Work should be meaningful, too

Keywords Opinion

Greg Morris’ Aug 29 column “Don’t forget that work needs to be fun” resonated with me. However, I’d like to suggest that positive feelings about work, commonly referred to as job satisfaction in the field of organizational behavior, is experienced when work is meaningful.

I have been helping Indianapolis businesses assess job satisfaction since 1991 and teaching the concepts related to job satisfaction at IUPUI since 2002. Job satisfaction is correlated with greater customer loyalty, better safety, lower absenteeism and lower turnover rates.

Local employers, like Café Patachou, understand the far-reaching implications of job satisfaction. In 2007, Café Patachou used my services to assess job satisfaction. Petite Chou in Clay Terrace and Patachou on the Park had recently opened, and while Martha Hoover, Patachou’s owner, was not overly concerned about the current level of employees’ job satisfaction, she knew her company was on the brink of expansion. She wanted to establish a baseline of job satisfaction.

The compiled results were remarkably high. One survey item read, “My work is important to me; it’s more than just a job.” Ninety-two percent of employees agreed with this statement and that included dishwashers and back-of-house employees whose positions are frequently considered less “meaningful.”

Meaningful work starts with business owners and managers who train staff, obtain feedback about improvements and make new technology available. It is enhanced by employees who are well-selected for their positions and have an aptitude for the work they are doing.

Indiana University Health’s ability to respond to the state fair crisis shows a rare combination of these ingredients. Cokie Scheidler, a nurse for 21 years, was one of the first nurses to arrive at IU Health [the night of the accident]. Cokie had numerous employer-provided trainings for mass casualty situations but had never put her knowledge into practice. Staff preparedness led to superior medical attention, including three to four nurses and two to four doctors per patient, as well as plentiful support staff (X-ray technicians, pharmacy technicians, supply clerks and housekeeping personnel).

Cokie told me, “I have never been so proud. I strongly believe the patients at Methodist received the best medical care they could have received—even those patients who were unable to survive their injuries.”

Job satisfaction is more than having fun at work. It is mutually created by the employer and the employee and has substantial implications for both.


Sarah Robinson
Associate Faculty, School of Public and Environmental Affairs, IUPUI
Owner, Fresh Concepts

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