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Workers Value Meaning at Work; New Research from BetterUp Shows Just How Much They’re Willing to Pay for It | BetterUp

November 7, 2018 - 5 min read

BetterUp Labs research proves strong connection to measurable business outcomes for meaning and purpose at work; suggests ways for companies to enhance meaning, boost ROI

SAN FRANCISCO — November 7, 2018 — Employees produce more, work more, stay at companies longer and will sacrifice higher pay if they find meaning in their work, reveals groundbreaking research conducted by BetterUp Labs, the research arm of BetterUp, the company that pioneered mobile coaching to help all workers live their lives with optimal clarity, purpose and passion.

The findings of the study, released today, provide conclusive evidence that meaning is a real, measurable, fosterable, and achievable resource, and that businesses will achieve concrete gains if they answer their employees’ passionate call for more meaning at work.

The Meaning and Purpose at Work (MAP) report is based on investigation into the attitudes, motivations and behaviors of 2,285 American professionals across 26 industries and a range of company sizes, occupations and demographics. Top findings indicate that:

  • Employees lack meaning at work. On average, employees say their work is about half as meaningful as it could be.
  • Nine of 10 workers will trade money for meaning. On average, they’d sacrifice 23 percent of future earnings —an average of $21,000 a year—for work that is always meaningful.
  • Meaningful work retains, inspires talent. Employees who find their work highly meaningful stay at jobs for an average of 7.4 months longer than employees who find work lacking meaning. When managers find jobs highly meaningful, turnover rates plummet to 1.5 percent, less than half the national average. Also, employees who find jobs highly meaningful are more likely to have received a recent raise or promotion.
  • Meaningful work drives employees to work more. Employees doing meaningful work put in an extra hour per week and take two fewer days of paid leave per year. Raising one employee’s experience from average to highly meaningful generates an extra $9,078 in labor output per year.

“More than ever, people are on the hunt for meaning and that includes at work, where more and more of our time is spent. To attract and retain top talent, and achieve optimal productivity, companies must build greater meaning into the workplace,” says Alexi Robichaux, Co-Founder and CEO of BetterUp. “This research clearly shows that meaningful work is a win for the human condition, for companies, and for society at large. Fostering meaningful work is emerging as a cornerstone of a more creative and conscious business world. ”

The research also reveals groundbreaking insight into the sources of workplace meaning. Workers rank personal growth, in that they can develop their inner selves, as the biggest source of workplace meaning. Other top drivers include: professional growth, a shared purpose, and being of service in work that helps others. In companies with cultures of strong social support, workers rate a collective sense of shared purpose as the most important way work feels meaningful.

Company culture significantly impacts the meaningfulness of work, the research shows. Employees with strong workplace social support networks find more meaning in work. Meanwhile, toxic workplace behaviors, such as bullying and exclusion, drive down meaningful work scores by 24 percent.

The study’s findings suggest a number of concrete steps that companies can take to increase meaning and purpose for their employees. These include offering more flexible work options, recognizing the “knowledge work” entailed in every role, supporting shared purpose across company culture, and protecting against toxicity.

“Providing meaningful work requires investing in employees at both the individual and cultural level,” says Dr. Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, head of BetterUp Labs and BetterUp Chief Innovation Officer. “In the long run, both will pay dividends to a company’s bottom line in the form of talent retention and productivity.”

The research is the second major work from BetterUp Labs, which earlier produced widely cited research on  America’s Loneliest Workers. Over the next five years, BetterUp will invest $15-$20 million in BetterUp Labs, a first-of-its-kind behavioral research lab bringing together business, academia and science to fund research to help people be their best selves at work and elsewhere, and to arm companies with tactics to assist.

The full MAP report, which includes other insights including the types of workers who find work most meaningful and at what times of their lives, is available  here.

About BetterUp

Founded in 2013, BetterUp is a mobile-based leadership development platform used by Fortune 500 companies. With a holistic, science-backed methodology, BetterUp develops new behaviors and mindsets that enable high performance amid constant and accelerating change. Through on-demand, virtual coaching sessions, users practice and reinforce new behaviors and skills. Individual growth is measured and tracked. With a diverse range of customers, including Genentech, Logitech and Workday, BetterUp inspires employees to build the skills to thrive personally and professionally. To learn more, visit

Published November 7, 2018

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