Employee experience | Purpose gives your work value

Purpose gives your work value
Promoted by Purpose gives your work value

When employees see that their work has a purpose, they feel like they are helping to make the world a better place, which makes them more engaged.

A friend of mine once worked in the marketing department of a cigarette manufacturer. At first he saw it as a great job at an interesting company. But one morning he woke up and thought "If I do my job well, I will get more young people to start smoking… how will I explain that to my grandchildren in the future?" He then started looking for another job. This example shows how important purpose is to motivate and retain employees.

What is purpose?

When you are committed to something that really inspires you on a daily basis because it aligns with your own motivations, because it matches your dreams and ideals — that is purpose. You connect your own efforts to a higher goal. Purpose gives your work meaning.

Why is purpose important for engagement?

Purpose helps you know why you go into work every day. This is why the healthcare sector has the highest percentage of engaged employees out of all of the sectors. These employees have generally chosen their profession very deliberately. They are intrinsically driven.

If you can justify the way you earn your money to yourself, you don't have to force yourself to work. You are much freer to be yourself. This stops you wasting energy which you can instead put into your work. The reverse also applies — if you give your employees more space to be themselves, they will have a greater sense of purpose. If you can be your own authentic self, even at work, you will automatically act more on the basis of your own motivations. It is therefore not surprising that research from Utrecht University shows that a sense of authenticity at work is linked to greater engagement.

Helping to make the world a better place

As management, you don't create purpose by constantly harping on about increasing turnover, saving costs and shareholder value. This runs the risk of making your employees forget about why they ever chose their profession. They might start thinking "What on earth am I doing here?" Employees should feel that, by being successful in their work, they are automatically helping to make the world a better place. The latter is especially true for younger generations.

How can you stimulate a feeling of purpose?

Ask yourself questions like "If our organization didn't exist yet, why would we set it up?" and "What is our mission on earth?"  By answering these questions, you can provide employees with the compelling reason they need to really throw themselves into their work.

As management, you should never think "I've already said it once, they know it now." A higher goal that employees can really commit to must be repeated at least thirty times a year. In fact, as a leader, you should mention it in some way at every meeting. You have to keep your mission alive and clearly explain how it contributes to a better world.

It's also important to give employees enough autonomy. They need to feel that they have sufficient space to make decisions in their daily work that they are fully behind.

Story telling about purpose

Story telling is important. For example, at Effectory we refused a large commission because the company wanted to use Employee Listening for the wrong reasons. They wanted to be able to trace the level of engagement back to individuals and thus assess their employees. It was a big commission that involved a lot of money, but we told this customer that we were not going to help them. Instead, the commission went to one of our competitors, who were motivated by money.

Purpose brings pride

We explained this decision internally; Not just once but whenever we could. Every time we repeated the story, we emphasized that we stand by our decision. We do not do staff research for the purposes of discrimination. We believe that the wisdom in the crowd can help improve organizations from within. We want to give employees an equal voice, thereby making companies more successful and improving the world of work. That is our mission and we make our decisions on the basis of that mission. That story makes our employees feel proud. It even awakens their competitive edge. Storytelling about the decisions you make as a company based on your higher goal can greatly help you give purpose to your employees.

Engagement in your work

Guido Heezen, a Director at Effectory, explains the conditions required to create an engaged workforce. Engagement is the extent to which employees revel in their work. Engaged employees learn quickly and are creative. Engagement is a good predictor for customer satisfaction, low employee turnover, high productivity and profitability.

About Effectory International: Effectory is Europe's leading provider of Employee Listening solutions. Every year we help over 1.200 organizations in more than 110 countries. With headquarters located in the multi-cultural center of Amsterdam, and offices in Munich and Cape Town, we facilitate some of the world’s biggest employee listening programs.

Find out more

Comments (1)

  • Ben
    Tue, 13 Oct 2020 3:06pm BST
    Really interesting perspective from Effectory here. Purpose is absolutely key to success and a core part of motivation and engagement. Start with 'Why'!

    I must say, I think their stance on refusing the commission for the client who wanted their services for the wrong reasons was completely the wrong thing to do. From both a business and customer perspective. Don't forget, a key purpose of a business is to be profitable, otherwise, the business will go out of business. And we have a chance to help others see the light. That could even be the purpose of the organisation..!

    It's interesting how the example is held up as being great, and I'd be curious to know how the employees feel about working for a company who will turn away business over and above facing into a challenge and making a positive difference.

    Consider, did refusing the commission actually help the employees of the client?
    It doesn't sound like it did. The article mentions that the commission went to a competitor, meaning ultimately the employees were still discriminated against. Refusing the commission did nothing to help prevent this or steer the client towards the right path. Nor did it help Effectory as they turned away business that could have helped their employees through increased revenue, exposure and experience.

    Instead, could Effectory have taken the opportunity to show the client a better solution? Demonstrate how their product could be used for good? Influencing the client towards a more positive path? Being a good Samaritan means sometimes facing into a problem and helping others to overcome it, rather than simply walking way.

    How about "Showing the world how to be better through data!" being the company purpose? That feels much more inspirational to me. A shallow gesture of "we won't work with bad clients who can't see an alternative way to behave. We certainly aren't interested in investing our efforts in them" doesn't quite wash in my eyes.

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