“Help your employees find their purpose – or watch them leave”
Work takes up a large part of our daily lives, with the average full-time worker dedicating 37.2 hours a week to their jobs. With certain sectors such as law having employees dedicating more than 11 hours a day to their firms. It only makes sense that over 70% of people say their sense of purpose is tied to their work.
Individuals who feel a sense of purpose from their jobs feel more life satisfaction, energised and healthy. And within work, they also report more pride, better engagement and have a greater sense of achievement.
There are many benefits for companies who have a purposeful workforce:
- increased productivity
- higher resilience
But we must be careful. It cannot just be another corporate initiative, you cannot force purpose, and you certainly cannot force that purpose to align perfectly with your corporate mission.
For upper management and executives, deriving purpose from work may be clearer. But what about ‘the little guys’, those frontline workers who make the whole process happen, what drives them?
In BetterSpace, I am in a fantastic position to find purpose in my work. Working with a smaller but rapidly growing company, I can feel the passion from senior management for our mission. I have direct lines of communication with the people who created BetterSpace. I understand ‘why’, I understand ‘to what end’ and when I see ‘the numbers’ and ‘targets’ which may strike fear into sales staff everywhere, I am reminded daily by our CEO that these numbers are people, people we have helped take control of their wellbeing.
Now not every organisation can create a direct line of communication between every single employee and the CEO.
So, where do we start?
What can we control
The only thing businesses are able to control here is their purpose. Why does the company exist? We can talk about profits all day long, and they are important for company survival, pay salaries, and grow. But that’s unlikely to drive your non-executive employees beyond making themselves present and ‘just get through the day’.
Motivation theory has long criticised the idea that ‘money talks’. So now what?
Ask yourself, does your company consider its role in society? Do you consider the impact your company is having on the lives of others? What differences are you making to the world? What positive social and environmental impacts are you making for the people who buy from you AND the people who work for you?
If you do consider these things, then great! Then ask yourself, are your senior executives and top management living the company purpose every day? Do they bring this to every client meeting, every 1-2-1, every performance review? BetterSpace COO, Helen Gillett, recently talked about how companies and leaders can start living their values; it is well worth reading.
If your companies purpose is merely a slogan, a marketing tactic, then how on earth can we expect our employees to live them too?
Living your values within the day to day life of your organisation and making them known is the best way to attract talent who have similar values sets. This can make supporting those individuals in fulfilling their purpose a much more straightforward task.
Start the conversation
When we want our people to reflect on their purpose, we need to start by opening up lines of communication.
At BetterSpace, through our culture of radical honesty and openness, we are always talking about what drives us. Many company cultures are quick to shut down “non-work-related chatter”. In BetterSpace, we welcome this. We start Tuesday and Thursday mornings with informal conversations with randomly selected people from across the business. One rule, you are not allowed to talk about work. We talk about our hobbies, our families, some people feel comfortable enough to talk about personal hardships, we celebrate achievements. We are encouraged to actively listen and be open-minded.
Amazing things can happen when employees feel comfortable enough to express themselves freely without fear of negative consequences. I work in an organisation where “How are you?” is not an informal greeting but is meant as a sincere question (you can imagine the surprise of new joiners when they discover this). Of course, this may not be entirely realistic for every organisation, size and mission.
However, the most important thing is to create a safe space for your people to explore their purpose. It could be like BetterSpace, where it is just a common topic of conversation for us, or like Unilever who allow all of their employees to attend workshops on finding their purpose.
Help them achieve their purpose
This is the most obvious step and the hardest, as Tim Munden said in our Wellbeing Works webinar.
“If you help people to really find words to describe their purpose it is as infinite as human beings are, as varied, as rich.”
It’s a fantastic thing, but it also makes it very difficult to ensure you’re helping all your people achieve their purpose.
Encourage your people to think about how their purpose aligns with the companies purpose and how they can fulfil that within their daily activities. Beyond that, the best thing an employer can do is to create a safe environment for employees to self-advocate for advancement opportunities, training opportunities, increased responsibility and flexibility within their job to focus on their purpose.
Purpose Statement Exercise
After our conversation with Tim Munden, I was inspired to start thinking about my purpose. So I decided to write my purpose statement.
I started by asking myself 3 questions:
- What makes me angry? e.g. social injustice
- What things make me happy? e.g family, friends
- What are things do I want to do in the future? e.g. travel
The purpose behind these questions was to extract what makes me tick and what drives me. I then asked myself two more questions.
- What am I good at?
- What do I find challenging?
This was to make me think of the skills that are at my disposal which I could use now, while also making me reflect on areas I would like to grow.
I then gave it a shot:
My Purpose is….
To hear as many stories as possible from people of all walks of life, be inspired by those stories to do better, be an advocate for the voices no one listens to. To enjoy the incredible gift of living through travel, good food and friends.
How my role at BetterSpace helps me fulfil this…
As a content creator, I am a storyteller and a gatekeeper of stories. I have the opportunity to help people with their wellbeing by making them feel heard and seen. As a marketer and educator, I can advocate for employees across the UK to feel like their mental wellbeing should be a priority.