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The increasing importance of meaningful work in the Interim Executive sector

​Having a sense of purpose can make the difference between simply making a living and creating a fulfilling life. In a world of evolving workplace dynamics, the concept of meaningful work has emerged as a powerful force shaping the Interim Executive sector.

The quest for meaningful work

At the heart of employee engagement lies meaningful work—a concept that transcends job titles and salary figures today. Meaningful work entails a deep connection between a person’s contributions and their organisation's purpose and mission. It's about valuing the impact and value created rather than fixating on productivity metrics.

In the Interim Executive sector, leaders play a pivotal role in fostering a culture of meaningful work and skills development. When creating a winning employee value proposition, they must ask the question: "How is my organisation crafting meaningful work with a strong focus on purpose and the community in which we live?"

The impact of The Great Resignation

Recent years have seen the ripple effects of The Great Resignation, during and after the pandemic, where record numbers of employees left their jobs in search of more purposeful, flexible, and satisfying work. In response, employers have had to redefine their Employee Value Propositions (EVPs) to attract and retain talent. Additionally, industry leaders are striving to stay ahead in the war for talent by adopting two new dimensions added to the well-known HR model of Buy, Borrow, Build: Bind (retain key talent and skills) and Boost (fast-track planned promotions).

Job mobility at an all-time high

Recent data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) suggests job mobility is at its highest in the past decade (9.5%):

  • 1 in 5 workers and 24% of professionals have changed jobs in the past year

  • a further third have been in their role for less than four years

  • 2.3 million people left or lost a job in the year ending February 2023, but the annual retrenchment rate was 1.4% – the lowest on record since 1972.

Top 3 factors for meaningful work

Research by Bain & Company emphasises three key factors in the pursuit of purposeful work:

  1. Make work interesting – Continuous learning and growth are central to meaningful work.

  2. Connect jobs to the company's mission – Employees who see their contributions as integral to a greater purpose find their work more fulfilling.

  3. Build learning into work – Learning and development should be seamlessly integrated. The ability to acquire new skills and grow professionally is a top priority.

Josh Bersin, Global Industry Analyst explains, “It’s obvious when you think about it. The most inspiring thing about work is the work itself – and the opportunity to grow. Professionals state their ability to learn and grow is roughly twice as important as getting a raise and more than twice as important as the relationship with their manager. This reinforces the point I’ve been making for the last year: ‘The Learning Curve is the Earning Curve’. When you feel you’re no longer growing, it’s time to look for a new job.”

The shift towards the nature of work

While some employers have scrambled to ‘win’ the war for talent by offering more flexibility, more pay, and fast-tracked promotions and succession plans, the dial does not appear to have shifted significantly. Some organisations have also attempted to inspire people with snazzy mission statements, slogans and spin. For example, new versions of the tired old “Our people are our greatest asset” message have also missed the mark.

Watermark Search International’s 2023 Annual Interim Executive Survey (DOWNLOAD NOW) results indicate a significant shift in the Interim Executive sector, with 40% of respondents expressing no preference for interim or permanent positions, while one in ten see interim as a gap fill, Interesting and Meaningful Work (37%): Assignments that are intellectually stimulating and aligned with employees' values and aspirations.

This shift highlights the increasing importance of the nature of work over contractual engagement methods. Several market dynamics have contributed to this change including:

These factors have led to job mobility being at its highest point in the past decade, with employees seeking roles that align with their values and offer opportunities for personal growth. With a rapidly changing job market, professionals prioritise meaningful work over traditional job security.

With the general trend of decreasing job tenure in Australia, we predict more respondents will continue to place more importance on the nature of work than the contractual engagement method.

Tapping into the Interim Executive pool

The Interim Executive sector is uniquely positioned to offer meaningful work opportunities. Interim Executives are known for their lifelong learning, curiosity, digital literacy, and networking skills. They remain relevant by staying informed about market trends and proactively developing new skills.

In 2023, the most significant drivers for choosing Interim Executive as a career of choice (in order of importance rated by respondents) are:

Understanding the future of work

The increasing importance of meaningful work is transforming the Interim Executive sector: professionals seek assignments aligned with their values that provide growth opportunities and contribute to a larger purpose. Organisations that recognise the significance of meaningful work and build it into their EVPs will be better positioned to attract and retain top talent in a complex market.

To learn more about meaningful work and to read about all things Interim Executive, please download our 2023 Annual Interim Executive Survey now.

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