Ikigai – one word to improve learning and boost satisfaction

More and more, work and home life are blurring. Flexitime, remote working, the gig economy, all contribute to this reshaping of work. But sometimes what you do for money and what you want from life are still compartmentalised. Unlocking that could be key.

A purpose in life feels like something rarely discussed in British culture. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, but there is no word to really nail it down. We have passions, and underlying values, and we may talk about goals or ambitions, but they are all subtly different. This is where we can learn something from the Japanese.

The word Ikigai (pronounced ee-kee-guy) gets straight to the point. Translations seem to vary slightly but they home in on these principles:

  • A reason for being
  • A reason for getting up in the morning
  • The thing that makes life worth living

Working towards your ‘ikigai’ has been said to provide a more fulfilling life and even elongate your life expectancy. In fact, according to the Psychosomatic Medicine journal, a study of 43,000 Japanese adults revealed that having a lower sense of ikigai was associated with a higher risk of mortality.

Having a sense of purpose is clearly positive. But also very personal. For one person that may be to make the world a better place, to another – give the kids the best life possible.

Does your work align with your purpose?

Helping people understand their ikigai could be a great thing to do. Linking work to this life-goal could help to add meaning, motivation and ultimately satisfaction. The challenge is not everyone connects these goals to the workplace.

An employee may work in finance, through a real affinity with numbers. But their passion may be in the natural world. So, whilst accountancy courses might help them achieve the next level in their career, learning about edible plant species could give them a sense of progress toward their real drive and passion.

Yes, work competencies are important, but shouldn’t they be coupled with anything that can boost happiness and loyalty? A business who helps you towards your wider life goals is likely to be more appealing than one that doesn’t.

Bringing ikigai and learning together

In an ideal world, your managers are close to their team. They know the people, their drivers and what makes them individual. But realistically this is not often the case. And even if they do know this, do they really know their sense of purpose?

Consider this as quick guide on how to use ikigai in your workplace:

  1. Understand your employees ikigai. Get under their skin and really get to know what makes them happy, beyond work. Face to face is the best way, but digital tools give you a wider scalable option.
  2. Choose a catalogue of courses that is going to compliment those needs and an LMS that is going to surface them in the right way.
  3. Encourage employees to widen their learning, focussing on the needs of their role but also their life passions.
  4. Make ikigai a discussion point between managers and staff. Support people in their wider goals and see where their passions and work can come together to benefit everyone.

Kevin Ashley, Managing Director, has always believed in the importance of getting to know employees. He says, “Making time to truly get to know your team can often be hard, but it’s hugely important. I often hear people saying that they learn more about a team member when they leave an organisation – but this is too late. The Japanese clearly have it right with Ikigai, an idea I encourage people to consider, and something I will continue to adopt with my own team over the years.”

Some tools to help

What started as an LMS at myAko, is now much more. We’ve always wanted to make people’s lives better and that sense of purpose has driven us to expand our solution with many more features. Use our survey tool to get employee feedback, promote initiatives through our company broadcasts, surface learning through our intelligent LMS, and set out ongoing learning goals with our personal development plans. Rather than multiple contracts and providers, we aim to bring all of your solutions into one site.

We want to help employees get more from their work relationship. And we want to help you get more from your employees as a result. Give us a shout and we can help you tap into the real sense of purpose that will move your employees forward.

Get in touch on 01202 80600 or hello@myako.com .

Written by Simon Andrew, Consultant and Director at Me[plural], on behalf of myAko.

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