The Purpose Gap: UNder Construction
From last week’s blog post, we know there is a growing purpose gap, especially in workplaces. This purpose gap has been brought to the foreground in a world recovering from being flipped on its head, in the wake of the pandemic. The pandemic forced many people to slow down and evaluate where they are, and where they want to be! For many, it was a great awakening, realising what they truly want in life. The purpose gap is a complex issue calling companies to dig deep to their core and find ways to make purpose a priority again. But what are the practicalities of that process? Let’s find out! But first, a little review of the purpose problem we are facing.
The Purpose Problem Recap
The importance of purpose is immeasurable! And increasingly, especially among millennials, work is found to have been where they strive to feel the most purpose. People need more than a 9-5 job where they clock in, feel like they achieve nothing for 8 hours, and clock out. Being an eternal optimist, I naturally find the good, even in the trickiest of situations. However, I can empathise with the downs of those situations too. As I reflect on the pandemic, it was incredibly challenging and horrific in many ways. But I think it stopped us all for long enough, and forcefully extracted us from the rat race to remind us that there’s more to life than what we've been doing! And I don’t think I am alone in that.
As life is slowly returning to “normal”, companies are now facing challenges around their employees and their purpose at work. For decades companies have had purpose statements, but it is now coming to light that a large proportion of people find no meaning in these statements. So now, companies are realising that purpose is personal and emotional, which poses challenges in creating environments that cater to everyone’s personal purpose.
McKinsey put it perfectly, “Help your employees find purpose or watch them leave.” Ouch. But it’s the truth. As leaders in modern-day business, it is OUR responsibility to change our thinking at the very heart of our companies, so that our focus isn’t just retention for the sake of revenue, but empowering the purpose in every employee under the roof of our company. The complexity is the how, but don’t worry, here comes the practical side!
Take a Look Inside
The only way to fix this purpose problem is to take action. Not just any action, no, thoughtful and honest action. A great starting point would be the organisation’s purpose. I know, I know, we’re talking about employee’s purpose, not the organisation, but really if the organisation has a meaningful ‘true north’ purpose, it has an immediate effect on employees and their feeling of meaning within the company. If your company’s purpose is simply there to be a pretty sign on the wall, with no action accompanying it, to put it bluntly, it’s a waste of time. Take time to reflect on what your company is actually doing. Is it contributing to a positive impact on the world? Aim for dialogue, not a monologue! Valuing two-way conversations is the best start you could have.
What starts at the top, you’ll find at the bottom, and this is invaluable when it comes to purpose. Employees are looking for employers who are transparent and create environments for psychological safety. Aim for dialogue, not a monologue! Valuing two-way conversations is the best start you could have. When employers, leaders and CEOs are honest about their purpose, are happy to share that purpose, and are willing to pass along what they know, employees will reciprocate and be open and honest in return.
A good measure to find if this psychological safety exists in your company, begins with asking yourself this hard question: “Are my employees willing to share personal things with me?” There are few things more personal than one’s purpose, and if they can’t share that, there is something going wrong. Psychological safety is essential to a healthy business, and when people don’t find it within your business, they will leave it to find it elsewhere. That is the risk you face for not digging into the heart of your company.
The Risk of Staying the Same
In a McKinsey study, they found that 7 out of 10 employees are now reflecting on their purpose in the wake of the pandemic. That is huge, and don’t underestimate the power that reflection will give your employees. If employees find that they actually don’t feel purposeful when they go to work, the chances are highest than they have ever been, that they will leave and search for meaningful work elsewhere. That is what you risk you face if you choose to stay the same. It is not worth it.
People are looking for alignment and alignment in the sense that their purpose is going to be meaningful to the purpose of the company. This is why it is essential for companies to look inside, dig deep and know with unwavering conviction that their purpose makes a difference to the world, and to the world of their employees!
The risk of staying the same puts your employees on the line. However, the reward of digging deep to the core of your company and redefining your purpose, so that it creates meaningful environments for your employees, is happier and more driven employees, more collective success and a thriving company that values psychological safety. These rewards are worth every bit of hard work!
While the ins and outs of looking inside and redefining purpose within your company are different for every business, the practicalities of closing the purpose gap are the same. It isn’t easy work, but what is on the line if you don’t do the hard work, is far too valuable to stay the same! It is okay to be under construction, it’s better than being a finished product with no purpose!
If you're looking for more information on working with millennials in modern-day business? Click ‘here’!
Hey! You’re Biased! – #11 Elimination-by-Aspects
This elimination-by-aspects bias can actually be really helpful when harnessed correctly! It is a decision-making technique that humans use, by choosing the most important feature of a product they are looking for and will cross items off the list that don’t meet that criteria. We do this until only the ‘best’ option is left and that’s our choice. For example, buying a new phone. We decide the features we want, whether it be the storage or the camera etc, and then we will delete all the options until the best option is left! Can you see how this would actually be really helpful if used correctly? I sure can!
Keogh, O. (2022). ‘Help your employees find purpose or watch them leave’. The Irish Times. https://www.irishtimes.com/business/work/help-your-employees-find-purpose-or-watch-them-leave-1.4778827
Dhingra, N., Samo, A., Schaninger, B., & Schrimper, M. (2021). Help your employees find purpose or watch them leave. McKinsey. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/help-your-employees-find-purpose-or-watch-them-leave
Dhingra, N., & Schaninger, B. (2021). The search for purpose at work. McKinsey. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-search-for-purpose-at-work