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The Real Purpose of Purpose (And How to Connect Your Employees to It)

by | Mar 29, 2022 | Articles

The nature of the workforce has shifted in the last five years.

Between 2017 and now, VUCA has become more prevalent in the business world. It stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous, and this is the catchall for “We live in crazy times!”

You’ve been challenged to embrace the reality and complexities of our VUCA world. Because if you won’t, you know it can cause poor decision-making, it can threaten long-term projects, and worse, it can overwhelm everyone in your team.

In addition to this, strategies to attract and retain talent have shifted too.

Companies used to have the upper hand when it comes to recruiting the best talent. Now, the traditional benefits are no longer enough. It’s no longer just about the money; employees are asking, “What’s in it for me? Is there growth for me here?”

Candidates and employees want connection; they want something bigger as a driver for working.

Moreover, entire new sub-departments within HR teams are dedicated to improving the employee experience.

If leaders and organisations don’t keep up, they will run the risk of losing talent to a competitor.

So how can we facilitate this when the world is in a constant state of flux?

Find and connect to purpose.

What’s the Deal with Purpose?
If you’re sceptical about the power purpose holds, you’re not alone. Many leaders think purpose is just a motivational tactic. A well-worded fix-all statement slapped on an eyeroll-worthy poster.

Purpose begs to answer the question, “Why are you here now? Why does your organisation exist?” It’s aspirational, and it gives people a sense of meaning and how they are making a difference in the world.

When purpose-driven employees meet a purpose-driven organisation, the result is incredible. LinkedIn published a global report where they stated that purpose-driven professionals…

  • Are 30% more likely to be high performers
  • Have 11% longer tenure
  • Are 50% more likely to be in leadership roles
  • Are 47% more likely to be promoters of their employers

How to Activate Purpose and Connect Employees to It
Pieces of research from Science of Purpose show that when employees believe that their work is significant and meaningful, they are 4x likely to be engaged and they learn faster. In a survey by PwC, 79% of leaders believe that aligning their people to an inspiring purpose is key to success.

McKinsey’s 2021 study reveals over 70% of employees said that their employer contributes to their sense of purpose. This makes sense. It’s in our human nature to want to connect to something bigger than ourselves. We want to feel good! We strive to make sense of everything we encounter so that we can construct a way forward.

How can you connect purpose in your people? More importantly, how can you create a purpose-led culture?

Lead with purpose.
It needs to start with you, the leader. Take to heart your organisational purpose, values, and the employee value proposition that were articulated when you first onboarded in the organisation. More importantly, as a leader, it’s your responsibility to share the purpose and the company’s vision and clarify the path for the future.

Show people why and how their work matters.
The cure to demotivation is letting people know how they and their work are important. Tell them how their work impacts lives. Show them the difference they made. Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton School, shared that encountering one person that your job impacts can dramatically improve your motivation and productivity by 400%.

Here are examples of how other companies are showing the positive effects people’s work created in others’ lives.

  • Volvo. Collecting stories from drivers and passengers about how Volvo’s safety designs have saved their lives.
  • Wells Fargo. Managers show videos of customers saying how bankers’ loans have enriched their lives and made their dreams come true.
  • Medtronic. At an annual company party, the company invites patients who have benefited from the company’s medical devices to tell their life-changing stories.

Let people know how their work contributes to a bigger piece of work.
There’s popular legend that you probably already know. John F. Kennedy was about to give a speech to inspire USA to rally behind the Apollo missions. In the NASA headquarters, he saw a janitor mopping the floors.

“Why are you working so late?” Kennedy asked the janitor.

“Mr President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”

Work becomes meaningful when you tie daily tasks to a bigger goal. Make your people see how their core tasks are helping the organisation achieve a bigger goal. Inspire them to not lose sight of what they are ultimately trying to achieve.

Conclusion: Stay Ahead of the Pack
In the last five years, we have seen how purpose-led leaders are stepping up.

Gone are the days where leaders’ value and worth depends on how they contribute to the business’s bottom line. Today, great leaders are so much more.

They embody the organisation’s purpose. Because they understand that it is not just words on paper. It defines the company’s existence. It is the company’s North Star that lights the way forward, even through the dark times.

Be a purpose-led leader. At Red Wolf Group, we help leaders lead their pack with confidence. Explore how we can help you here.