Purpose and meaning are now more important than ever in the workplace. This is particularly the case with the rise of the millennial generation in the workforce.
In some ways, it should come as no surprise that a sense of purpose is integral to any successful work environment. After all, if employees embrace a purpose-driven mindset as they go about their work, they are more likely to be engaged, resulting in not only higher performance and productivity, but overall levels of job satisfaction as well.
Creating Purpose in the Workplace
Who, ultimately, is responsible for fostering that sense of purpose in the workplace? Is it up to the employees to bring that trait with them? Or, is it up to the organization’s leaders and/or training & development staff to create that sense of purpose in the workplace for their employees?
According to futurist and author Jacob Morgan, that responsibility is shared by both parties. In an article for Inc, Morgan says:
“The greatest sense of purpose comes when both the organization is able to connect what the employee does to the impact they are having and when the employee shows up with an open mind, ready to contribute and give it their all. This is not a one-sided solution.”
Though it’s ultimately up to employees to follow through, leaders can encourage them to embrace those attributes. From an organizational perspective, what can be done to develop and foster a sense of purpose in the workplace? Here are a few of the ways this can be accomplished:
1) Connect What Employees Do with the Impact of Their Work
Employers can help to foster a sense of purpose in their employees by helping “connect the dots” to understand how what they do makes an impact. Most want to feel like what they do matters. However, by creating a sense of meaning and purpose in what they do, companies can help their employees find the motivation to engage with their jobs.
According to Big Think expert and Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at IBM Jon Iwata, this is especially important to millennials.
In a Big Think video on the topic of millennial values, he says:
“The purpose of their work matters greatly to them. They don’t want to differentiate what they do in their personal life from what they do in their professional life. It matters to them… And they assume that the companies they work for or engage with are going to engage with them on that basis.”
2) Create Opportunities to Grow and Learn
Along with the need for a sense of purpose is the accompanying need for a sense of mattering as an employee. This extends to employees feeling like they matter enough to their organization that its leadership invests in their training, education, and professional future with the company. This means training all employees and not just the select few. Offering training only to a specific group can decrease employee morale and lead them to feel undervalued or unappreciated by their employer.
Organizations should develop a culture of learning to increase employee engagement. Employees who actively engage in learning are more innovative and feel more prepared to take on challenging tasks as a result of feeling more competent and confident in their abilities.
3) Adopt the Collaborative Leader Action Model to Leadership
Dan Pontefract, a Big Think expert and Chief Envisioner at TELUS, developed the Collaborative Leader Action Model (CLAM) for TELUS to increase employee engagement through a specific approach to leadership, which it effectively did by nearly 90%.
According to Pontefract, the “six C’s” of successful leadership that are part of the model include the following steps:
- Connect. This step highlights the importance of continuously connecting with people on both an emotional and transformational level.
- Consider. This entails considering as many options as possible and the leader asking the people around them for their input to make decisions.
- Communicate. Once the decision has been made, it’s important to communicate it with the people they have been connecting with to keep them in the loop. It’s about being proactive in communication.
- Create. This is about taking the next step to execute what has been decided and communicated (but doing so in an engaging way).
- Confirm. This step is the one in which a leader ensures that what has been decided on and communicated to the people that they have connected with has actually been done. This important step helps to keep people focused and also holds them accountable.
- Congratulate. An often-forgotten step in the leadership process is to celebrate tasks and congratulate people. This involves taking a moment to recognize people and accomplishments rather than simply moving on to the net thing.
4) Create Opportunities for Employees to Collaborate or Mentor
Although teamwork can sometimes feel inefficient, collaboration is an important tool in any professional’s toolbox. Being able to engage and work with others, to seek out their knowledge to help solve high-level or technical issues, can help employees and organizations as a whole address cross-disciplinary issues.
Additionally, these interactions can help to open employees’ minds to topics or perspectives they may not have previously considered. This means that if they lack a sense of purpose about a task or function, their interaction with someone else who has a different perspective may help them to change their thought process and find purpose in the task for themselves.
Employees who have an opportunity to mentor others may gain a different perspective when they are able to share or impart their knowledge to others by teaching them something. These kinds of opportunities enable more experienced employees to provide guidance to those with less knowledge or experience who may be struggling in a particular area.