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In 'Meaning at Work', recruiter Danny Gutknecht explores what really makes employees engage with their organization -- and how companies can forge that connection.

Book Review: ‘Meaning at Work and its Hidden Language,’ by Danny Gutknecht

Starting out in the recruiting industry, Danny Gutknecht discovered an untapped vein that invited more exploration among his job candidates: They were far more interested in learning how an organization could feed their passion than in the salary, perks or status it offered. Glaring questions led him on an investigation into the nature of employees’ connection to their work. Now, he shares where his inquiry led in his new book, Meaning at Work and Its Hidden Language (Aviri Publishing, April 10, 2017).

While many employees continue to approach work solely as a way to make a living, this attitude is changing. More and more of today’s workers aren’t willing to stay with an unfulfilling job at the expense of living a meaningful life. Gutknecht describes this new strain of workers as free agents who are seeking an authentic connection to their place of employment.

Companies are beginning to catch on, clambering to innovate in ways that inspire their employees to invest their hearts and souls into the organization. But Gutknecht emphasizes that creating this type of magic in the workplace isn’t subject to traditional business formulas that use performance indicators, profit margins and bonuses to encourage engagement.

He points to a handful of corporate flops that illustrate how employee engagement doesn’t adhere to off-the-shelf management solutions. A common mistake for managers is deciding for themselves what’s meaningful about the work without also querying employees. Neither can the formula surrounding meaning become a one-and-done proposition: companies that settle on a static answer for too long risk becoming obsolete.

But a handful of companies, such as Apple, have discovered the hidden code of organizational meaning. These companies, Gutknecht points out, “… have to understand their people and their business deeply, and become a place where their employees can make a difference for the company, while also spending time in work that makes them feel truly alive.”

Among the hurdles to creating meaning within the workplace is the fact that organizations have no language with which to initiate the conversation. Gutknecht addresses this through a process he has developed called Essence Mining, which helps create the essential conversations for identifying shared meaning within a company.

Companies often find that the conversation starts with working together to consider how to define meaning. The strategy helps employees understand ways that they can serve both their personal need for meaning and the organizational meaning. Gutknecht likens the results of Essence Mining to musicians in an orchestra, inspired to play their own personal best in pursuit of a flawless performance for the orchestra.

Meaning at Work offers the tools to help organizations discover their own particular brand of meaning. It also poses the promise that when staff collectively articulate an understanding of their corporate culture, it forges a connection to their work in a way that benefits themselves as well as the organization.

Learn more at

About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.

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