Some 70 percent of workers feel distracted when they are at work according to a recent Udemy poll. That means that three out of four workers are not really focused on the job at hand.

There are all kinds of reasons for this, ranging from social media and chat distractions to burnout and stress, but one of the main reasons is that people do not know what they are doing. Literally. 

In fact, 50 percent of people do not know what is expected of them at work according to a Gallup study. If that statistic is shocking, consider the fact that the many employees polled do not feel comfortable approaching management with expectation questions. Lack of clear expectations, in turn, leads to disengagement. 

Here's something else to think about: Most leadership teams do not know what employees are supposed to do either. This is a big problem. It's also one that can be solved with some relative simplicity.

When you provide team members with a sense of purpose, they will perform better. The reasoning behind this is that people want to feel like they are accomplishing something at work and will take pride in work that they can feel good about.

The solution to a general lack of company purpose is, then, to make sure that leadership (at all levels) knows what each team member does and how each member of a team is essential -- but it goes a bit deeper than that too.

Leadership also has to be able to tell employees what their specific purpose is and not reprimand when someone asks about a task or job description. These things won't be integrated into management overnight, but companies can take small steps to ensure that culture is productive, effective, and safe.

Tips to Move Towards a Culture of Purpose

Here are some ways that your leadership team can provide employees with a clear sense of purpose derived from my leadership consulting work in addition to research I've conducted for various organizations. 

  1. Work closely with HR. When it comes to the hiring process, leadership should know who each new hire is, what they do at a workplace, and how they fit into the larger puzzle. If someone doesn't fit, they may not be a necessary hire or may not be the right hire.
  2. Note daily tasks. While micromanaging is never a good idea, it's important to know what team members are working on each day. This will give managers a better overall sense of how each employee is essential - or help to determine whether or not roles are understood.
  3. Learn how to effectively communicate with employees. During evaluations or sit-downs, make sure that managers convey each employee's importance. How are they an integral part of a project? What essential or unique element do they bring to the table? Why are they indispensable?
  4. Be open to questions. Eliminating the fear that comes with asking questions at work is vital. Leadership should be open to questions and have replies that are communicated without anger or frustration.
  5. Allow people to talk. Meetings can be successful if every person attending a meeting has the chance to talk. Meetings should never be dominated by one person -- the more employees are engaged in a meeting, the more productive a meeting will be.
  6. Create a safe environment. Let employees know that it's okay to have an off-day; to rely on other team members on occasion, or know that mistakes happen.
  7. Give everyone the opportunity to "fail better." Even the biggest mistakes come with valuable lessons. Leadership should learn flexibility in the wake of mistakes and help employees learn from those mistakes by discussing the situation openly and creatively.

Workplace culture has come a long way over the past decade -- and we're still not there yet. Culture has to be defined by leadership but more than that, leadership has to teach by example.

It can be difficult to find leaders that are flexible, creative, and cognizant that each employee should feel a sense of purpose. Once this has been accomplished, any workplace culture will thrive.

Published on: Jun 28, 2018