Improving Purpose & Meaning @ Work
I hear so much about the growing importance of purpose and meaning at work. With the “great resignation”, or more accurately, the “great attraction” to record high job openings, it makes sense that organizations are paying more attention to this. Creating more purpose and meaning at work is complicated. But will create a worthwhile return on investment by increasing engagement and discretionary effort.
When I work with clients to improve their employee engagement, we usually need to start by enhancing purpose and meaning. At the macro level, the company needs to be clear and transparent about the organization’s actual value proposition or “lived mission”, and how this value proposition is aligned with their work. Then they need to make sure that their jobs are structured to create as much autonomy, mastery and purpose (see Daniel Pink’s excellent book Drive) as possible.
Once a client is clear on their value proposition, then they can create their talent acquisition and retention strategy. According to the Hogan Personality Assessment, there are 10 motives, values, and preferences that contribute to engagement, suitability and happiness with an organization and role. They are: recognition, power, hedonism, altruism, affiliation, tradition, security, commerce, aesthetics and science.
When I work with an executive who is unhappy in her/his role, if it is not due to dissatisfaction with the boss relationship, it is often a misalignment between their main motivators and the company’s mission. For instance, if the executive’s highest motivators are commerce, security and recognition, working in a commercially focused, high paying, for-profit organization is likely to be fulfilling and feel purposeful. If, however, their main motivators are altruism, affiliation and science, they would likely be happier in an organization that has a more human-centric mission (e.g., that exists to improve people’s lives).
Sometimes, the organization is doing a good job aligning their mission with their talent acquisition strategy, easily attracts talent, but can’t retain it. In this instance I recommend they conduct a climate audit to assess the leadership and roles. It’s important to design roles with as much autonomy (agency), opportunities to develop (to build mastery), and purpose as possible. And then ensuring that leaders know how to create a work climate that nurtures this, will improve retention.
A couple years ago I was working with a client and as part of the engagement project, I suggested that we conduct “stay interviews” to see why employees choose to stay at the company. We found that the top motivators included: it was a fun place to work where employees could build strong relationships, including friendships and be well compensated for the work they do. When we shared the data with the CEO, he was a little disappointed. I wasn’t surprised or disappointed. The data made total sense to me. I could see that the affiliation, commerce and hedonism (which mostly means "enjoys having fun") motivators were common attractors for their employee population. Many employees felt it was a fun place to work and stayed due to the meaningful friendships they made. You could do a lot worse!
The bottom line: when organizations are clear and truthful on why they exist, operate aligned with their values, communicate their value proposition honestly to their employees and prospective employees, and strive to make their jobs as rich as possible, they are much more likely to attract and retain aligned and energized, “best-fit” employees.
Moira Clarke founded Leadership Consulting Partners 21 years ago to collaborate with leaders, teams and organizations to create more productive, effective, and human people systems and practices. If you are reading this to the end, and you find value, please say so and share with others on LinkedIn and Twitter. Thank you!
Welcome to Moira's blog. I write a (mostly) monthly post about the work of building better work places: people strategies, systems, teams and leaders.