Connect to Purpose
As humans, our search for purpose is never-ending. Often, we focus on the meaning of life outside of our careers, spending time with children or grandchildren, volunteer work, or maybe even a passion project/side job. Since most people spend the majority of their day at work, connecting employees with how their position makes a difference can increase ownership and pride, therefore accelerating performance. Leaders can impact the overall success of the organization by bringing people together to contribute meaningfully to a greater purpose.
CONNECT WITH THE BIGGER PICTURE
If you’ve ever wondered, “Does my work actually matter?” you’re not alone. 74% of LinkedIn members place a high value on finding work that delivers on a sense of purpose. People want to feel good about the work they do. Leaders assist by clearly communicating how each employee’s position makes a difference and contributes to the organization’s success. For example, nonprofit organizations have a purpose-driven mission that is made clear to their employees on a regular basis, resulting in employees who are 3x more engaged than the national average.
Organizations connected to purpose look beyond profit to a deeper meaning for their existence. How do we impact the community, the entire world? Help employees see past the sometimes monotonous daily actions of their workday. Let’s think about a night custodian at a school, for example. It’s easy to see why the custodian may suffer from burnout and lack of motivation to continue sweeping and mopping the floors nightly. However, a night custodian who is connected to their purpose knows their work keeps students and teachers safe, healthy, and is necessary to the success of the school.
Leaders who commit to communicating the organization’s purpose as often as sales goals and profits have more highly engaged and satisfied employees. Findings from Gallup conclude that a 10% improvement in employee connection with the mission or purpose of their organization would result in a 12.7% reduction in safety incidents, an 8.1% decrease in turnover, and a 4.4% increase in profitability.
One way leaders can communicate purpose is to share with employees the stories about the organization’s past, feedback from clients and the community impacted, and why other employees are connected to their work. Because stories evoke emotions, they are more memorable and relatable. People are often inspired by the characters in the story and become motivated to achieve similar results or to be used as an example, too. Storytelling keeps people engaged and can help bring the company mission and values to life, which is especially useful while onboarding new employees.
Another way leaders can support their employees’ connection to purpose is by finding work that matters to each person, and empowering them to do more of that work. An employee may be high performer but lacking job satisfaction because their role isn’t connected to their purpose. A change in positions may be all that employee needs to feel satisfied with their job and in line with their purpose in life. When a role change isn’t possible, suggest additional opportunities that can better connect an employee to what’s meaningful for them. Mentoring is a great example; it helps many people feel a sense of pride by contributing to another’s success and the greater purpose of developing others to impact organizational results. Another option is to provide employees with professional development opportunities. People feel valued when their organization invests in them.
Roughly 70% of executives indicate that over the last 5 years they’ve seen an increase in the number of Millennials (71%), Gen Xers (69%) and Baby Boomers (46%) who want the opportunity for more social purpose work while on the job. This desire for purpose at work is prompting HR to rethink certain work policies and 67% of executives say this is compelling HR to work more closely with corporate social responsibility to create new programs that give employees the opportunities to get involved in social projects.
To help employees better connect to their purpose, ask them purpose-related questions during one-on-one meetings. Here are a few examples:
- What do you most enjoy about your work with us?
- Is there anything you wish you could contribute to?
- What do you value personally and professionally?
- How can I as your leader better support your purpose?
- What about your role are you most proud of and least proud of?
WHY ARE YOU HERE?
You may feel like you know what drives you to do the work you do each day. For some this comes easily, for others it can be much harder to pinpoint and communicate. Be honest with yourself about why you are in your position. Is it because the work is meaningful to you, or is the reason financial or otherwise motivated? It’s also helpful to remember as we grow and gain experience, our purpose in life may change, and that’s ok.
To help better understand your purpose ask yourself:
- What are your passions and interests?
- What things would you choose to spend your time on if you had no other obligations?
- What impact would you like to make on others?
- What are your natural talents and gifts?
- Are my talents and gifts represented in my organization’s impact or values?
- At what moments in life do you feel like, “This is what I am meant to be doing.”?
- What or who is inspiring to you?
3 STEPS TO UNCOVERING YOUR PURPOSE
Pay Attention to Your Emotions
Keep track of those moments that evoke an emotional reaction from you. These may be stories shared by a colleague, experiences you felt strongly connected to, or current issues and trends happening in society.
What Do You Keep?
What are your favorite quotes, emails, articles, movies, or videos? Are there any themes or patterns you can identify? What is valuable to you and why?
What Do You Talk About?
What stories do you share with others most frequently? What topics do you find yourself always gravitating to? You may be subconsciously sharing your passions every day through your conversations and social media feeds.