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Finding the
Why in Work

Blog Post

A purpose-driven culture leads to excellence

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Mark Keeton, Vice President
Solution Management

Do you know your company’s mission and vision? Chances are you and most of your employees can recite them.

But when you ask your employees about the company’s purpose, what do they say?

If you get blank stares, then you likely have some work to do or you could be on the verge of losing some of your top employees.

Purpose-driven work means that employees feel as though they are making a meaningful contribution to the greater good. If asked, they can tell you how they are contributing to the greater good directly or how the company is making a difference in the world.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Purpose-driven work can be more important than pay

Research shows that employees who find purpose in their work are more motivated, engaged and productive. In fact, according to the KPMG report, “Purpose Driven Work: The Importance of Connecting Candidates with a Cause,” research has shown that almost half of today’s workforce would take a 15 percent pay cut to work for an organization with an aspiring purpose.

The KPMG report also cites a Northwestern University study that indicates that “organizations that are perceived as purpose-driven and particularly socially responsible affect employees’ sense of meaningfulness at work.”

So how do you get there?

  • Take stock of your company. Are there employees who put forth the bare minimum of effort in their work? Are they watching the clock? Or do you have employees who are going above and beyond what’s required — employees who seek out or propose new projects that will impact the company and the community?
  • If you’re adding employees, make sure you are hiring for fit as well as skill set. There can be a temptation to fill spots to get people in the door. But, if they don’t feel connected to the company’s purpose, they may go just as quickly out the door when they find a new opportunity.
  • Ask your employees what they think the company’s purpose is. Don’t get caught up on titles or levels in this exercise. You want to really listen to what your employees are saying. Purpose is difficult to mandate.
  • Be ready to let go of employees who don’t share your purpose. It’s OK. Sometimes people don’t connect.
  • Remember that if people are compensated well and fairly, they will be less concerned with financial incentives and more interested in performing well.
  • Give employees an opportunity or time to try new things or spend time on whatever they want. One company gives their employees 24 hours to work on any project they want as long as they report back their results during a fun and relaxing work session. Giving employees this freedom has helped solve some recurring client issues and generated new products for the company.
  • Give middle managers the opportunity to become purpose leaders. When these managers feel empowered and understand their own connection to the company and the greater good, they will evangelize to their employees. It’s easy for this group in particular to become bogged down in the mire of day-to-day work. Reinforcing their role in the greater good can reenergize them.
  • Capitalize on the unofficial leaders in your organization. The person who may not be a director by title but who knows everyone and knows how to get things done is a hidden gem who can help others in the organization understand the mission. People in this group will be your “purpose” ambassadors.
  • Don’t make purpose work a one-and-done exercise. Your purpose should be shouted from the rooftops and shared consistently with new and seasoned employees. Each of them should be able to explain the purpose and feel connected to it.

If you can’t quite convince your leadership team that purpose-driven work is critical to attracting and retaining workers and creating a culture of satisfied employees, let them know it’s also good for the bottom line.

According to LinkedIn’s 2016 report, Purpose at Work,” 58 percent of companies with a clearly articulated and understood purpose experienced growth of +10 percent during the three years preceding the study.

The bottom line? Identify and share your purpose with your team. The more connected they feel to what you are doing, the more engaged and excited they will be about their work. You will experience less turnover and may even see better financial results.

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