement into an “ignored” category.

One-quarter (25%) of American workers fell into the “ignored” category, and 40% of these employees were actively disengaged. Managers who focused on their employees’ weaknesses cut active disengagement roughly in half, to 22%, proving that even negative attention is better than no attention at all. By contrast, for the 37% who agreed that their supervisor focused on their strengths, active disengagement fell dramatically to 1%. What’s more, nearly two-thirds (61%) of these employees were engaged, twice the average of U.S. workers who are engaged nationwide (30%). This suggests that if every company in America trained its managers to focus on employees’ strengths, the U.S. could easily double the number of engaged employees in the workplace.

Managers can empower employees to discover and develop their strengths and position them in roles where they can do what they do best every day. When managers succeed in these endeavors, their teams become more engaged. And Gallup has found that employees who feel engaged at work and who can use their strengths in their jobs are more productive and profitable and have higher quality work. Based on findings like these, Gallup concluded that a strengths-based management approach is the best way to improve the employee-manager relationship.

For many employees, the benefits of being able to maximize their strengths lead not just to higher engagement levels and a better career, but also to a better life. These well-being advantages, in turn, benefit employers through higher productivity, fewer sick days, lower incidence of chronic disease, and fewer health-related expenses from their employees. Engagement and strengths orientation together create a culture that fosters high performance. Gallup’s data show that simply learning their strengths makes employees 7.8% more productive, and teams that focus on strengths every day have 12.5% greater productivity. Investing in and focusing on employees’ talents boosts employee and customer engagement, according to Gallup’s research, leading to higher levels of performance, profitability, productivity, and greater earnings per share for businesses.


Categorized as Media

Program series on Consultative Selling for floor managers at a Global electronics consumer durable company

We recently completed a training intervention on Consultative Selling for a large multinational electronics conglomerate. The program was designed for managers who coach and train front line sales floor associates to drive sales at the company’s dealerships and company owned retail outlets across India. The program objective was to personalizing the customer experience through consultative selling. This was in line with the company’s objective for the year to delight the customer and enhance brand visibility through consultative selling.

This intervention had 3 main steps:

  • Conducting mystery audits across the company’s self-owned and multi-brand outlets. The results gathered from the experience and the discussions with the relevant stakeholders were used to contextualize the program.
  • Conducting the classroom roll-out. The key take away’s for the program included exploring individual areas of strength and areas of opportunities through customized role plays and business simulations. Creation of personalized action plans for individual participants.
  • Post program follow up. This included group coaching to track implementation of program learnings & find solutions for areas where participants had challenges in closing out action plan deliverables.

Post the program, the feedback from participants was extremely positive and encouraging, both for our client and for us as a team. Participants felt confident about applying consultative selling skills to their selling processes & coaching their team members on how to use this approach in different business situations.

All India Selling Skills Contest for an Automobile giant

This month we conducted a national level assessment for an automobile giant. A total of 144 contestants selected through regional contest from 18 regions across India. These participants were judged throughthe All India Selling skills contest. Our client was organizing the contest after a gap of almost five years. They wanted an innovative and unconventional assessment methodology for the contest, something that would help them create a new benchmark in their industry.

We devised fun and gamified versions for the assessments in the form of roleplays, audio-visuals, competition check, rapid fire, judges round, etc. The idea was to assess the contestants on the following sales qualities:

  • Customer obsession
  • Brand projection
  • Transactional selling vs. experiential selling
  • Objection handling
  • Thinking out-of-the-box

There were separate evaluation parameters for each round and we had a mammoth task of making softer aspects of sales quantifiable to eliminate any subjectivity in assessment.

On the whole, the event was extremely engaging, well received and team Shradha HRD had a new feather of customer delight in its cap.

Series on Meaningfulness at Work – Internal motivation

Career advice to ‘follow your passion’ or ‘do what you love; has fallen out of favour in recent times and is often dismissed as hackneyed and unrealistic. But a new study suggests that finding one’s vocation, or a special calling to do a certain occupation, will always be an invaluable way to motivate yourself to overcome academic and career challenges. And, in contrast, motivation based on the influence or monetary rewards of a profession — especially for difficult and elite jobs like military leadership — makes you more likely to perform poorly and quit earlier than if you are motivated by passion for the work itself. In fact, the negative impact of motivation based on power or money is so strong, it can lead to less success among those who both love their work and the prestige that comes with it.

