When employees see that their work has a purpose, they feel like they are helping to make the world a better place, which makes them more engaged. Guido Heezen, a Director at Effectory, explains the conditions required to create an engaged workforce. 

“Engagement is the extent to which employees revel in their work. Engaged employees learn quickly and are creative. Engagement is a good predictor for customer satisfaction, low employee turnover, high productivity and profitability. A friend of mine once worked in the marketing department of a cigarette manufacturer. At first he saw it as a great job at an interesting company. But one morning he woke up and thought “If I do my job well, I will get more young people to start smoking… how will I explain that to my grandchildren in the future?” He then started looking for another job. This example shows how important purpose is to motivate and retain employees.


What is purpose?

When you are committed to something that really inspires you on a daily basis because it aligns with your own motivations, because it matches your dreams and ideals — that is purpose. You connect your own efforts to a higher goal. Purpose gives your work meaning.


Why is purpose important for engagement?


Purpose helps you know why you go into work every day. This is why the healthcare sector has the highest percentage of engaged employees out of all of the sectors. These employees have generally chosen their profession very deliberately. They are intrinsically driven.

If you can justify the way you earn your money to yourself, you don’t have to force yourself to work. You are much freer to be yourself. This stops you wasting energy which you can instead put into your work. The reverse also applies — if you give your employees more space to be themselves, they will have a greater sense of purpose. If you can be your own authentic self, even at work, you will automatically act more on the basis of your own motivations. It is therefore not surprising that research from Utrecht University shows that a sense of authenticity at work is linked to greater engagement.


Helping to make the world a better place

As management, you don’t create purpose by constantly harping on about increasing turnover, saving costs and shareholder value. This runs the risk of making your employees forget about why they ever chose their profession. They might start thinking “What on earth am I doing here?” Employees should feel that, by being successful in their work, they are automatically helping to make the world a better place. The latter is especially true for younger generations.


How can you stimulate a feeling of purpose?

Ask yourself questions like “If our organization didn’t exist yet, why would we set it up?” and “What is our mission on earth?”  By answering these questions, you can provide employees with the compelling reason they need to really throw themselves into their work.

As management, you should never think “I’ve already said it once, they know it now.” A higher goal that employees can really commit to must be repeated at least thirty times a year. In fact, as a leader, you should mention it in some way at every meeting. You have to keep your mission alive and clearly explain how it contributes to a better world.

It’s also important to give employees enough autonomy. They need to feel that they have sufficient space to make decisions in their daily work that they are fully behind.


Story telling about purpose

Story telling is important. For example, at Effectory we refused a large commission because the company wanted to use Employee Listening for the wrong reasons. They wanted to be able to trace the level of engagement back to individuals and thus assess their employees. It was a big commission that involved a lot of money, but we told this customer that we were not going to help them. Instead, the commission went to one of our competitors, who were motivated by money.


Purpose brings pride

We explained this decision internally; Not just once but whenever we could. Every time we repeated the story, we emphasized that we stand by our decision. We do not do staff research for the purposes of discrimination. We believe that the wisdom in the crowd can help improve organizations from within. We want to give employees an equal voice, thereby making companies more successful and improving the world of work. That is our mission and we make our decisions on the basis of that mission. That story makes our employees feel proud. It even awakens their competitive edge. Storytelling about the decisions you make as a company based on your higher goal can greatly help you give purpose to your employees.


Engagement in your work

Engaged employees learn quickly and are creative. Engagement is a good predictor for customer satisfaction, low employee turnover, high productivity and profitability.  If this matters to you – speak to Effectory. Effectory is Europe’s leading provider of Employee Listening solutions. Every year we help over 1.200 organizations in more than 110 countries. With headquarters located in the multi-cultural center of Amsterdam, and offices in Munich and Cape Town, we facilitate some of the world’s biggest employee listening programs.