Make sense of the workplace
The modern workforce needs purpose in their daily work. Here’s how to find a purpose, message it, and reap the benefits.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed office workers home and eliminated many commutes, employees have had more time to reflect on what their work means to them, personally, as well as how their work is related to the world.
According Gartner Research, 65% of U.S. employees said the pandemic has caused them to rethink the role work should have in their lives. Additionally, 56% said the pandemic has also made them want to contribute more to society. In other words, employees are looking for purpose and meaning in their working lives.
People started thinking, “If I have to work that hard, I want to like where I am,” says Amy Polefrone, president of HR Strategy Group LLC. American workers indicate that they want to find meaning in their work if they devote so much time and energy to a company.
It turns out that most people consider their day job to be the primary way to access a sense of purpose, as opposed to outside of working hours. According Research McKinsey and Companyup to 70% of workers believe their sense of purpose is related to their work.
Along with the change in working arrangements that the pandemic has brought about, Polefrone highlights the work-related health impacts that workers face as a result of their work. She says the pandemic has made people question the reasonableness of their workloads or the emotional challenges of their days.
According to a Indeed survey in 2021, more than half of American workers reported feeling burnt out due to the demands of their jobs. Burnout is more than a tough time at work; it can lead to mental and emotional turmoil, and stress can even manifest itself in physical symptoms.
According to Polefrone, as employees examine more of their health consequences at work, they realize, “I don’t want to die for this.” And if a worker doesn’t like where they are, they see other companies hiring and leaving the organization in hopes of a better, healthier environment.
Rob Seay, COO at Artigem, has helped large organizations define their purpose during times of change, particularly during mergers or reorganizations. While the goal has been important to organizations since before the pandemic, he says the change in work environment has taken the conversation further.
Work-from-home or hybrid workplace models have blurred the experiences of unique corporate cultures. When workers are on their laptops in their home kitchens, “What’s the difference between me and an employee of one company versus another?” Seay asks. In the office, employees could experience the corporate culture through relationships with their colleagues, as well as the office environment.
The differentiator now is the purpose the job brings to the employee, he says.
What is the point ?
Individuals can find meaning in their roles through their ability to connect the dots of the relationship between their role and the rest of the company, says Polefrone. This sense of purpose can also be extrinsic, as with nonprofit work that benefits a community or cause. But burnout can still happen. Polefrone says she works with a nonprofit that has recognized the emotional impact of work on staff. The organization has therefore found creative ways to combat this burnout, including through their work culture, excellent PTO and benefits including counselling.
Companies with strong purpose statements succeed in aligning internal and external motivations, aligning individual values with those of the company, says Seay. “Companies that are really successful in this area have this vision and perspective that it’s both internal and external.”
When it comes to a mission statement, core values and vision, the purpose is also aligned. Seay finds people can get caught up in distinguishing between these posts, but “the truth is they’re so closely aligned that it’s okay if they’re very similar,” he says. The focus should be that when talking to employees, customers and customers, they have a clear sense of why the organization does what it does, Seay says.
How do organizations identify purpose?
Identifying the purpose of an organization takes time. Seay says leaders can easily get caught up in tactical goals and day-to-day tasks, but not having a goal in mind for the business could send them spinning.
When Seay helps business leaders identify the purpose of their organization, he asks the following questions:
- Why do we want to be known?
- What impact do we want to have in the industry or market?
- At the end of the day, what is something simple that can resonate with people?
It’s also important to include employees in the conversation. Seay says he sees success when organizations involve employees to help set a goal. When employees contribute, they are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and contributing. Seay recommends asking, “What impact do you want to see from the company that speaks to you personally?”
Polefrone adds that HR should take time with employees, bring them together in small groups to ask them what is important to them. Ask questions such as: “What do you hear? Where are we going? Where can we improve? People will share, says Polefrone, and there might be easy solutions revealed by employees.