Amy Wrzesniewski, an associate professor at the Yale School of Management, and Barry Schwartz, a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College, surveyed 11,320 cadets across nine classes at West Point and followed alumni careers for up to 14 years in an effort to determine the relative career impact of different motivation types. They found that the most successful West Point graduates wanted to become Army officers because they loved the job responsibilities – what the researchers called an “internal” motivation.

“We found, unsurprisingly, that the stronger their internal reasons were to attend West Point, the more likely cadets were to graduate and become commissioned officers,” wrote the researchers in a New York Times op-ed about their study. “Also unsurprisingly, cadets with internal motives did better in the military (as evidenced by early promotion recommendations) than did those without internal motives and were also more likely to stay in the military after their five years of mandatory service…”

This conclusion seems simple, but in fact reasons for attending the elite military academy are complex. Some cadets, for instance, reported chiefly “instrumental” motives for attending the school; things like benefitting from the school’s reputation, getting a good job and earning more money after graduation. Those cadets didn’t do as well academically or in their careers as officers as those who mostly reported strong “internal” motivation.

The negative effects of instrumental motivation were so strong, they overpowered the benefits of internal motivation for cadets who had high levels of both. This group of candidates were less likely to be considered for early promotion or stay in the military once their mandatory time period was up, said the researchers.

“It seems obvious and incontrovertible that if people have two reasons to do something they will be more likely to do it, and will do it better, than if they have only one,” wrote the researchers in their study. “Our results demonstrate that instrumental motives can weaken the positive effects of internal motives in real-world contexts and that this effect can persist across educational and career transitions over periods spanning up to 14 [years].”

More broadly, however, the study suggests that while instrumental motivations may initially help you clear a lot of major hurdles (say, West Point’s steep admission requirements), it can only get you so far. Internal motivations, on the other hand, can actually give you the endurance to see your goals through all the way to the very end.


Categorized as Media

Meaningfulness at Work: Leading with a purpose

Most entrepreneurs will tell you that once they discovered the real purpose for their efforts, they found a new sense of commitment and leadership which allowed them to really inspire and empower others, as well as direct their own actions. At this point they can make the strategic decisions they need to really make a difference, enjoy satisfaction, and leave a lasting legacy. Read on about the real life examples of some contemporary leaders.

The following is an excerpt from an article by Marty Zwilling, a veteran start up mentor who has worked with well known businessmen and entrepreneurs:

In my experience mentoring new entrepreneurs and aspiring business leaders, I see far too many who seem to be driven by all the wrong reasons. Everyone seems to espouse extrinsic motivations, such as getting rich, having power, and fulfilling parent dreams, when in fact a focus on satisfying internal interests and desires will likely lead to more success, as well as satisfaction.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with a couple of the best-known entrepreneurs of our time, and read about many more in the updated version of a classic book, “Discover Your True North,” by Harvard leadership expert and best-selling author Bill George. He makes a convincing argument that the best leaders and entrepreneurs follow their intrinsic rather than extrinsic motivations. He emphasizes the value of finding a way to align your strengths with your intrinsic motivations, which he calls the sweet spot. Some of the most effective sweet spots and intrinsic motivations for today’s entrepreneurs would include the following:

Making a difference in the world. When Bill Gates acted on his dream of putting a computer in every home and on every desk, he had no idea of the fortune it would bring to him, since he wanted only to make a difference. Extrinsic motivations often work against entrepreneurs by leading them to set unrealistic and overwhelming goals.

Find personal meaning from building a business. In his book, “The Art of The Start 2.0,” Guy Kawasaki exhorts entrepreneurs to focus on making meaning, not money. He has said many times that if your vision for your company is to grow it just to flip it to a large company or to take it public and cash out, “you’re doomed.” Do it for meaning.

