Andrew is the CEO of a tech startup that manufactures lightweight fitness trackers. A few months ago, he has stumbled upon a problem. His employees weren’t engaged and weren’t bringing their creativity and innovation to their jobs. They weren’t performing up to their potential and he had a hard time figuring out what might be the reason for the disengagement.
During his time of hardship, his business friend Amy, a CTO of a digital corporate wellness platform, invited him to visit her company’s offices. Familiar with the culture of most new-age companies, Andrew expected to see people disengaged and bored with their jobs. Instead, what he saw were positive, 100% engaged employees collaborating together and going the extra mile to please the customers.
When he asked Amy how this could be, she replied: “The key is to deeply connect the people to their purpose”.
A Harvard Business Review study discovered that nearly 71% of executives think that employee engagement is highly important for achieving organizational success. On the other hand, only 24% said that their employees were sufficiently engaged. This phenomenon is known as “the engagement gap”. Organizations around the globe are looking for effective ways to close it.
What became evident for Andrew that day was the fact that it was time to change the way his employees worked and time to integrate purpose into the workplace. The future of work incorporates creating purpose-driven organizations.
What Does “Finding Purpose at Work” Mean?
Bill Damon, the author of Path to Purpose, gives a definition to the phrase:
“Finding purpose at work is a long-term, forward-looking intention to accomplish aims that are both meaningful to the self and of consequence to the world beyond the self.”
Purpose in organizations is different than their missions. For example, Apple’s mission is being a leading computer organization, while their purpose is creating high-tech and innovative products. Nike’s mission is to sell shoes, but the purpose is to get kids off the couch, out the door and on to better lives.
Today’s workers, especially the millennials, seek a sense of purpose in their jobs. When employees have a sense of purpose at work, they feel passionate, innovative, and committed.
“For some of us, a clear financial upside to our work gives meaning; for others, it might be in our work relationships, participating in innovation, or serving people in need”, says Leah Weiss from TEDx.
Anthony Burrow, a social psychologist at Cornell University studies how having a sense of purpose can impact your behavior. During one of his experiments, students had to climb a steep hill known as the Slope. The objective was to identify the relationship between a student’s sense of purpose and the degree of difficulty with which he/she regarded the hill. The study showed that those students who reflected on their higher sense of purpose before climbing the hill, still saw the slope as challenging, but the link between effort and slope overestimation was diminished.
This study is educational in a way that it teaches us that short-term goals are not enough to motivate employees correctly. If an organization's goal is increased engagement, then that organization has to find ways to deliver its greater purpose and vision to its employees. It has to serve a bigger purpose beyond its products and services.
Four Ways to Create Purpose-Driven Organizations
Are you looking to create a positive working environment in which your employees will thrive and prosper? Follow these four tips and revolutionize your organization.
1) Build a Purpose-Driven Organization Around a Purpose-Driven Leader
Purpose-driven organizations revolve around purpose-driven leaders. If you’re the leader of your organization, then you need to take the first step and create a meaningful, motivational, and enthusiastic working environment for your employees. You need to design work that better serves people and society.
How can you turn these written words into real-life action?
As a purpose-driven leader, in addition to a performance review, you should create a “purpose review” which will tell you whether your employees find purpose in their work.
Moreover, you need to think of ways how you can increase organizational trust and transparency. Your organization must become a place where mistakes are regarded as a way of making progress, and difficult conversations mean that the employees love what they do.
You should put an effort to connect with your people on both an emotional and transformational level. Ask your employees for their input, encourage purpose-driven conversations, and always keep them in the loop for important decisions.
Last but not least, never forget to celebrate milestones together and congratulate your employees for their efforts. Take a moment to recognize people and accomplishments instead of simply moving on to the next task.
At Adeva, we have a super-fun “tradition” where each employee gets a taco for a job-well-done. Getting a taco translates into “you’re an exceptional employee who never fails to amaze us with a daily dose of innovation and creativity”.
