Purpose in the workplace improves engagement and retention for employees
Employees want to see that their work positively impacts the world around them. Fostering a sense of shared purpose supports engagement and retention.
Employees are choosing positions based on a desire to support local and global well-being
Coaches can help organizations identify and foster a shared sense of purpose as a North Star for company culture
Employees that find purpose in their work are more likely to remain engaged with their current company and encourage others to join
Communicating purpose in the workplace supports engagement and retention
Employees are redefining the role of work as they rapidly shift organizations and industries in search of purpose. Instead of viewing work as a means of survival, employees want to know that their work positively impacts the world and their personal lives. Research by McKinsey highlights why purpose is vital for employee well-being and can support greater engagement. The 2020 survey found that 70% of employees tie their sense of purpose to their work, and productivity is higher for those who can live their purpose. McKinsey shares, “These individuals are also healthier, more resilient, and more likely to stay at the company.” To maintain staff and productivity, organizations will need to consider how they communicate purpose internally.
Leaders who can integrate purpose and communicate its value partner with employees to drive growth and innovation. A study by PwC found that how organizations communicate purpose often shows a disconnect between employer and employee values. In the report, purpose helped employees find meaning and community in daily work, whereas employers were mainly focused on the external commercial value of purpose. PwC noted that 79% of leaders acknowledged the benefits of purpose, yet only 34% took action to incorporate it into their teams. Other employee surveys indicate that insincere attempts to integrate purpose can leave employees feeling cynical and disengaged.
Reflecting on her experience at BlackRock, Wisdom Weaver Liz Koehler describes how a unifying purpose— or “North Star”—energizes collaboration. Liz explains, “the North Star connects different departments, different parts of the organization, different teams across the company, and when done well, it creates this sense of pride for people.” Ultimately the pride and community found at BlackRock and other purpose-driven organizations “helps from both a recruiting and a retention perspective.” A 2021 survey by Harvard Business Review highlights how shared purpose and a sense of community are listed as the top reasons for employees to stay at their current company.
Coaches can help business leaders to build a sense of shared purpose that supports engagement and retention by:
- Facilitating meaningful conversations with team members to explore and articulate the organization’s “North Star”
- Identifying concrete steps and initiatives that align with purpose and translate it into tangible behaviors and practices
Purpose supports individual well-being and is increasingly important for young workers
When organizational purpose resonates with employee values, employees are more engaged, happier, and ultimately more productive. Increased employee engagement is associated with reduced absenteeism, accidents, turnover, and product defects, leading to an improvement in sales, profitability, and brand loyalty.
Reflecting on purpose as a core human need, Wisdom Weaver Kristin Saboe—an organizational psychologist and Head of Employee Voice at Google—recalls a study conducted in 1974 by Langer and Rodin linking longevity to purpose. In the study, 93% of nursing home residents who cared for a plant experienced improved health during the 3-week period, whereas 71% of residents who had a plant cared for by a staff saw their condition worsen in the same time frame. As Kristin explains, individual purpose supports well-being, while organizational purpose can create a greater sense of personal value and connect teams over shared purpose. When employees can blend personal and organizational purpose, they are more likely to drive innovation and productivity.
“People want to be proud of what they do and who they work for.”
As a business researcher and thought leader in Conscious Capitalism, Wisdom Weaver Raj Sisodia believes that businesses are uniquely positioned to solve global challenges in a way that creates economic development. He shares, “When you ask the question, ‘Is there a better way?’ the answer is always yes. We just have to apply our creativity and ingenuity as human beings to that question. And there’s no richer terrain for that than business.” While researching organizations with strong corporate purpose for his book Firms of Endearment, Raj realized that these organizations were not only more profitable, but purpose helped support employee engagement and well-being. He also shares that these organizations are more attractive to young workers who are interested in partnering with companies that positively impact the world.
In Latin America, Wisdom Weaver and co-founder of Sistema B Maria Emilia Correa observes that Millennial and Gen Z workers want to see an explicit connection between daily tasks and purpose. While working with HR leaders and purpose-driven startups, Maria notes, “Younger people are saying, ‘I don’t want just to be a little piece of a big machine. My work should obviously give me an income, but I want to know that my work is doing something for the world, people, the planet, and others. And if I don’t see that, then I am not motivated.’” Maria sees employees who are voting with their feet as “one of the most important forces for change.” More than ever, workers are willing to resign and seek different employment for non-financial reasons, including company culture, opportunities for growth, and a sense of purpose.
