What makes employees care deeply about the job they’re doing? And has the power to keep them committed to their companies, and personally invested in organizational outcomes? Workplace spirituality, which has been defined in the International Review of Psychiatry as meaningful work, a sense of community within an organization, and employee’s belief in the value of their organization. It’s getting a lot of attention recently, as academia and business interests alike increasingly recognize the effects of economic downturns, anxieties around technological replacement in production and other industries, increased competition, and the greater centrality of work to individual identity and values, especially in younger employees. At the same time, the importance of meeting employee’s core needs, including a sense of purpose, at work has grown. Workplace spirituality has also become an established area of study in management and organizational psychology.
According to experts, like UNLV William F. Harrah Hotel College’s Anthony Gatling, workplace spirituality describes a strong psychological commitment to one’s work. While it may sound like it’s religious, it’s really more about employees tapping into your company’s bigger purpose. Think of it as a direct manifestation of your company’s vision, through one employee and their job. When an employee understands the importance of their role in achieving the ultimate vision of the company, and when they can answer the questions of why do we exist, what are we setting out to achieve with their specific jobs, their entire approach to work can shift.
While workplace spirituality is a corporate goal, it all happens at the individual employee level. Each employee must understand the power of their role and its relation to the larger company vision, and articulate that into the story they tell themselves and others about why they go to work everyday. Logically, workplace spirituality is inextricably tied to both the company and the community associated with it. It can’t exist without the context of the company’s vision, and won’t thrive without the sense of community – the recognition that everyone is striving for these higher goals, together.
It’s easy to see why workplace spirituality is so powerful. Think of an employee’s psychological needs at work – a feeling of autonomy, a sense of competence, and the belief that what they’re doing is connected and matters to others. Workplace spirituality checks each of these boxes. When an individual’s role is tied to meeting the highest goals of the company, their individual decisions matter much more. When their ability to excel puts those goals on the line, achievement becomes more meaningful. And when one person’s work is connected clearly to the work of others, an inherent sense of community and alignment is developed. It all boils down to a sense of fulfillment that, when achieved, creates much greater psychological commitment to the job.
So how do you encourage the right kind of workplace spirituality in your employee population? Here are some steps to take:
- Start big, with your company’s vision or purpose statement. Make sure it paints the larger picture of what you ultimately want to achieve.
- Next, create messaging for your employees that details what’s in it for them, too. How will achieving your vision enrich them, or the world? What is their part to play?
- And don’t forget to plan carefully how you will communicate that message to your workforce and ensure it’s easy for them to consume. Communication is just as important as the message itself.
Workplace spirituality happens over time. When employees develop a common understanding of why you’re all there, and tap into it through their roles, the increase in motivation and productivity creates a win for both company and employees alike.