Why your employees need a purpose.

The average person will spend most of their adult life at work, a scary thought and one which prompts the question; Why?

Naturally, as humans we are predisposed to search for purpose, something which will change at different stages of our lives. For example; as a parent, your purpose may be to earn enough money to provide for them and give them a stable life.


Outside of work, our purpose may be more obvious and earning a living by going to work is simply means to achieve that. It is also true that our experience of something depends on what we bring to it. Therefore, if we combine these two concepts, people that know their purpose will generally work more meaningfully and gain more fulfilment from their job.


From an employer’s perspective, staff who feel they have a purpose and are working towards this is their role are likely to be more engaged, more driven and more likely to stay with the company. Studies have shown that when people are working towards a higher purpose, they are likely to have a more positive outlook on life and be more resilient to stress. The same is true in the workplace.


Can employers promote a sense of purpose in the workplace?


If you want your employees to align themselves with the organisation’s outlook and purpose it is important that this is clearly defined. In some occupations this can be obvious for example a midwife’s purpose would be to safely deliver a baby while giving the mother the highest standard of care. While in sales environments, the organisational culture and therefore employees’ purpose are more likely to be monetary based.


It’s important that your employees feel valued every day at work and that purpose is given outside of a monetary value. By celebrating and recognising behaviour that is in line with the values of the business you are more likely to see consistent uptake in this way of working.  This can be done by aligning employee’s performance goals to company values and sharing stories of how the company is making a difference for good in the lives of real people, including customers, employees, and communities. Not only will individuals get satisfaction from achieving their targets, they will also feel their daily work is contributing to a broader purpose.


Having a purpose is key to the future workforce.


Experts predict that by 2020, millennials will make up 35% of the global workforce with Gen Z making up 24%. That equates to more than half the entire workforce population and means that employers much take into account their attitudes to work


Millennials in particular place fulfilment high on their list of priorities when it comes to choosing an employer. This, combined with the fact they are not afraid to job hop means that businesses who fail to provide these workers with purpose will have trouble retaining top talent.


Both of these generations are highly driven but place more value on things over money. In order to get the best from them and enable them to reach their potential within your business it is critical to provide recognition, feedback and flexible working, all factors that contribute to staff feeling valued but also allowing them to prioritise their purpose in their free time.


Can HR play a role?


Feeling that you have a sense of purpose is also greatly down to perspective and attitude which can also be linked to mental health. If someone feels their future is hopeless or there are deep routed mental health issues it is going to be very difficult for an employee to work with a purpose.


Therefore, there needs to be members of the team who have mental health awareness training and a process in place to support people with difficulties.


HR departments can also promote an environment that fosters positive relationships between its employees. This could be in the form of coaching and mentoring schemes or by encourage cross departments to get to know each other. This will build a sense of community for people to confide in each other if they are having a problem and will make the work environment a more positive one in general.


It is certain that working with purpose has positive effects on employees and organisations alike but with new generations entering the workforce this is becoming more of a priority for businesses. Those able to adapt and encourage this way or working are more likely to attract and retain the best talent.


For more HR discussions and advice visit the Human Resourcing website.