A quintessential small-talk opener is “what do you do?”. Though often asked and easily answered, the question matters deeply. What we do, in many ways, defines who we are. Most people spend more waking hours working than doing anything else.
Given that, perhaps a more significant question to ask is “why do you do what you do?”. Responding to this question requires more thought as it digs deeper into the meaning and purpose behind a person’s work.
As Simon Sinek relays in his Ted Talk that has been viewed over 50 million times, “By "Why?" I mean: What's your purpose? What's your cause? What's your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care?”.
Organizations definitely should care because as Simon states, “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe”.
Establishing this takes us inward to ask the next question. If “why” does profoundly impact how customers engage with organizations, what is the impact of “why” on the employees who make up the organization?
Companies that can connect employees to the purpose for its existence (beyond profits) are likely to significantly benefit. Understanding that “why” becomes an important factor in a person’s desire to contribute to and achieve more for their employer.
Purpose is different than the company’s vision or mission. A vision statement describes where the company aspires to be – “what will we achieve?”. A mission statement describes the unique way the company does what they do and the path they’ll take to get there – “how will we achieve it?”.
Purpose is the why. In a Harvard Business Review article on this topic, authors Robert E. Quinn and Anjon V. Thakor suggest that purpose helps employees understand how they are “making a difference, gives them a sense of meaning, and draws their support”.
Purpose Matters to Employees and to the Business.
Employees want to be inspired. They want to work for more than just a paycheque. They want to understand the ways that their work makes a difference to the company, and to society. In fact, according to BetterUp Labs, employees care so much about it that they are willing to give up almost a quarter (23%) of their future lifetime earnings for work that is almost always meaningful.
When businesses pay attention to purpose, everyone wins. Consider these statistics:
85% of employees who work for a recognized top employer see their work as having special meaning – it’s not just a job. Those same employees are 14 times more likely to look forward to coming to work. (Source: Great Place to Work)
Millennials are 5.3 times more likely, and non-millennials are 2.3 times more likely, to stay at a company if they have a strong connection to the employer’s purpose. (Source: pwc)
42% of non-purpose led companies showed a drop in revenue over a three-year period. (Source: Workforce Purpose Index)
Purpose driven individuals are 50% more likely to be in leadership roles. (Source: Workforce Purpose Index)
We can conclude then that employees who are connected to a larger sense of purpose are more productive, dedicated and satisfied, they stay longer, and are more likely to seek and achieve leadership positions. Additionally, companies that foster purpose-driven cultures are more profitable.
Creating meaning and purpose at your company can be a critical success factor. Next month, we’ll highlight how you can do that.