- Purpose is vital to performance, but often hard for leaders to address
- These questions help employees identify their link to the company purpose
- Using strengths to make a difference fosters one's individual purpose
In a world that requires agile innovation, organizations are desperate to create cultures of ownership, shared responsibility and proactive initiative. Of all the steps leaders take to be sure people will perform well in a job, the one with the most influence is commonly difficult for leaders to know how to address: finding an employee's personal connection to the work.
Ownership emerges when work is personal -- when an employee can claim, "It's mine." And only when an employee's work directly fulfills their personal purpose will they claim it to be theirs. That starts with an organization's goal to work toward achieving good for customers, stakeholders and communities. Organizational purpose becomes personal when the employee recognizes that their unique contribution furthers that goal. In other words, purpose becomes personal when a person is doing what they do best to further what they care about most.
Organizational purpose becomes personal when the employee recognizes that their unique contribution furthers that goal.
Organizational design, structure and strategy are critical considerations that can help or hinder a person's ability to take ownership of their work. But even with these structural pieces in place, to be at their best, each employee must see how their company's purpose helps them contribute to what they care about most. Without the emotional connection to the work that comes from a personal purpose, the reality of an engaged corporate culture of ownership and shared responsibility never materializes.
The organizations that succeed in making their mission personal to employees see performance that sets them apart. Gallup research shows that just a 10% improvement in employees' connection with the mission or purpose of their organization leads to an 8.1% decrease in turnover and a 4.4% increase in profitability.
Organizational changes and individual credentials only go so far -- it's a personal connection to work that inspires employees to consistently deliver their best.
How to Make Purpose Personal
As a leader, avoid the common misconception that purpose is simply about making people feel happy at work and improving life satisfaction. Purpose affects how work gets done. And it's not something exclusive to hiring or that HR should be solely responsible for fostering. Personal purpose requires regular conversations about the unique contributions individual employees make in their day-to-day work. And without proper maintenance, an employee's personal purpose can become unclear as change occurs.
Personal purpose requires regular conversations about the unique contributions individual employees make in their day-to-day work.
Employees derive individual purpose from doing what they do best to make a difference in what they care about most. Thus, each individual needs to know:
- what they care about most and how it connects to the company purpose
- what they do best and how it makes a difference in what they care about
Discover the connection between what an employee cares about and the purpose of the company.
Managers are best positioned to help each team member identity and articulate what aspects of their work they take most personally. They can discuss what matters to employees -- what they care about and how the company's purpose addresses it. These conversations can pinpoint the aspects of the employee's work for which they willingly take ownership, demonstrate proactivity, and offer innovation and improvement that drives the company's purpose forward.
These questions can begin those conversations and help employees identify what they care about most:
- What gets you excited?
- What frustrates you?
- Who do you want to make proud?
- What do you value most in your life?
- What do you think the world has all wrong?
- What do you want to be known for?
Ask probing follow-up questions. Garnering specifics will help employees see how the company's purpose addresses what they care about. And it'll develop the emotional connection needed to support a shared sense of responsibility.
Emotion happens because we care, because we have a personal stake in something. Managers can help employees identify those experiences that elicit greater emotion for them and connect those experiences to the job. The more intense the emotion, the more personal it is. And the more personal work is, the more invested employees are in the successes and goals of the organization.
Discover how an employee makes a difference with what they do best.
Connecting organizational purpose to what the individual cares about is only step one. Individual purpose is complete when an employee then sees how their strengths are uniquely positioned to make a difference in what they care about.
How to Help Employees Understand What They Do Best
CliftonStrengths is one way to help employees articulate what it is they do best and how they can uniquely contribute to what they care about most in the purpose of the company. When employees see opportunities to use their unique strengths, it inspires the sense of ownership and initiative leaders need for agile innovation. Those who get to do what they do best every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their job and three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life.
When employees see opportunities to use their unique strengths, it inspires the sense of ownership and initiative leaders need for agile innovation.
The ability for each employee to know their purpose -- to do what they do best to make a difference in what they care about most -- helps create a purpose-driven culture that delivers outcomes like:
- Delivering on the promise of organizational purpose. Gallup's research on the millennial generation clearly reveals that purpose-driven organizations attract talent and customers alike. For an organization to be driven by purpose, every individual must find the connection between what they care about and their contribution. That personal purpose -- multiplied by every employee -- sustains a culture that lives the brand every day. And that's how organizations bring bold visions for customer advocacy and sustainability to life.
- Thriving through change. With change being the only constant and uncertainty the only certainty, clarity about personal purpose is a grounding force and a motivator for progress. Those who know how they are uniquely positioned help further their organization's purpose.
- Increasing empowerment and agility. When an employee takes their work personally, seeing the overlap between what they care about and what they contribute, they are ready and eager to take the empowerment leaders offer them. Empowerment is the essence of an agile, innovative culture. Those with a personal stake in their work are more likely to take initiative, innovate and move quickly to do what is needed across silos to push forward and deliver.
It requires a deliberate effort, but the more employees connect their personal strengths to what matters to them in their organization's purpose, the more ownership, initiative and performance they'll give -- and the more organizations will be able to deliver on their purpose and promise to the world.