According to a recent article by McKinsey & Company, nearly two-thirds of U.S.-based employees reported that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused them to reflect on their purpose, that is, the "enduring, overarching sense of what matters most in a person's life." Seventy percent of employees said that their sense of purpose is defined by their work, and over sixty percent indicated that they wanted to get more purpose from their work.
In my 25 years of working with thousands of companies I have found four key strategies that any company can take to help increase the sense of purpose all employees experience and better links them to the pride they have in their company and their work: 1) Create a clear and compelling mission and vision, 2) Build out the company's purpose in your employee orientation, 3) Embed purpose into your ongoing work processes, and 4) Systematically reinforce your mission and values on a daily basis.
Create a Clear & Compelling Mission & Vision
To provide a larger perspective and context for employee purpose it's important to provide employees a clear and compelling vision of the organization as told through its strategy and mission. If employees don't know--or aren't inspired by--what the organization is trying to do, they'll find it more difficult to summon up the motivation to succeed. Frances Hesselbein, president of the Leader to Leader Institute, once put it this way: "No matter what business you're in, everyone in the organization needs to know why."
Build out the company's purpose in your employee orientation
Clarifying one's vision is a useful starting point for deciding what is most important for the organization--and its employees--to focus on to be successful. And the result needs to be a compelling purpose that can inspire everyone. "A vision is not just a picture of what could be, it is an appeal to our better selves, a call to become something more," says Harvard professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter.
Embed purpose into your ongoing work processes
The vision and mission then needs to be translated in ways every employee can impact. For example, at British retailer Marks & Spencer, each business area writes its commitments on a poster, which is then displayed publicly. This way commitments are visible to all and become a way of working, rather than an action plan that is put in a drawer.
Systematically Reinforce Your Mission on a Daily Basis
To sustain an organization's mission and purpose, you need to systematically reinforce its principles and practices on a daily basis. Recognition and positive feedback are fundamental drivers for creating a company culture where employees feel proud of their work and the mission of their company.
Companies who are serious about doing recognition right typically invest in a software platform that integrates and aligns individual, group and organization recognition around mission, strategic objectives and core values of the company. Do the four strategies described in this article and you'll be well on your way to having employees fulfilling more of their purpose at work.