“Wellness” used to mean physical health. Then emotional and financial health became recognized as being intrinsic to overall wellbeing, including a fuller social life and a feeling of contributing to a community.
But Gallup has done research that indicates employees live longer – with fewer chronic conditions – when they have a greater sense of purpose. That means believing in the work they do and understanding its greater role in the community.
A sense of purpose not only makes for a happier, more engaged employee, it develops an employee who doesn’t cost the healthcare system nearly as much.
What is a “sense of purpose” and is it the same for every employee?
The greatest sense of purpose is created when the organization is able to connect what the employee does to the impact they are having. That helps the employee show up in the morning, ready to contribute.
Employee engagement used to be driven by salary and benefits, but today most employees are interested in what an organization represents – and whether or not that fits their personal goals. They want to know that what they do – their job – will make a difference. And that’s what gives them a greater sense of purpose.
Tying the organization’s culture to the aims of the company is also a way to give employees a common goal, which can provide purpose.
Employees who understand what they are working towards feel a greater sense of purpose and that’s a powerful driver of engagement They feel they are making a difference and are working towards something that matters.
Employees are also far more likely to support the organization’s objectives when they truly understand them. If they’re given “ownership” in the organization’s success and know what is expected of them to achieve the objectives, they feel a stronger sense of purpose.
Research has shown that having a meaningful purpose also applies to employees outside lives, and that is driven by needing a connection to the rest of the world through their work. You can support this by developing an ethical, moral, and socially responsible culture that employees can connect with and support.
How do you create and maintain “purpose”?
Make sure to frequently and clearly discuss the meaning of the organization. It’s critical that employees understand the purpose of the organization, and its positive impact on the community. They need to clearly understand your goals, mission, vision and plans for the future, overall values.
Make sure employees clearly understand their personal contribution is meaningful. People need to see that what they do as a job contributes to the big picture. Every manager should be able to explain exactly how every role impacts the greater organization and contributes to the overall mission.
Provide vision to employees about meaning and value of their work to the community at large. Communication is key. You’ll need to find ways to help employees feel connected to the impact of the organization’s products or services
“Purpose” is often is hard to pin down, which is why it’s tough to establish metrics to measure it. But if you can find ways to successfully focus on communicating your mission – and the employee’s place in the success of that mission – that can have a significant impact on establishing a sense of purpose in every employee.
How do you get started?
Managers can help employees identify and foster a sense of purpose with the following questions:
Identify the employee’s strength. Ask them what they’re good at? When are you the best person to do a particular task? What has brought you recognition in your career?
Find out what they currently love about their work. What do you enjoy? What do you look forward to doing?
Discover how they see the inherent value of their work. What results of your work make you proudest? When do you feel most useful? Which of your tasks are most critical to the team or organization?
Point out how their current role helps them advance toward future goals. What creates a sense of forward momentum? How is your work today getting you closer to what you want?
It’s easy to lose motivation. Sometimes we might ask, “What’s the point?” But with a strong sense of purpose, we’ll always have a strong reason for everything we do. We know exactly where we are, and exactly where we’re going.
A sense of purpose allows employees to overcome challenges and obstacles, and gives us the determination to keep going when things get hard.
Finally, purpose provides access to optimism and hope. And that’s key to helping employees get up each morning and bring their best selves to the job.
To learn more about creating and maintaining an employee’s sense of purpose, contact Jill O’Brien, Health Management & Human Resources Consulting Manager at Marsh & McLennan Agency.