Now more than ever employees are looking for a sense of purpose and meaning in their work. But where does that purpose come from--the worker or the organization?

In the 1960s (or so the story goes) President Kennedy was visiting NASA. While on a tour he saw a man walking down the hallway with a broom and bucket, Kennedy walked over to him, introduced himself and said, "what do you do here?" The man, who was clearly a janitor, replied, "Sir, I help put a man on the moon."

That story has been told and retold because it's a great example of what that sense of purpose at work looks like and how it is something that every employee can (and should) have. But, where does this come from? Is the employee responsible for bring that purpose with them to work every day or is it the organization's responsibility to help foster and create it?

From what I have seen, a true sense of purpose is shared by both parties. On the one hand the organization should help employees connect the work they are doing to the impact they are having. This means doing things like sharing stories, meeting with customers (or with the community the organization is impacting), and creating opportunities for growth. On the other hand the employee cannot just show up to work assuming that they will be coddled and have every single one of their wants met. After all, organizations shouldn't be trying to create Pinocchio Island. Employees must show up to work every day with an open mind - looking for ways to contribute, to learn, and to grow. Their attitude should be positive and they should genuinely try to do a good jobs versus just "going through the motions." Perhaps above all, employee must know why they are working for the organization to begin with. Is it simply for the money or is it because they feel a certain connection to the brand? Either is ok.

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. I talk about this more in the video below. Let me know what you think and if you agree.

 

Published on: Dec 23, 2016
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