I was just discussing this with a colleague the other day, and I couldn’t agree more:

Many employees today are motivated by an interest in meaningful work, not just economic rewards.

Christopher M. Michaelson, an assistant professor in UST’s Ethics and Business Law Department recently published an article, “Teaching Meaningful Work: Philosophical Discussions on the Ethics of Career Choice,” in the Journal of Business Ethics Education and discussed some of the ideas related to his study of “The Importance of Meaningful Work” in The Magazine from the MIT Sloan Management Review.

I imagine this is part of a generational shift, but Michaelson notes that it is not just one generation that is shifting:

On a generational level, older workers near retirement may be looking for work that is potentially more fulfilling, even if it is less economically rewarding. Meanwhile, the desire for meaningful work also seems pervasive among today’s young entry-level workers, a generation known, at least in the United States, for a lack of organizational loyalty and a demand for a flexible work environment.

When we look at applicants for admission to the UST MBA it is good to see someone who has a career focus—and whether that be a focus on a “traditional” business area like finance or marketing, or something like education or non-profit management—that knowledge of what you want to do certainly helps in finding what work is meaningful to you. Michaelson takes this a step further and conducts a classroom exercise asking students about the job they want and the work they would like to do, with very interesting results:

The findings have potentially important implications for managers and for human capital strategy; businesses and their managers need to plan for a future in which multiple aspects of “meaning” will need to be factored into the enticements that attract and retain the best employees.

Read more about this study and the questions Michaelson asks in MIT Sloan Management Review.