Four ways to build purpose at the workplace

Purpose has become the driving factor for employees to bring in new meaning to their work, help them quantify their efforts and the difference they are making throughout the process

Updated: Jul 5, 2018 12:20:23 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

Every organisation has a defined purpose, which may or may not differ from others, but it does exist at the heart and soul of great a endeavor and gives meaning to the work done. Purpose-driven companies may be more successful as it is the key ingredient for a strong, sustainable and scalable organisational culture. It is on the basis of the defined purpose; that a team can set their strategies and work towards their organisation’s objectives or goals.

We can get a glimpse into the impact of purpose through a study by the O.C. Tanner Institute on ‘The 6 essential aspects of workplace culture to focus on today’, where a large-scale quantitative survey was conducted to understand key aspects that every organisation should be paying attention to attract and retain talent.

One of the key aspects happened to be the organisational purpose and basis their findings which were: • 71 percent of employees say their organisation has a clear purpose
• 54 percent of employees say their organisation’s purpose motivates them
• 30 percent of employees say their organisation’s purpose does not reflect what is important to them.

In a nutshell, purpose has become the driving factor for employees to bring in new meaning to their work; it helps them quantify their efforts and the difference they are making throughout the process. However, there are a few steps, which help in reaching the set goal:

Define and live your company purpose
The initial step is to choose the right tool to communicate the organisation’s purpose and achieve it. Many organisations have not clearly articulated their reason for existence as a ‘purpose’; this has been passed on to different levels, making it difficult to deliver the proper message to the designated target.

Employees at all levels long to connect to something bigger and more important, and have the need to feel like they are contributing to changing the world through their work.

Organisations need to have a fresh communication approach and need to use it to define their purpose that team members can connect to or engage with. Only then will they understand what's expected from them and will be willing to go beyond defined roles.

Hence, the organisation needs to connect the ‘why’ to its goals and the desire of every employee to make an impact. Communicating to employees how they fit into the organisation's purpose, will help make their work meaningful.

Communicate to inspire and impact
Companies need to inspire and impact their employees not only through emails or messages, but by also talking about the organisational purpose through various examples. These examples make the purpose of an organisation justifiable, relatable and achievable. Examples build cases and allows employees, customers or stakeholders relate to it and lets them feel the impact created by the organisation and its message.

The company’s intranet, social media sites and websites are an important tool to showcase the purpose and examples.

Revisit & Review
Every experience and activity conducted have some learnings and are focused on results. Employees need to bring up activities undertaken in each quarter, as it will serve to gauge their progress and help with strategies to achieve pending targets the company is aiming at.

During the ‘Internal Brand Communication’, ‘Employee Engagement’ and other CXO level meetings, leaders need to bring the organisational purpose up to to understand its reach. Leaders need to showcase examples and achievements during their town halls and other group meetings.

Appreciate, uplift and build stories
The final step is to appreciate the work done which will keep the employees motivated. This step needs to be a part of the recognition framework, which gives leaders an opportunity to connect and motivate their team to continue doing great work. Such stories could be shared on social media as it will position the company and its leaders as an example and showcase what the company stands for.

To summarise, proper communication on ‘purpose’ influences the complete ethos of an organisation at macro and micro levels. Today organisational leaders need to focus greatly on building a purpose for the organisation and create a value-stream that encourages employees to follow their career goals, and in turn, strive to do great work. After all, success demands singleness of purpose, and efforts and direction towards achieving it is all that matters in strive towards excellence.

The author is Zubin Zack, Managing Director, O. C. Tanner.

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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