Work with a Purpose.

How purpose and meaning in the workplace can lead to greater employee engagement.

After the wildness of 2020, companies are beginning to reach a new normal again. In the latest Gallup poll, that has had a positive impact, with employee engagement up 3% over the previous year. When employees are engaged, they’re more productive and more enthusiastic, produce higher quality work, and are much more likely to stay at their company. 

In one study, 71% of managers saw employee engagement as the number one reason for their company’s success. The correlation is clear: when employees are more engaged, businesses succeed. 

Employees are more likely to be engaged if they are working toward a purpose. With the protests and social upheavals last year, it’s more important than ever that employees feel like what they’re doing matters. When employees feel as if they’re contributing to an important cause, they will be happier, more productive employees, and the company will benefit as a result 

It can be hard to define what a company or individual’s “purpose” is, but it’s integral that both the company or organization and its employees have a clear idea in order to foster a purpose-driven workplace and get the benefits of such. 

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. What is your “Why?”

Popularized by Simon Sinek, companies should consider what their “why” is. A company’s “why” should be clear and compelling, a part of the company’s mission statement and “story.” Your employees—from top to bottom—should be able to recite your “why.” It should be an essential part of the interview, onboarding, and review processes. 

As stated here, “…a company’s purpose is a bold affirmation of its reason for being in business. It conveys what the organization stands for in historical, ethical, emotional and practical terms. No matter how it’s communicated to employees and customers, a company’s purpose is the driving force that enables a company to define its true brand and create its desired culture.”

When a company truly knows its “why,” it’ll be able to unite its workforce around it and job candidates will have a better idea if a company is a good fit for them or not. 

Individual employees should also have a sense of their “why,” of what their own personal mission statement is and how it pertains to the overall “why” of the company they work for. Human Resource departments would do well once the company has figured out their “why” to hire an executive or career coach to work with their employees on how they personally determine success. This may help in restructuring the organization if you’ve been considering that, as well as helping a company’s individual employees address what would they need to get out of their work to feel like it has meaning. 

2. Is your purpose more than just words? 

General Mills’s purpose is “making food the world loves.” The emphasis on “the world” and, thus, everyone, explains why General Mills chose to make all Cheerios cereals gluten-free: “We remove all the wheat, rye, and barley grains from the Cheerios’ oat supply so everyone can enjoy our tasty little Os.”

The same is true for CVS. Their purpose is “helping people on their path to better health.” In 2014, CVS quit selling tobacco products. Continuing to sell tobacco products went against their company’s purpose. 

If your purpose doesn’t link up to action, there will be a noticeable disconnect. When your employees aren’t working toward a clear purpose, the company and its output suffers. 

Recognize that purpose is more than just words, and make sure that all decisions, actions, sales, etc. clearly line up. A company or individual’s purpose means nothing if it’s not backed.

3. Are you keeping it simple?

It’s likely that everyone has heard more than once in their lifetime: “keep it simple, stupid.” A company or an individual’s purpose doesn’t have to be lofty. 

Merriam-Webster defines “purpose” as “something set up as an object or end to be attained.” A purpose for your specific department could be something as simple as “making the buying process easier” or “selling superior products.” 

This adage also applies to decision-making. A purpose-drive workplace shouldn’t be caught up too much in the minutiae of overanalyzing. It should always come back to, “Does this align with our purpose or not?” 

Engaged employees help a company succeed. You can foster greater employee engagement by getting a true sense of your company’s purpose and uniting around that. It’s worth it because more engaged employees means more company successes. 

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