Are Your Employees Are Lacking Engagement? Leverage Purpose

Forbes describes employee engagement as “the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals… They don’t work just for a paycheck, or the next promotion, but work on behalf of the organization’s goals. When employees care—when they are engaged—they use discretionary effort.” It’s obvious why engagement is so essential for organizations to foster; It increases productivity, creativity and decreases absenteeism, to name a few of the benefits. And as employers, we’re still not doing a great job; Gallup’s 2021 State of the Global Workforce shows that only 34% of the workforce is engaged.

There are many ideas about how to engage employees, including Gallup’s twelve factors of employee engagement. However, new data indicates that engagement will be hard to achieve if employees don’t have a purpose in their jobs. The data shows that a 10% improvement in employees’ connection with the mission or purpose of their organization leads to an 8.1% decrease in turnover and a 4.4% increase in profitability.

The idea of helping employees see a sense of purpose in their jobs is not new. Gallup includes purpose as one of their twelve factors of engagement, “The mission/purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.” Author Daniel Pink discusses purpose as a significant employee motivator in his book DRIVE. Adam Grant, Wharton’s top professor, and an organizational psychologist, researches and writes about purpose as a way to improve people’s lives at work. Aaron Hurst, the CEO of Imperative, has made it his life’s work to help employees feel fulfilled in their work. Hurst articulated during his 2019 SHRM HR People and Strategy Conference keynote presentation that impact, doing work that matters (purpose) is one of the three sources of fulfillment for people. According to his data from the 2019 Imperative Workforce Purpose Index, 66% of our workforce is unfulfilled. Employees associated the word ‘fulfillment’ with enjoying, making a difference, and love. He states that human beings want to show up and have a purpose that makes them thrive at work. 

Below are two ideas to help your employees find purpose in their work.

1- Make it personal. Organizational purpose becomes personal when the employee understands how their unique contribution makes a difference, i.e., achieving organization or team goals, impacting the community, or helping others. Essentially, purpose becomes personal when someone is doing what they do best to further what they care about. Not every employee knows their personal values, but everyone has things that they care about. HR, a manager, or leader may consider having a conversation with employees around 1) finding out what individual employees care about most and 2) what they do best and how it contributes to what they care about. Help facilitate the connection between what’s important to the employee and how their work makes a difference.

Personal purpose requires regular conversations about the contributions individual employees make in their day-to-day work. Finding out information about what’s important to a new employee is critical during the onboarding stage. However, without proper maintenance, an employee’s purpose can become unclear as change occurs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many leaders reminded employees of their purpose as tasks and goals shifted to meet new demands. As much as things were changing, the employee’s purpose remained the same.

2 – Leverage Managers and Supervisors. Managers and supervisors play an important role in helping employees understand how their job contributes to the organization and its mission. Managers are positioned to authentically help each of their team members identity and articulate what facets of their work they take most personally.

The following questions from Gallup can begin conversations to help employees identify what they care about most:

  • What gets you excited?
  • What frustrates you?
  • Who do you want to make proud?
  • What do you value most in your life?
  • What do you think the world has all wrong?
  • What do you want to be known for?

Ask probing follow-up questions may be helpful too. Gathering specifics will help employees see how the company’s purpose addresses what they care about. It will also help to develop the emotional connection. Managers can help employees identify those experiences that provoke more emotion and connect those to the job. Gallup says, “The more intense the feeling, the more personal it is. And the more personal work is, the more invested employees are in the successes and goals of the organization.”

The proof is in the data – It’s a personal purpose connection to work that engages employees to deliver their best consistently. Purpose is a big word, and it’s about helping employees see the impact of their contribution to the organization or helping others. It’s also about assisting them in developing a story about why they love what they do. If we can help employees find purpose, it will help our organization’s purpose be realized, ultimately providing employees with a high level of life fulfillment.

Employers Council is here to help. Reach out to us for assistance in helping your organization create purpose for your employees.