Business leaders today are increasingly aware of the critical need to connect employees to a sense of meaning and purpose at work.
9 out of 10 employees are willing to take a pay cut for more meaningful work.
In a global study of nearly 500 executives, well over 80% believe a strong sense of purpose drives employee satisfaction and affects an organization’s ability to transform. According to Gallup’s most current State of the Global Workforce Report, “[Employees] are now driven more than ever by company mission and purpose, and require a workplace culture that delivers it.” They’re right; research also shows that more than 9 out of 10 employees are willing to take a pay cut for more meaningful work.When it comes to a company’s sense of purpose, customers are also weighing in. This is especially true among millennials and Gen Z, who are most likely to vote with their dollars for companies that are dedicated to improving society or the environment. The population at large is also becoming more highly attuned to companies’ moral compasses: in a recent study, nearly three-quarters of adults who were polled agreed that public companies should be mission-driven as well as committed to customers and shareholders.
As much attention as these ideas have received lately, the concept of meaningful work is hardly new. We all know that feeling connected to a broader sense of meaning through our work is a core part of what makes work — and life, even — enjoyable for us as human beings.
But as companies grow larger and more complex, employees can quickly become further removed from the core purpose that unites them. Showing up for work each day feels like drudgery to millions of Americans. With just 33% of U.S. employees reporting a strong sense of engagement at work, it’s more important than ever for leaders to make a stronger effort to connect people to a sense of purpose at work.
Purpose, however, is not something that can simply be conjured up by well-intentioned leaders. Just as customers can sniff out an inauthentic brand, so too can employees sense when a company’s purpose and set of shared values are just words on a wall.
The challenge leaders face is that integrating an authentic sense of purpose throughout the entire organization is no easy task. It means clearly defining and articulating an authentic purpose, or “north star”, and then mobilizing every employee, regardless of role or job level, behind it. Clearly, this is a feat that’s easier said than done — but it’s not impossible.
At Blue Beyond, we call the connection between a company’s people and its broader purpose the “Line of Sight.” In other words, it’s the through line that connects the company’s higher-level purpose to the work of each department, team, and employee. Drawing the line of sight can be done in three phases, described below.
The power of purpose comes into play when each individual employee understands how their efforts align to it.
The more clearly that connection can be articulated, the better. There are also little ways managers can help employees feel a sense of purpose on a daily basis. Actions such as saying thank you for a job well done, asking people for their ideas and input, and hosting team celebrations and recognition events are all ways to help inspire a sense of meaning independent from the goals of the broader company.
When a company has articulated its purpose clearly and employees are mobilized behind it, the external brand comes to life as a reflection of the strength of the internal culture. They are really two sides of the same coin, with the sense of purpose authentically extending out into the world to customers, employees, and all who come into contact with your organization.