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Social Impact Summit 2018 – Well-being and purpose in the NFP sector

Ramon Wenzel and Caroline Knight presented a talk on work design, well-being, and work significance in the Not-For-Profit (NFP) sector to a packed audience at the UWA Social Impact Summit, 2018. This 2-day Summit was part of the wider Social Impact Festival running throughout July. The aim of the Summit was to bring together ‘aspiring and experienced leaders of social change and innovation’ with a view to creating a future where well-being is experienced by all.

Several hundred academics and practitioners attended the Summit, which consisted of a rich and full program of talks and discussions designed to stimulate conversation and action towards fulfilling the Summit’s aims.

Ramon opened the talk by introducing the Centre for Social Impact Australian NFP Workforce Study which he leads. This national survey is designed to research and support individuals and organisations in the NFP sector. Drawing on over 3,000 survey responses collected in 2017, this survey indicates the important relationships between work, well-being, learning, and purpose at work. Ramon presented the broader context of the study, and demonstrated some very funky, free, and live workforce analytics on the study’s website. This allows organisations, employees and volunteers to assess how well they are doing in terms of work and well-being compared to others in the sector, and provides science-driven insights. Currently live again, with yearly data collection planned, we urge those of you in the NFP sector to take part!

As part of the Centre for Transformative Work Design, Caroline delved more deeply into the ability of work design (the tasks, responsibilities and roles an individual holds at work) to promote well-being and develop a sense of purpose and meaning in work. Using employee data from the NFP study, Caroline showed how jobs which are low in autonomy and work meaning are associated with poorer work engagement and self-efficacy, and higher psychological distress. In contrast, those who perceived higher than average levels of autonomy, social support, and sense of meaning and purpose in their work experienced the highest work engagement and self-efficacy and the lowest psychological distress and burnout.

To increase NFP workers’ autonomy and sense of meaning and purpose at work, organisations could encourage workers to decide how they carry out their work and provide plenty of opportunities for workers to meet or receive positive feedback from beneficiaries of their work. Beneficiaries can provide a rich source of information about the value and impact of a worker’s role on others which serves as great motivation for reinvesting effort and vigour into work, with an all important knock-on effect on performance.

Participants' notes of takeaway points around the topic of well-being and purpose at work.

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