It's easy to start feeling cynical about work if you don't feel you have a "calling." So as counterintuitive as it might seem for some businesses, more employers are seeking to instill a sense of higher purpose in the workplace.

According to The Wall Street Journal, a growing number of companies look to give employees some elbow room to find their calling within their existing job, with the goal of boosting job satisfaction and employee retention.

The Journal cites as one example accounting firm KPMG's recent initiative to inspire employees to find their higher calling at work.

"We can see ourselves as bricklayers or cathedral builders," KPMG Global Chairman John Veihmeyer said in a motivational video the company shared with employees.

One-third of individuals feel their line of work is their calling, according to research from the Yale School of Management. Regardless of profession, these workers tend to feel more satisfied with their jobs, accrue fewer absences, and work longer hours overall. What's more, cultivating a workplace culture with a focus on personal career growth can be a big recruiting advantage.

But many people aren't so easily swayed by motivational messages from higher-ups. One KPMG employee said the company's campaign video was "over the top," causing him to ruminate on his job's lack of meaning and reinforcing his fear that, in order to do any real, good in the world, he would have to leave the company.

Avoid laying it on too thick. Try directly discussing your company's impact on society to more sincerely communicate with on-the-fence workers. KPMG found that when managers talked about intrinsic meaning with employees, nearly twice as many said they would stay with the company than when managers didn't discuss company meaning at all.

Think about it this way: By helping customers book low-cost trips, travel agencies could be helping customers cope with the recent death of a loved one or enabling them to visit family they get to see only once every few years. Router-and-switch builders are bringing education to developing countries and helping scientists find cures for deadly diseases. Auditors at KPMG take the worry out of doing tax returns, so all of these professions can focus on what they do best. And great bosses help their employees find meaning in what they do.

Published on: Feb 25, 2015