Some jobs by their nature seem more meaningful than others. But really, all jobs are meaningful. All companies serve their customers, their stakeholders and their workforce, and the employees are in a unique position to make a real difference. It’s up to leaders to help people see this. Great leaders create an environment where employees feel valued (and valuable), and this is what connects them to purpose.
There is no such thing as a job that does not count. And yet, we tend to work in environments where an employee is more likely to hear about their work when there is a problem. It is assumed that the impact of work is obvious, and because of that, leaders are not taking time to emphasize to each worker the why of their job and the important contribution it makes.
Research shows that 53% of workers wish they had more insight into the effect their contributions have on their company's success. Further, there's a big disconnect illustrating that while leaders may think they're doing a good job helping employees understand their company's purpose, they really aren't. See these statistics from a Deloitte survey:
Forty-seven percent of executives strongly agree that they can identify with their company's purpose, compared to just 30% of employees.
Forty-four percent of executives say leaders set an example of living that company's purpose. Only 25% of employees agree.
Forty-one percent of executives say the company's purpose plays a role in major business decisions, compared to 28% of employees.
Thirty-eight percent of leaders say their organization's purpose is clearly communicated, compared to 31% of employees.
Numbers like these make it clear: It is the job of the leader to take time on a regular basis to help each employee understand the importance of their role and the impact it has on the organization. While the contribution made by the worker may seem obvious, the leader needs to help them connect the dots.
Consider that person in the billing department, the one who may not see a customer's face day to day. They need to know that by doing a good job in accurate billing, it allows the organization to do better financially, which pays employees. When they know this, it helps them see their sense of purpose more clearly.
Here are a few tips on helping your employees connect the dots on meaning and purpose.
Explain to each worker how what they do impacts customers and coworkers. Remember, making a difference doesn't have to mean saving the world. Share this to employees. Help them connect the dots on how they make a difference in people's lives and in the success of the organization.
Drill down on the why. An article on Inc.com (the one that shared the Deloitte statistics referenced earlier, which can be found here: http://bit.ly/38J9pnL) suggests going up to employees and asking them why they're doing the task they're doing. Their immediate answer might be because it's part of the project they're working on. Ask them why they're working on that project. When they give an answer, ask why again. Follow this chain long enough and you should eventually arrive at your company's mission statement.Connect with customers and share that you like to recognize staff. Ask if there are any staff members they would like you to recognize, and why.
Being specific about what they did or said (or both) to positively impact customers will mean more to the employee. It will also reinforce that behavior so the employee will be more likely to repeat it. Customer praise and gratitude can have a huge impact on an employee's sense of meaning and purpose.Ask recognized employees who helps them behind the scenes. Then, pass the message along to them.
People who provide direct customer service will get the most compliments, so when recognizing these folks, ask them who supports them that the customer does not see. Take the time to recognize these people as well and connect them back to their role in the customer experience.Pay passion and purpose forward by thanking people outside your company.
When you receive great service, whether it's from a TSA employee, a ticket taker at a theater, a server at a restaurant or an usher at the baseball game, let them know they make a difference. It's amazing how seldom they hear this.
My friend Norm Adams went up to a street cleaner in New Orleans to thank him for what he was doing and to share that his work made the visit so much better. Watching this, I could see man's face brighten up. After Norm walked on, I stayed and asked the street sweeper how long he had been doing this work and he shared that he had been street sweeping many years. I then asked him how often people stop to say thank you. He told me this was the first time.
We can all help employees feel that powerful sense of meaning and purpose. Not only will our company's performance improve, everyone will enjoy their job so much more. There is nothing quite like going to work every day at a company filled with people who are fueled by a true passion for what they do. It makes every day a learning experience, an adventure, and a path for personal and professional growth.