It is quite possible that the maid who cleaned your hotel room last month finds greater purpose in her work than the nurse who helped deliver your cousin’s baby last summer (congratulations, by the way!). How can that be? How can people performing seemingly unglamorous work find greater joy and purpose than a healthcare provider or even a CEO?
Turns out most of us have a deep desire to find meaning and purpose in our jobs. It also holds that there is no such thing as a meaningless job. Gallup research finds agreement across the full spectrum of work with the statement: “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.”
Examples persist all over the business world where companies build an amazing culture, and where most of the employees feel incredibly connected to the “why” of their work, even when performing seemingly mundane tasks.
How does this happen? Turns out this phenomenon, unlike almost every other important factor in employee engagement, is driven mostly from the top down. Leaders at the top of an organization need to bring to life the values, purpose, and goals of the organization in any way they can. In large organizations, this means upper management needs to instill a passion for the “why” in each of the managers below them and so on down the line. The research shows that employees feel less connected to the mission as you work your way down the org chart. This is a problem because customers are served and individuals are supported by front-line staff, not upper management.
So what can we leaders do to bring the mission/purpose of an organization to life?
Ensure the purpose of the organization has meaning and is not just a platitude. It should be both realistic and inspirational. At IBEX our purpose is to “Empower and inspire great workplaces.” We empower by constantly seeking to improve the systems we offer to customers, thereby empowering them to do what they do better. With so many of our customers, being non-profits with inspirational purposes of their own, this takes on an important meaning for us. We inspire by working very hard on our own workplace and sharing what we learn with the world. This blog is one example of that.
Talk about the purpose often and – more important – walk the talk. If the IBEX leadership talked about empowering and inspiring, then cut corners on our standards for our software or service, or if we suddenly stopped investing in the many things we do to inspire our team and share the journey, there would be only one word to describe us – hypocrites.
Make people decisions that support your purpose. Your purpose is your purpose and not something you change, so if you have people on your team who are turned off by it, they must go. Likewise, when you have candidates from which to choose and some are aligned with your purpose and others are not, hire from the aligned pool.
In the end, people want to find purpose in their work. To have an organization where most of the people discover, feel, and live the purpose requires considerable work and attention from the leaders of the organization.