Think about your top-performing employees — their accomplishments, their contributions. Then, think about the reasons for their success. Is it their strong work ethic and leadership skills? The passion and positive attitudes they bring to the office every day? It’s likely a combination of these attributes and more. But, perhaps the most notable characteristic high-performing employees share is the sense of purpose they derive from their work.
We know, based on a growing body of research linking purpose and performance, that companies have much to gain by employing individuals who find meaning in their jobs. Employees who work with purpose experience higher levels of job satisfaction, engagement and productivity than their peers. They’re more likely to serve in leadership roles, hold longer tenures, and motivate and inspire others in the workplace.
Purpose-oriented workers don’t just happen by chance, however — and finding them is only one part of the equation. Employers need to provide an environment that appeals to this type of employee and ensures they stay and grow within the organization. But what does such an environment look like? And how can organizations not only get engaged employees in the door, but cultivate more meaning within their existing workforce?
Here are some suggestions.
Rethink the role of recruiters. Employers must look closely at not just whom they hire, but how. Screening assessments are becoming more sophisticated, and new technologies are automating many of the time-consuming tasks associated with hiring and onboarding. For recruiters, this means more time to engage candidates in meaningful conversations that go beyond the résumé.
Consider asking things like what achievements they are most proud of. What brings them the greatest sense of fulfillment in their work? What do they want others to remember them for? What do they think makes a healthy organizational culture? What impact do they want to make in their community or for the greater good?
These are the questions we’re encouraging our own hiring teams to consider — and while they might not be ones we’re used to asking during interviews, they can give decision makers valuable insights into what candidates expect and desire from their jobs. And, combining a human touch with artificial intelligence, we’ve also started developing our own assessment tool that will screen specifically for purpose and engagement.
Give them the big picture, at the individual level. Do employees know the company’s mission, values and vision? And, more importantly, do they understand how their day-to-day responsibilities help bring those things to fruition? According to Mercer, individuals who thrive at work have a clear line of sight to how their efforts contribute to organizational success. It’s unreasonable to expect that employees without this information will ever find real, sustainable meaning in their work. If employers want to attract purpose-oriented employees, they need to offer opportunities that are, in fact, purposeful — and it starts with defining the impact and value each employee brings to the organization.
Keep the conversation going. Maintaining a highly engaged workforce requires ongoing effort. Things change, priorities shift, and it’s entirely possible that employees who derive purpose from their jobs today will feel differently down the road. Managers have important roles to play in clarifying career goals and identifying opportunities for continued learning and growth. The key? Consistent conversation that keeps employees on a meaningful path forward.
At its core, the discussion about purpose-oriented work speaks to a broader issue impacting our industry. Employees’ expectations and desires are evolving, and given today’s candidate-driven job market, companies have little choice but to adapt. The good news? Employers have lots to gain in doing so — greater employee satisfaction and engagement, a more productive and profitable workforce, and a healthier environment where employees not only enjoy coming to work every day, but are personally committed to moving the organization forward.