Professionals put '˜meaningful work' at top of wish list

Readers of Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy will know that the answer to life, the universe and everything is 42.

Core-Asset's Betsy Williamson says professionals are seeking more than material rewards. Picture: Contributed
Core-Asset's Betsy Williamson says professionals are seeking more than material rewards. Picture: Contributed

But when it comes to the search for a new job, it seems that professionals in the fields of finance and law are looking for more than just a number.

A new study by recruitment specialist Core-Asset Consulting has revealed that the quest for “meaningful work” is the most important factor when it comes to choosing a new role, ahead of other considerations such as pay and benefits or work-life balance.

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More than a quarter of those surveyed across the financial, accounting and legal sectors in Scotland ranked “meaningful work” as their top criteria, while flexible working was most frequently cited as the least important factor, with some 23 per cent putting this at the bottom of their wish list.

Betsy Williamson, managing director of Edinburgh-based Core-Asset, said: “It may come as a surprise to many that ‘meaningful work’ is the most common number one factor in people choosing a job, particularly as this is a survey of financial, accounting and legal professionals. But however you interpret the term ‘meaningful work’, it seems clear that white-collar professionals are now seeking much more from their career than material rewards.”

Williamson said the findings had “far-reaching” implications for employers and urged them to set out a clear “driving purpose” beyond profit alone, showing how staff can make a difference beyond the office.

“This can include things such as the creation of a financially secure future for customers, tackling environmental issues and transforming local communities,” she added.

Core-Asset’s study comes after the Trades Union Congress (TUC) said that 42 per cent of low-paid young parents felt they had been penalised after asking for flexibility at work, while almost two-thirds were unaware of their right to take unpaid parental leave.

Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, said: “Too many workplaces expect mums and dads to forget all about their kids as soon as they walk through the door. But it’s a nightmare to plan childcare when your boss changes your shifts at the drop of a hat, and you never work the same weekly hours twice.”

Work-life balance researcher Dr Shainaz Firfiray, an associate professor at Warwick Business School, said: “A number of businesses are reluctant to extend the right to request flexible working to all employees. Often this reluctance stems from the belief that offering such work arrangements to all employees would negatively impact their competitiveness.”

But Williamson said firms that “recognise the importance of meaningful work will do better in attracting and retaining the best people”.