Happiness Spotlight: Purpose

6 min. read

Purpose-driven employees are happier. How do we ignite a purpose-driven culture?

At Amazing Workplace, one of the Critical Workplace Areas that we help workplaces improve is "Purpose." Having a clear purpose that employees know and admire is a crucial part of the workplace happiness formula. Purpose-driven employees are happier. They also show 30 percent higher levels of innovation and 40 percent higher levels of retention, and they tend to be first or second in their market segment. Despite the huge payoff of a focus on purpose, Harvard Business Review published survey data from 474 executives showing 44% said their organization lacked a strong sense of purpose.

Every workplace has a purpose, but not every workplace has developed their purpose to be known and admired. Not to worry though, there are several low-effort, high-reward ways to build these purpose benefits. Let's look at three of them.

Create Meaningful Purpose

A purpose statement explains an organization's reason for existence. It explains why an organization is doing what it does and why it's on a journey to accomplish its vision. The purpose statement is the "why we are doing what we are doing."

Do not confuse a purpose with the two related concepts mission or vision. A vision statement says what the future looks like when an organization is successful in pursuing its purpose. A mission statement says how the organization is going to make its vision a reality.

Workplaces that have not yet created a purpose statement can bring leaders together to create one. Many workplaces that already have a purpose may want to consider revising or renewing their purpose statement in the same way. Leaders can go through the process of exploring the words that best represent the purpose they see in their organization to arrive at a meaningful purpose.

A meaningful purpose statement is a (1) simple and (2) accurate statement of why the company makes products or provides services.

  1. A simple purpose statement is one that anyone can understand without further explanation. It uses words that everyone knows, and it is not long or complicated. This makes sure that employees, customers, and leaders can easily get the meaning.
  2. An accurate purpose statement properly represents why the organization does what it does. It is based on the experiences and motivations of the employees, leaders, and customers. To create an accurate purpose statement, workplaces often need to spend some time allowing leaders to discuss why the organization does what it does. With newer organizations, it is often helpful to collect thoughts and feedback from employees and customers too.

Integrate Purpose

"Integrate" means putting things together or coordinating them to make them work as one. A purpose is much more powerful when it is integrated throughout the organization, with all parts of the organization unified in pursuit of the purpose.

Speak to purpose early and often. The interview should be the first of countless times an employee sees or hears the workplace's statement of purpose. Again at onboarding, the new employee should get the purpose in written materials and have a chance to discuss it with managers and peers. Once established, employees should see the purpose come up in routine internal communications, where announcements mention why and how the workplace's purpose relates to anything announced. They can even be written right on the walls and displayed prominently anywhere the workplace's branding appears.

No parts of the organization should be left out of the drive for purpose. That's why it is important to make the purpose part of employees' experiences from the beginning. If this is not done, particular departments or teams may end up unaware or uninterested in the organization's purpose. This may happen because their leaders think, "This team doesn't really work with customers so they wouldn't get the purpose" or "these are specialized workers and they don't make our products or services so they don't care about purpose." These thoughts are always mistaken. Everyone can benefit from getting the purpose statement frequently—whether they are executive, administrative, production, sales, facilities, support, design, or anything in-between.

Lead with Purpose

Perhaps the single most powerful method of strengthening purpose is to lead with it. Leading with purpose happens in two ways:

  1. Advocating the purpose. This means leaders using communications (live, video, or written messages) to tell the workplace that they personally admire and agree with the purpose. Employees are sometimes skeptical of purpose statements because they sound ambitious or bold. Employees may also have trouble seeing how their work does anything to further the purpose. They may even be confused because they do not understand what a purpose means in the context of a workplace. Leaders can overcome employee skepticism and confusion by personally and openly adopting and speaking for the purpose. In early conversations about purpose, leaders can explain the definition of purpose and then say how the workplace's own purpose statement fits the definition. Once they have established the basic understanding, leaders can advocate for the purpose by talking about how it motivates them. Leaders can also tell stories that show the positive or admirable outcomes of succeeding at the purpose.
  2. Acting with purpose. This means leaders taking actions that support or advance the organization's purpose. Employees will know when leaders actions or decisions fit the purpose—and they'll notice if the actions seem contrary to the purpose. This makes it leaders' responsibility to "walk-the-walk." Make it a point to test all decisions against the workplace's purpose. Know that leaders may be asked to explain if it's not easy to see how a decision is consistent with the purpose. It is easier to for leaders to be transparent when they have a purpose statement as a clear standard for their choices.

Purpose is one of 12 Critical Workplace Areas we measure in the Amazing Workplace Employee Happiness Survey. The advanced technologies in our platform make it simple to develop actions to improve workplace purpose and the 11 other Areas. Want to learn more about what we do? Email us at info@amazingworkplace.com or get started with our survey here.