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What's the point? The search for purpose at work

Image: Purpose.

The current buzzword in the HR world right now is ‘purpose’. But what do we mean when we talk about this? And are organizations going about it in the right way?  In this short article we discuss the latest research from the Strategic HR Review journal which explores how to make it work in organizations.

“What’s the point?”

As humans we need to have a sense of purpose for doing what we do, and reducing that Sunday night dread of returning to work. Engaging our brains for more than a few hours requires that our heart also gets also involved. When the purpose is not sufficiently clear (or inspiring), we end up having a go at creating an alternative sense of purpose. This is called ‘getting purpose’ and is where people exchange their time and talent for something they are interested in getting back. This popular approach can keep people motivated for a while, but will require a continuous adjustment between employees and organizations for it to survive.

How to fulfil your employees' purpose

It is important for organizations to recognize that giving perks are by no means the same as fulfilling someone’s purpose. Although having the right working environment, a fair pay and a supporting team are necessary elements to helping individuals focus on adding value in their role, they do not ultimately fulfil an individual’s purpose.

In order to answer our initial question, we need to flip the traditional “what’s in it for me” or “what will I get” model into a “what can I give” one. High-performing, motivated teams around the world share this type of purpose. They describe their jobs in terms of the value they are adding to their customers (not just to the shareholders), instead of focusing on what they are getting back from the companies they work for. They are aware of the impact that most of their actions and decisions have in making their customers’ lives a bit (or a lot) better.

It does take courage to let go of the “what will I get” model of purpose, but it is essential if we are serious about finding meaning at work. Once organizations start taking the time to truly understand why their employees wake up every morning to come to do the role they do, only then will they be able to start taking the right steps towards fulfilling their purpose.

Read the full article ‘What’s the point? The search for purpose at work’ written by Javier Bajer published within the Strategic HR Review journal.

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