"At Adeva, we believe that great developers are distributed everywhere around the world. And, our purpose is to bring them the exciting opportunities for growth that developers in the global tech centers have. Building our team around this vision helps everyone understand what they work for. At the end of the month, it's not just about the payroll or achieving their own career goals. There's also a sense of contribution to a world where everyone has the same opportunities no matter where they were born." - says Katerina Trajchevska, co-founder of Adeva and a purpose-driven leader.
2) Create Opportunities for Growth
Nowadays, having opportunities for growth in the workplace is a high priority for employees. They have a strong desire to grow professionally and fear stagnation. According to Gallup’s report in 2016, the generation that values development more than any other generation are millennials. Development is a top factor in employee retention. Nearly 87% of millennials rate professional growth opportunities as highly important when applying for a job.
As millennials make up roughly 40% of the workforce today, you should expect them to demonstrate a strong desire to enhance their skills and further their careers. If their work doesn’t have meaning, they’re not afraid to leave.
If you wish to attract and retain talent, you should invest in their futures, advance their skills, and mentor them to become the best workers they can be.
From onboarding and training programs to culture-building activities such as film festivals and sports, you should be creative with the growth opportunities your organization will offer.
3) Bring the Impact of Their Work Close to Your Employees
To foster a sense of purpose in your employees, you must help them understand how their work makes an impact. By bringing the impact of their work close to them, your employees will feel like what they do matters and will find the motivation they need to engage with their jobs.
Does your company have a social responsibility? Does it give back to the community? Let your employees know. According to a study by The Society for Human Resource Management, roughly 94% of millennial talent want to put their skills to benefit a cause and 57% said there should be more company-wide service days.
A creative idea would be to organize a program where your employees can share their stories of making a difference. A great example is KPMG’s program, called the 10,000 Stories Challenge. Employees used a user-friendly design program to create posters that showed what they did at KPMG. The posters captured their passion and connected it to the organization’s purpose.
4) Employees Should Have the Opportunity to Collaborate and to Inspire
Great things can happen in the workplace when people collaborate. If your employees are able to engage and collaborate with their coworkers, to seek out their knowledge to help solve high-level issues, this can help employees and the organizations as a whole to address cross-disciplinary issues.
What’s more, you should find the positive energizers in your organization and unleash their talent to inspire others. These purpose-driven people with an optimistic orientation can assist you with every step of the cultural change. They can help you open your employees’ minds to perspectives they may not have thought of before. If some of your employees lack a sense of purpose, the positive energizers will mentor them into changing their thought process and finding purpose at the workplace.
What Happened with Andrew’s Startup Business?
When Andrew became the CEO of his own company, he did not believe in the power of higher organizational purpose. After meeting with Amy, he decided to examine his management skills and was open to what she was saying.
He focused his energy on creating the workplace of the future. One where his employees will feel like they were doing something meaningful. He took steps aimed to align the organization with an authentic higher purpose that intersects with his business interests. The company soon became an initiator of various community projects aimed at creating awareness on healthy living and its benefits.
What’s more, his startup became an incubator for learning and development. Along the way, his employees became more committed to the organization and the higher purpose that drives it. A transformation began to take place and engagement scores climbed. Andrew’s startup was flourishing and this was only the beginning.
By helping your employees find purpose at their work, you can transform an entire organization. Instead of having bored, unmotivated employees whose career stagnates, you’ll be an employer of a dedicated workforce that gives its energy freely and cares for the organizational progress.
- Today’s workers, especially the millennials, seek a sense of purpose in their jobs. When employees have a sense of purpose at work, they feel passionate, innovative, and committed.
- If an organization is looking to increase employee engagement, then that organization has to find ways to deliver its greater purpose and vision to its employees.
- A purpose-driven organization of the future should revolve around a purpose-driven leader.
- The organization of the future must create opportunities for growth.
- The organization of the future must connect the people to the purpose.
- Employees should have the opportunity to collaborate and to inspire others.