You should follow your passions. Have you ever heard this? Of course, you have. We all have. Its something we have all heard and said, on multiple occasions. With that in mind, it can come as no surprise that when many employees are asked what they would like from a career some version of passion, purpose or meaningful work is near the top of the list. However, despite this desire from employees being well known, very few organisations have been able to provide it to their workforce. For certain professions, it is of course easy. When you look at polls for which roles and careers are considered meaningful or purposeful, doctors, nurses, teachers are always at the top of the list. But how do you translate purpose to those who are performing other jobs?
There are different types of purpose
To begin with, the problem most organisations make is to focus purpose on some specific business metric such as more profitability. Now whilst this may keep the shareholders happy, the truth is that your average employee is highly unlikely to care about making more money for the shareholders. Instead you need to understand that different employees will find purpose in different ways. The easiest purpose that most can relate to is those that provide personal fulfilment. There are then those that do actually take great pride in the company they work for succeeding. Finally, you have those who find fulfilment in giving back to the community as a whole. But, despite these different desires, it is actually possible to have a strategy that engages all 3 types of individual.
A question every competent manager should be asking their employees is what do they want to get out of their career? By providing an employee with opportunities to develop skills and knowledge to help them achieve that goal, with help them find purpose within the organisation. By allowing them to grow and develop and achieve their career goals, you not only keep them happy, but have an employee who will add more and more value to the organisation. Everyone wins. Another key element of personal fulfilment is allowing them to showcase their personal talents. For example, imagine you have an employee that is passionate about music in their spare time, but they happen to be an accountant. They can achieve personal fulfilment while at work by being empowered to start an internal music group. They could play at company events, teach others how to play an instrument etc. Again, everyone wins. The employee gets to pursue their passion, feels supported by their employer and contributes beyond their role within their organisation.
Individuals who want their organisation to achieve, and actively want to contribute to that success also want to be recognised for their contribution to that success. So, if an employee develops a new product that makes your company a lot more money, make sure they feel their contribution is recognised. If they identify an opportunity to create a more efficient way of working within their department and streamline processes, make sure it is recognised. Quite simple, if they contribute to the organisation, recognise that contribution. There are of course also other ways to contribute to the organisation beyond purely financial and productivity-based metrics. There are others who put great pride in to adhering to and championing the culture and values of an organisation. So, ensure that you are also recognising those who are putting in a sustained effort to ensure the values and culture are aligned to what it says on the company website. Finally, you have those who contribute to the organisation by mentoring the next generation of employees and leaders to ensure the organisation succeeds over the long term. Make sure these folks are also recognised as all contribute to the organisation in their own meaningful way.
Supporting the community
Finally, you have the group of employees that will find meaning not in their own achievements or those of the company, but instead from helping others. Again, there should be no reason why these individuals cannot find meaning and purpose within your own organisation. If you have a group of employees that are passionate about climate change or feeding the hungry, allow them to champion these causes. Provide them with opportunities to volunteer and arrange events to promote these causes. It now only allows your employees to feel that they are part of an organisation that cares about their respective cause, but research also shows customers would prefer to engage with brands that care about more than their bottom line. Once again everyone wins.