The Meaningful Workplace: Getting Employees to Respond Positively

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Second in a series

Meaningful Workplaces are built by companies that aim to produce a more meaningful outcome from, and for, their people.

To become meaningful, these companies adopt a new stance vis-à-vis their relationship with their employees. They strive to reduce the distance that’s been imposed through organization structures and prevailing attitudes. They seek stronger emotional connections up, down, and across their enterprise. They see their task as making their company fit for the future by making it fit for humans.

They create a Meaningful Workplace master plan that defines their compelling reason for being, identifies how they want to leave people feeling, and states how they wish the company and its employees will behave.

Building an organizational master plan

They use the resulting master plan to create a common ground of understanding, respect, and ambition. The master plan then serves as the foundation for other initiatives designed to realize a business’ ambition, feelings, and behavior, including:

  • Macro plans” that adapt the company’s structure, policies, and procedures;
  • “Mini plans” that engage groups of employees; and,
  • Micro plans” that engage employees individually.

These initiatives inspire employees to align their intent, attitudes, behaviors, and actions to the meaningful outcome the business seeks. As this kicks into action and becomes increasingly contagious within the workplace, the work experience fundamentally changes for the better, from top to bottom, across silos, disciplines, borders, and cultures.

Employees respond to a Meaningful Workplace

As a company transforms the way it reaches out to their employees, their employees change the way they respond back to the company.

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Employees eagerly engage in the work at hand, align with the company strategies, collaborate with one another, and contribute their energy and skills. They confidently deal with peers, prospects, customers, partners, and suppliers. They proudly tell their family and friends about the company they work for.

And all the other people vital to the business’ success (customers, partners, suppliers, investors, community leaders, influencers) start to sense, appreciate, and are drawn toward the new spirit of shared ambition that emanates from the business.

Did you miss Part 1 of this series? — Being Meaningful: It’s the Key to Better Engaging Your Employees

This series is excerpted from a white paper titled The Meaningful Workplace that was first published at Emotive Brand.

Jerry Holtaway is Director of Meaningful Insights at Emotive Brand. Prior to Emotive Brand, and for the past 30 years, he has served as a creative and brand strategist for a number of world-class brands including American Express, IBM, Lego, Ballard Spahr, Hanson Bridgett, Symantec, Zynga, VMware, and Nokia. Contact him at


3 Comments on “The Meaningful Workplace: Getting Employees to Respond Positively

  1. Jerry – You’ve outlined a series of steps to transform an organization into a ‘meaningful workplace’.  But it doesn’t happen because somebody wakes up in the morning and decides they want to initiate such a thing.  It happens because the leadership team, from the CEO (and ideally, the Board) all the way down, commit to a series of principles, or values, that the organization will honor and model in all aspects of the business.  It then takes a systemic, dedicated effort to execute against those values.  The picture you’ve painted is very rosy indeed, with ideal outcomes, but the devil, as they say, is in the details.  One thing doesn’t always follow the other, and the ‘conversion process’ takes time, money and dedication.  I’m sure you’re not suggesting this, but to blithely attempt this endeavor without fully understanding what it takes can kill it before it begins, and will likely have the reverse effect than that desired. 

    1. Good point, John. It is vitally important not to see this as a “project” within a company, but rather as a fundamental and over-arching shift, from top-to-bottom and side-to-side, of the company’s reason for being and way of being. It can neither be a C-Suite jolly or an HR folly. It won’t just happen; leaders need to make it happen, help it happen, be part of making it happen and keep it happening.

      I hope as this series unfolds, this becomes more obvious…

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