“So, of course, do something about it,” she said. Leaders can show the meaning and purpose of the organization by taking concrete actions suggested by employees. “Really, if you’re going to listen, do something,” Polefrone reiterates.
Seay echoed the sentiment that leaders need to be accountable to act on the comments. When asking employees for contributions, the leader should also be responsible for making the changes. Seay says that’s the biggest challenge in the goal: bringing it to life.
Where should the goal appear for the organization?
Once the organization has defined a purpose statement, Seay recommends taking a step back and thinking about how to bring it to life, through other initiatives throughout the employee lifecycle. “This is not a tick box initiative. It’s permanent, it’s ongoing, and it takes dedication and attention,” Seay says.
Seay shared examples of where the goal can appear:
- Recognition efforts: Badges or awards given to staff should highlight aspects of the purpose as a business and how people can live the purpose on a daily basis.
- Recruitment and Job Branding: Highlight and present the purpose of the recruitment process and onboarding.
- Training and development: Invest in areas focused on the business objective.
- Promotions: If an employee is championing a goal, ask yourself if they should have more opportunities for career advancement and developing new skills.
- Daily communications: Build a purpose into meetings and other messaging to employees.
When communicating an organization’s purpose, respondents to a PwC study, Putting the goal to worksaid they preferred to hear about the goal through leadership messages and employee stories from business leaders, team leaders and company-sponsored events.
Polefrone adds that the goal should also be part of the marketing of open roles. She even hears companies talking about having marketing teams work with HR to better communicate the company’s purpose and align it with the employer value proposition. “HR needs to ask marketing for help, and marketing needs to see that HR needs help. There is mutually assured success if these two groups work together,” she says.
Marketing teams can help HR with job descriptions, making them more than boring job descriptions confusing with legalese, she says. “It has to seem attractive, fun and that they can see themselves in this work. That’s how you help people from the start. Just from the job offer, people should be able to imagining yourself working in the organization.”A humble job offer is actually no longer humble – it’s essential,” says Polefrone.
The conversation about purpose should also be ongoing among staff. Polefrone says managers should use regular meetings to show their direct reports how connected they are to each other and to the organization.
What if the goal changes?
The same way businesses have changed during the pandemic, an organization’s personal values and purpose can also change, Seay says.
Although lens thinking should be part of daily endeavors, lens adjustment need not be so frequent. Seay says whenever something big happens in the business, it’s a good time to revisit your focus. When staff or customers start asking, “What does this mean for the organization?” is a good indication of having a pulse among staff or forming a client focus group. “Take a pulse to see if what we’re doing still makes sense.”
Seay says companies shouldn’t change each employee’s core values, but leaders need to be clear about the company’s values so everyone is informed upfront and can talk individually about where the values don’t match. not.
What are the results ?
According to LinkedIn Objective: a practical guide, purpose-driven companies perform better on talent, with 29% more applicants for their roles and 10% more hires. On the staff side, goal-driven professionals are 30% more likely to be high performers and they are 50% more likely to hold leadership positions. The LinkedIn study also found that purpose-driven professionals have 11% longer tenures at their companies.
“At the end of the day, you really want to have the people whose individual purpose aligns with the business,” because they’re going to be the most productive, Seay says.
PwC’s 2016 Putting Purpose to Work survey also found a link between purpose and tenure. Millennials are 5.3 times more likely to stay with an organization where they feel strongly connected to its purpose. Older generations are also more likely to be loyal to their organization when the goal aligns, although at 2.3 times lower rates. Despite the importance of the goal, the survey found that only 27% of business leaders helped employees connect their own goal to the work of the company.
Polefrone echoes the fact that employees are more likely to stay with an organization that shares a goal. People crave communication and have meaning in their days. With the talent market tightening, making employees’ workdays and lives more meaningful can help reduce the aforementioned costs such as revenue and productivity.
“Companies can’t afford to just procrastinate,” says Polefrone.