It would be presumptuous for business leaders to assume their employees’ purpose is to work for them every day. For most people, their job is more than likely not their purpose in life. But a job can fuel the purpose you want to fulfill.
I can’t say that I’ve figured out my purpose in life yet, but I know what I’m passionate about … what fuels me. I’ve always been fascinated by why people do what they do, from what choices they make to what they buy to what prompts certain emotions. It’s likely why I read voraciously, getting wrapped up in fictional worlds and complex characters, far-off universes and mind-boggling situations. It’s why my travel bucket list consists of places like Montenegro, Cambodia and Indonesia. It’s also why I was a history-turned-journalism major, trying to find that perfect niche of being able to read excessively, research long-gone events and people, investigate leads and uncover truths, tell powerful stories … and make a living doing it. I took a fork in the Journalism road and detoured to Marketing. It worked out.
Marketing jobs are everywhere. It’s finding the right company, brand, people and beliefs that are tricky. I want to be challenged. I want to market something that is good; something that matters and inspires people, or at least improves an important aspect of their lives. I want the freedom to think and try and test. I want leadership that mentors, not dictates. I want to work with people who make me work harder, learn faster and produce better. I want the freedom to take my dog to the vet or take a 2-week vacation without sadly crossing off a vacation day from a shortlist of 10. I want a company that invests in my personal and professional growth, in whatever form that takes.
I was getting ready to send my now-husband to a deployment in the Middle East when SmashFly found me (thank you job gods!). It checked all of the above boxes, and even more importantly, it gave me a sense of purpose and a calming support in a time of personal upheaval. Two-and-a-half years later, it still checks those boxes.
Everyone chooses why, how and who to work with for reasons unique to them. Every organization believes in a mission and seeks success that’s unique to it. When reasons, mission and goals align, employers and employees can find fit through a shared purpose.
When reasons, mission & goals align, employers & people can find fit through a shared purpose.Click to tweet
What does a shared purpose in work mean?
Purpose, in the dictionary, has two meanings:
- Reason (your “why”)
- Intention (your “strategy”)
Organizations have a “why:” the reason they were founded, the reason they sell what they sell or do what they do, the reason they’re growing and hiring. People also have a “why:” the reason they choose to work for X company in X place doing X job to drive X goal.
The second meaning is more telling: that both parts of the world of the work – organizations and people – need to make hiring and career decisions intentionally. To hire with purpose and accept a job with purpose means there aren’t whim decisions – or decisions that are “just good enough” to fill a requisition or take whatever comes your way.
“Good enough” won’t drive your business forward.
The Business Case for Purpose
“Companies who clearly articulate their purpose enjoy higher growth rates and higher levels of success in transformation and innovation initiatives … it is curious that purpose is utilized by only a minority of companies as a driver of strategy and decision-making.” – The Business Case for Purpose by Harvard Business Review and EY Beacon Institute
In the survey, executives responded that purpose is pivotal in driving satisfaction, loyalty and transformation.
- 89% said companies with a shared sense of purpose would have greater employee satisfaction
- 84% said businesses with shared purpose would be more successful in transformation efforts
- 80% said purpose helps increase customer loyalty
Higher satisfaction and loyalty increases retention. Research from the CECP, a CEO coalition driving social good, found a link between purpose and retention: if your organization has purpose beyond profit and cares about social good, you retain employees 23% more than organizations who don’t. If you’re excelling at retention, it likely means your employees are happier, engaged and productive, plus you have fewer unfilled jobs, equaling lower recruiting costs and a stronger bottom line.
If your org has purpose beyond profit, you retain employees 23% more than orgs who don’t.Click to tweet
Purpose = People
The connection between purpose and success is evident. So why such a disconnect between how leaders think about purpose and how they act on purpose?
- 46% said their organization has a strong sense of shared purpose
- 41% said there’s a disconnect between executives and employees over purpose
- 37% said their business model and operations are aligned with purpose (Source: The Business Case for Purpose)
When asked how to better integrate purpose in their organization, many executives answered: better leadership development and training. Fueling and acting on purpose comes down to leadership. People.
Thus, it’s surprising (but not) to see that in priorities for integrating purpose into business functions, talent management rated low.
Surprising, because hiring and retaining the right people to become leaders of your organization starts with talent acquisition and management. Not surprising, because talent acquisition is just beginning to focus on the power of employer branding, nurturing relationships and data-driven insights. Talent acquisition leaders are also just starting to demonstrate why they deserve a seat at the executive table.
The business of recruiting people isn’t just a recruiting problem – it’s a business problem. While talent acquisition is focusing on employer brand in attracting talent, they’re missing a key alignment with C-level leadership: Purpose runs deeper than employer branding.
Purpose must be fundamentally ingrained in your business and the people who work for you. Only then will you authentically share your purpose and attract the right people who will align with it.
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