Coaches can support business leaders to attract and retain workers by:
- Guiding leaders to create a coherent vision of organizational purpose to share internally and externally
- Facilitating a forum for leaders and employees to talk about shared purpose and how that is operationalized in daily work
Energizing the next generation of workers to lead through purpose
On a global level, Generation Z and Millennials want different workplace environments than prior generations. A Gallup poll found that Gen Z and Millennial employees list well-being as a top concern, whereas Gen X and Baby Boomers prioritize ethical leadership. Summarizing the results of the survey, Gallup reveals that older generations are concerned with personal ethics while younger generations evaluate ethics as the impact on people and planet. Young employees want to see flexibility, care, and purpose embedded in the core of the company as part of a larger human-centered workplace culture.
“Millennials are the most purpose-driven generation we’ve ever had, starting in their teens. They grew up with parents who were engaged in their own search for purpose, but they also became aware of the challenges of our world in a much deeper way because of the internet.”
For organizations that can meet the changing needs of younger workers, Wisdom Weaver Rebecca Kirstein Resch sees firsthand how engaged and purpose-driven workers help bring in new talent. She shares, “if you have a good, strong culture, and your employees like working at your company, they’re your best ambassadors for recruitment. This next generation does not want to be sold to; they want real, genuine connection with their employers and their colleagues.” Rebecca’s start-up, inqli, helps hybrid or remote organizations develop individual and organizational purpose and provide opportunities for employees to connect through collaborative and inclusive knowledge-sharing. By creating digital spaces for employees to share information, collaborate, or find volunteer opportunities, inqli is using purpose to imagine a more human remote work culture.
When organizations help employees tap into their sense of purpose, both productivity and workplace satisfaction increase. This strategy can also help young employees identify commonality with peers and build community in the workplace around shared purpose. For managers working to onboard new employees, conversations around purpose can build bridges between team members from different generations and backgrounds. In summary, well-integrated purpose can produce engaged and collaborative teams that support employee well-being, retention, and recruitment of new talent.
Coaches can help business leaders to integrate purpose into their business strategy by:
- Creating internal structures such as human resources policies and benefits that support well-being
- Creating ways for employees to communicate about and collaborate on shared purpose
Business leaders can use coaching skills, such as asking transformational questions, to reflect on strategies to strengthen purpose at work. Here are some examples:
- What does an authentic shared organizational purpose look like for our business?
- How well do we understand the needs, motivations, and aspirations of our employees? What steps can we take to enhance our understanding of what drives them and align their individual purpose with the organization’s purpose?
- What opportunities do we provide employees to actively contribute to and shaper our purpose? And how can we empower them to take ownership and make meaningful contributions aligned with our purpose?
- How are we integrating organizational purpose into brand identity and recruiting strategies?
- What recognition and rewards systems do we have in place to acknowledge and appreciate employees who exemplify our purpose in their work? How can we celebrate and highlight purpose-driven behaviors and achievements?
Coaching Empowers People
In order to attract and retain talent, businesses will need to offer employees more comprehensive value propositions that balance financial and non-financial incentives. Today’s workers are consistently demonstrating that a business’s values and the alignment of its practices with those values are deciding factors in choosing and staying in positions. Organizational purpose must also feel authentic to employees. This involves intentional strategies for communicating purpose, and aligning corporate purpose to the sense of purpose employees feel in their daily work.
A coaching approach can benefit leaders in their efforts to create a robust sense of shared organizational purpose. When employees connected to a meaningful purpose, they are more likely to be motivated, productive, and loyal to the organization. This, in turn, leads to higher employee engagement and lower turnover rates. Additionally, a purpose-driven culture attracts and retains top talent, as individuals are increasingly seeking organizations that align with their own values and offer opportunities for personal and professional growth. Ultimately, coaching can empower business leaders to create an environment where purpose thrives, resulting in enhanced employee engagement, improved retention rates, and the achievement of organizational goals. The shift to purpose-driven work presents an opportunity for businesses to bring innovation and efficiency to solving the world’s greatest challenges of the day, while also attracting and retaining top talent.