Do the employees on your team understand the purpose and value of what they do?

If not, it’s crucial that you educate them on the significance of their contribution to your company. Purpose and values are vital in creating effective employee engagement because they take what people do day to day and connect that work to something meaningful.

The reality is that most people want to feel that what they do adds value to something bigger than themselves. More and more in this day and age, people don’t just want to log in hours on the clock and collect their paycheck. They want to do work that’s fulfilling. This fulfilment brings meaning to their lives, which in turn allows them to feel more satisfied both in and out of the office.

So how can you add more purpose to the workplace?

First, let’s take a closer look at what purpose is.

What is workplace purpose?

In the workplace, the purpose is the fundamental reason an organisation exists. It provides the connection people make between their work and the overall direction of the organisation. It frames what the organisation does in a meaningful way.

A clear, high level of purpose predicts strong organisational focus. It also brings the following benefits:

  • People are more connected to the organisation’s direction.
  • People feel that they are making a difference to something they consider to be important
  • And therefore, people feel that the work they’re doing has meaning

Purpose creates meaning

Whatever your purpose, it must be meaningful, emotive, and motivating. Rarely are purpose statements only about profit or shareholder value.

For example, consider the difference between these two purpose statements:

Purpose Statement 1: To appropriately manage the human capital assets of our business to provide the greatest organisational value

Purpose Statement 2: To ensure that our people are safe, motivated, skilled and enabled to do their very best work

Most people will feel an emotional connection to the second statement because it provides meaning behind the tasks that are done day-to-day. In other words, there’s a purpose to the team’s daily work: it’s meant to keep people safe, motivated, skilled, and empowered to put forth their best work.

The first statement, on the other hand, lacks clarity, as providing ‘the greatest organisational value’ is too abstract for employees to define on a more human level. What does it mean to provide the greatest organisational value? What does it look like? The lack of clarity fails to connect with employees and thus adds no purpose or value to the work that they do.

When defining your team’s purpose, emotive language is the key. In addition to that, get as clear as you can on not just what it is your team does but why they do it and what the overall benefit of that work is.

How to add purpose to the workplace

There truly is power in using purpose as a motivator in the workplace and managers can benefit immensely from helping fulfill their team members’ desire to contribute to a cause greater and more enduring than themselves.

Purpose isn’t simply about creating a statement that hangs in the office every day, however. Purpose can be seamlessly woven into every workday. When it is, you’ll find that your employees are more engaged and excited about the work that they’re doing.

Here are 4 simply ways to add purpose to your workplace this week:

1. Language

Whether in your promotional materials or staff meetings, be mindful of using purpose-oriented words. For instance, refer to the company as a united team by using words such as “us” and “we”.

Not only will team members start to mimic this way of speaking about the company, but it will cause them to feel as if they’re a part of something bigger than themselves and assure them that they are valued and needed part of the workplace family.

2. Meetings

Additionally, ensure that the company is communicating its purpose clearly and effectively, and that team members understand this purpose as well as the company’s long-term vision. A great way to do this is to regularly talk about company goals and how those goals relate to the company’s overall purpose during strategy sessions and meetings.

This will help team members to see how their individual roles contribute to the bigger picture and they will be more likely to find satisfaction with their work.

3. Focus

Maintain a balance between profits and purpose. Research has shown that profit goals contribute more to an individual’s ill-being than it does their well-being.

Instead, place just as much emphasis on purpose as you do profits. Let team members know the impact their work is having on the external world and how others are benefiting from the company’s mission.

4. Actions

Considering giving back to the community as a way of giving your team members a sense of purpose. When team members know that the work they’re doing is partially funding projects that help charities/nonprofits, it can very often give their daily work meaning.

Consider polling your team members and asking for suggestions as to the organisations they’d like to partner with.

Identifying purpose is absolutely essential in the workplace. Most of us crave to do work that is meaningful, significant and fulfilling. When we understand the ‘why’ of what we do, and how it has a positive impact on a greater whole, it can lead to greater job satisfaction and mental wellbeing.

Which of the above strategies will you use in your workplace this week?

Ros Cardinal

Rosalind Cardinal is the Principal Consultant of Shaping Change, a consultancy specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams and organisations.
Ros is a solutions and results oriented facilitator and leadership coach, with a career in the Human Resources and Organisational Development field spanning more than 20 years. Ros’ expertise spans leadership development, organisational culture, team building, change and transition management, emotional intelligence, organisational behaviour, employee engagement, strategic direction and management.
Ros is a Certified Member of the Australian Human Resources Institute (CAHRI), a member of the Australian Institute of Training and Development (AITD) and a Professional Member of the Australian Association for Psychological Type (AusAPT). She holds a Graduate Diploma in Human Resources from Deakin University, an Australian Human Resources Institute Professional Diploma in Human Resources and has completed the Australian Graduate School of Management Executive Program, Strategic Human Resource Management.