Leaders: Are You Ready For A Purpose-Led Future?
One thing I have noticed over the last year since the start of the pandemic is how many people have started to re-evaluate and re-discover their personal purpose. Many people, having time on their hands, as the world has “stopped” have had the space to reflect on their lives and how they are living. Many people have discovered they no longer wish to continue to commute 2 hours to work each day. People have enjoyed flexible work schedules as the rule book has been thrown out the window, making life changes that once seemed impossible now seem a real reality.
The reason for this focus on individual purpose is clear. During times of crisis, individual purpose acts as a guidepost that can help people face up to uncertainties and navigate them better, and thus mitigate the damaging effects of long-term stress. People who have a strong sense of purpose tend to be more resilient and exhibit better recovery from negative events.
Research from McKinsey indicates that people living “their purpose at work” report five times higher levels of wellbeing and are four times likely to be more engaged in their work, which in turn leads to higher levels of productivity and profitability. So the business case for leaders to focus on helping team members connect to their individual purpose is compelling, particularly when it is combined with other research that indicates that purposeful people live longer and healthier lives. Specifically, purpose-led people are:
- 5 times more likely to be free of dementia
- 22 percent less likely to exhibit risk factors for stroke
- 52 percent less likely to have experienced a stroke
Purpose can be an important contributor to employee experience, which in turn is linked to higher levels of employee engagement, stronger organizational commitment, and increased feelings of well-being.
So knowing that individual purpose is such a contributor to both team member well-being but also business performance, it is imperative that leaders pay more attention to this as business returns to operations and begin feeling their way into the subsequent phases of the “next to normal.”
The real test with purpose is beginning to start right now as the immediate pandemic crisis fades, in light of the vaccinations available. Now the hard work for leaders begins as they reimagine and reform business for a post-pandemic world. It will take hard work, commitment, and creativity to embed and activate individual purpose thoroughly into the various elements of the employee experience.
Here are some areas that leaders would be well advised to focus on first, as it is likely the benefits will build upon one another:
Potential team members want to know about the business purpose, so explicitly connect the purpose of the organization to the personal contributions an individual in the role could bring to the company. And if you back this up with real, purpose-rich stories from hiring managers who have seen this in action, you will increase the odds of attracting people whose purpose fits well with the organization and the work, and helps them be productive sooner.
Make purpose part of the first conversation between line manager and the team. This will help build a shared vocabulary and help people to start to reflect on how the work and the organization connect with their own purpose. In fact, applied research finds that encouraging new employees to focus on expressing personal values at work allowed them to significantly outperform peers, be more satisfied at work, and increased retention by more than 30 percent.
3) Feedback and performance management.
Many leaders understand the value of strengths-based feedback and purpose is a natural extension that can help connect a team members broader self to their work. Activating purpose during feedback sessions may even help buffer people against the uncomfortable aspects of receiving negative feedback. Try starting a performance conversation with a reflection on purpose and how the work the individual has been doing—as well as their performance—illuminates their purpose and values.
Many other opportunities will naturally arise as you go through this process to help leaders and their team members join the dots to see how their purpose is aligned with the organization. And nothing is more valuable to both parties as appreciating this alignment because it has massive benefits – both emotional and financial – for everyone. So will you put purpose at the heart of your business?