Satisfaction of doing something great. Steve Jobs summarized his intrinsic motivation in 2005 at Stanford in a talk titled “How to Live Before You Die.” He said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

Personal growth and accomplishment. To be a successful entrepreneur, one can never stand still. The best entrepreneurs enjoy the journey as much as the destination. They have a thirst for knowledge that helps them in their business, as well in their own personal growth. That synergy creates a sweet spot that maximizes their impact.

Seeing the real value of one’s beliefs. When asked why he created Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg replied “It’s not because of the amount of money. For me and my colleagues, the most important thing is that we create an open information flow for people. Having media corporations owned by conglomerates is just not an attractive idea to me.”

Helping others achieve their goals. If you want to achieve your goals, help others achieve theirs. Great entrepreneurs keep your eyes open for other businesses in a related space that can complement theirs. Elon Musk has opened up Tesla car battery patents for use by anyone, which obviously will benefit his business as well as theirs.


Categorized as Media

Series on Meaningfulness at Work – Effects on Job Performance

What you do can be measured in a quantitative way but how you actually perform those tasks cannot. However, that is just as important to overall job satisfaction and job performance. Read on to see the intrinsic link between the two.

Nevin works as a Youth Development Specialist at a juvenile detention facility, working with habitual and sexual offending boys ranging in age from 10 to 18. Nevin has worked at juvenile facilities before, and even studied Psychology in school, which further developed his passion for working with youth. Nevin takes pride in the work he completes daily. He is there not only to manage the behaviour of the youth to ensure that they are meeting program expectations, but also to educate the youth so they see that the lifestyle they live involving gangs and violence is not the proper way.

Nevin learns a lot about the youth by listening to the tragic stories they tell and by reviewing their files. He reads the files to learn more about the youth and to ensure he does not trigger any negative reactions in them. Slowly, Nevin begins to reflect on his own life, and starts to become more appreciative of the things he has and the people he loves. In turn, it makes him look at how being a father can impact his children because most of the boys he works with don’t have a father in their lives.

Eventually, as the months go on and the stress piles up from the job, Nevin has become easily agitated. He has witnessed staff getting fired for not conducting a restraint properly, or for accidentally giving the youth the wrong medication. He has also seen staff blatantly not show up for work, at times making him the only one in a unit with the most aggressive kids, in turn making him feel unsafe. Over time, Nevin has become completely frustrated with the lack of staff to help cover different units, and the lack of support he would get from other staff.

When Nevin approaches his supervisor to discuss his concerns, he is told that this is the nature of the job. Some staff don’t think they are getting paid enough to deal with these behaviours and cannot handle the kids. Some staff witness the issues the kids have, deem them hopeless, and walk away from the job. Others have a tough time handling the stress from this job and end up calling in sick to find another job, then quitting on the spot days later. In addition there is a lot of staff that does not take the job seriously.

Eventually, Nevin quit this juvenile facility to go to another one that is more geared to youth who have been placed by Family and Youth Services. Although some job benefits were great at his former workplace, such as good health benefits, these were ultimately not sufficient to make him want to stay with that employer due to the poor work environment, lack of job security, high stress level, and low pay.

Nevin experiences a high job satisfaction for the type of work he performs and the field that he is in, but is dissatisfied with the job characteristics. The job characteristics for Nevin were less than ideal. Nevin was also experiencing high stress, poor working conditions, high workload, and a lack of social relationships. The job characteristics for Nevin contributed to his dissatisfaction. Time took its toll on Nevin as he became negatively impacted by his environment. As time went on, Nevin’s mindset was altered and thus the passion and emotion he poured into his work was decreasing. In Nevin’s case, absenteeism was a predictor of job satisfaction. As job satisfaction went down, absenteeism increased.

High levels of absenteeism have a long-term negative impact on the kids these individuals were hired to support because they need consistency and they need to build lasting positive relationships. As Nevin stated, once high levels of absenteeism begin then more turnover is proven to follow. This just increases the difficult nature of these positions because these kids already feel abandoned and the more turnover there is the harder it will be to build relationships with the kids that need it the most.


Categorized as Media