Help your Employees Find Purpose – Or Watch Them Leave

Help your Employees Find Purpose – Or Watch Them Leave

Given that employees spend the majority of their waking hours at work, it should come as no surprise that employers can have significant impact upon the purpose of their employees.

The tumult of the pandemic has forced leaders of organisations to reconsider people priorities such as employee resilience, well-being and mental health. This re-evaluation which is taking place is a two-way street; employees are also reconsidering their employers in the same light. From all accounts, Covid-19 has made people reflect on their purpose in life, with US research showing a higher proportion of people intending to change jobs since the peak of the pandemic, than prior to the pandemic. These findings have implications for an organisation’s talent management strategies.

People who live their purpose at work have been shown to be more productive at work than people who don’t. They are healthier, more resilient and more likely to stay with a company. As high as two thirds of people (US research data) said that their sense of purpose was defined by their work, so like it or not, an organisation has an important role to play in helping employees find their purpose and to live it.

Purpose is an overarching sense of what matters in a person’s life. People experience purposefulness when they can strive towards something significant and meaningful to them. Purpose is unique for all individuals. Many parts of it come from outside work, but some parts, large or small, inevitably come from daily work itself. An organisation only has a limited capacity and capability to influence it, but what really matters is that an alignment exists between an individual’s sense of purpose and that of the organisation they work in.

Work contribution to an individual’s purpose may be as simple as providing a sustainable and ethical work environment in which to work, or it may provide the opportunity to work in a positive and productive culture; or an environment in which employees can lead, or teach others, or to learn new skills. Non-alignment of organisational purpose with an individual’s needs translates to negative work and life outcomes for employees and inevitably, for the organisation in which they work.

Employers who never enquire if they are contributing to their employees’ sense of purpose, or simply ignore the subject, expose themselves to the risk of employees, “staying but quitting” or seeking out employment where their purpose can be better served.

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