In recent years, a growing emphasis has been placed on the impact of having a clear purpose in the workplace. Having a sense of purpose at work can determine how satisfied employees are with their jobs or whether they will stay with their current employer.
As we celebrate Labor Day, it’s an opportunity for employers to reflect on how they spread the real meaning of having a purpose in the workplace.
Labor Day: A Tribute to the Heart of Work
Labor Day’s history is rooted in the late 18th-century labor movement, when workers sought better conditions and fair wages during the Industrial Revolution. The Haymarket Affair in 1886, sparked by a peaceful protest for an eight-hour workday, marked a turning point and motivated the establishment of a day to honor workers.
The first Labor Day celebration was held in 1882 in New York City, organized by the Central Labor Union. It featured a parade and picnic to showcase the labor movement’s strength. The idea gained traction, and in 1894, Congress passed a law making Labor Day a national holiday, signed by President Grover Cleveland. This recognition shifted the focus from festivities to acknowledging workers’ contributions and labor rights.
Today, Labor Day is a significant federal holiday in the United States, observed on the first Monday of September. It’s a day to recognize the tireless contributions of individuals who make organizations and economies thrive. As we move into a future marked by innovation and transformation, purpose becomes a cornerstone of success, influencing how we work, why we work, and the legacy we leave behind.
Fueling Labor’s Fire Through Purpose
Having our own purpose is not a mere trend; it’s the driving force behind employees’ dedication, creativity, and commitment.
Participants in a study conducted by Great Place To Work and Johns Hopkins University’s Carey Business School, which involved over 14,000 individuals from 37 different countries, consistently encountered notable disparities in the aspects of purpose and connection, both of which are essential for a successful work environment.¹
Almost half of the respondents did not find meaning in their work, 39 percent said their work didn’t feel like making a difference, 35 percent didn’t feel like they belong, and 25 percent felt loneliness in their work. This is even more difficult for marginalized communities where people are 9 percent more likely to be lonely when they are in a minority group.
Companies that recognize the power of purpose and proactively integrate it into their culture increase their chances of not only attracting and retaining ideal candidates but also leaving a lasting positive impact on their employees and society as a whole.
What Does a Purposeful Workplace Look Like?
A purposeful workplace is often characterized by an environment where employees are not just motivated by financial gains, benefits, or tasks but are deeply connected to the organization’s mission, vision, values, and societal impact.
It’s a space where individuals find meaning, fulfillment, and a sense of belonging in their work. In this type of work environment, both individuals and the company share a common purpose and engage in initiatives that positively impact society, working toward a collective goal that goes beyond profit.
Employees are welcomed from diverse backgrounds with different abilities, driving innovation and creating a harmonious work environment. Employees are not just showing up to complete their tasks. Rather, they are emotionally invested in their roles. They see their work as integral to the organization’s success and feel a personal sense of responsibility.
Related Article: What Makes a Job Good? 5 Facets of Job Satisfaction
Impact on Employee Engagement
Research consistently shows that employees who feel their work is meaningful are more engaged, productive, and loyal. This is evident in Gallup’s report, which shows that purpose is the number one driver of employee engagement, a critical measure for assessing retention.²
Approximately 82% of employees in McKinsey’s report consider their organization’s purpose important, while around 70% believe that their work plays a role in defining their own sense of purpose.³
Needless to say that purpose-driven organizations most likely experience lower turnover rates and attract top professionals, as candidates are drawn to environments where their contributions align with their values and passions.
How to Create a Sense of Purpose at Work
Creating a sense of purpose at work is essential for both personal fulfillment and organizational success. When employees feel connected to a meaningful goal, they become more engaged, motivated, and satisfied with their jobs. Here are 11 steps you can take to create a sense of purpose at work:
1. Clarify Organizational Purpose
Start by defining and communicating the overarching purpose of the organization. Employees should understand the company’s mission, values, and long-term goals. When they can see the bigger picture, they are more likely to find personal meaning in their roles.
2. Foster Individual Alignment
Help employees connect their individual roles to the broader organizational purpose. Encourage them to reflect on how their daily tasks contribute to the company’s mission. You can also consider highlighting success stories that showcase the impact of their work.
3. Provide Enough Open Communication
Foster a culture of open communication where employees feel comfortable discussing their aspirations, concerns, and ideas. Regular team meetings, one-on-one sessions, and feedback loops can help establish a strong connection between employees and their managers.
4. Personal Development
Offer opportunities for continuous learning and personal development. When employees feel they are growing and acquiring new skills, they are more likely to be engaged and motivated.
5. Provide Autonomy
When employees have ownership over their tasks and decisions, they are more likely to feel a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
6. Prioritize Recognition and Rewards
Recognize and celebrate employees’ achievements and contributions. Acknowledge their efforts regularly to boost morale and reinforce their sense of purpose.
7. Encourage Cross-Functional Collaboration and Teamwork
When employees work together to solve challenges and achieve goals, they develop a shared sense of purpose.
8. Flexibility and Work-Life Balance
Work-life balance and flexible work arrangements are increasingly becoming desirable in today’s world of work. Employees who feel like their organizations are concerned about their well-being, mental health, and how they balance their personal and professional lives are more likely to feel a sense of belonging and satisfaction.
9. Regular Check-ins and Feedback
Periodically check in with employees to gauge their engagement. Use these conversations to identify any challenges they might be facing and find solutions together. You can also provide feedback to help employees improve their skills and performance. Constructive feedback often shows that the organization cares about employees’ growth and development.
10. Build an Inclusive Environment
Create an inclusive and diverse workplace where all employees feel valued and respected. A sense of belonging can enhance an employee’s connection to their work and the organization.
11. Encourage Managers to Lead by Example
Leaders play a crucial role in shaping and maintaining a company’s culture. They set the tone, model the behavior, and hold everyone accountable. Their enthusiasm, dedication, and alignment with the organization’s values can inspire employees to find a sense of purpose at work.
Championing Purpose in a Digital Age
In today’s digital era, where remote work and virtual interactions are becoming the norm, maintaining a sense of purpose in the workplace poses unique challenges. However, these challenges can be navigated effectively with the right approach.
1. Virtual Engagement
Remote work can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation and detachment. To counter this, leverage technology to create virtual forums where employees can connect, share success stories, and discuss how their work contributes to the organization’s mission.
2. Clarity of Communication
In a digital setting, miscommunication can arise more easily. Ensure that the organization’s mission, values, and expectations are communicated clearly through various digital channels.
3. Remote Recognition
Celebrate achievements and milestones through virtual means. Recognizing employees’ efforts in virtual settings reinforces their sense of purpose.
4. Personalized Development
Despite physical separation, offer personalized development opportunities that enable employees to continue growing and contributing to the organization’s goals.
5. Balancing Flexibility and Purpose
While flexibility is essential, ensure that remote work arrangements still foster a strong connection to the organization’s purpose. Encourage discussions on how individual roles contribute to the overall mission.
Related Article: Remote Work Tips for Employees with Disabilities
LOOKING TO BUILD A DIVERSE WORKFORCE? GALT FOUNDATION CAN HELP
If you’re seeking to improve your culture of inclusivity by tapping into the expertise people with disabilities have to offer, we’d be more than happy to help. Contact us today to start a conversation.
1. Amire, Roula. “Purpose at Work Predicts if Employees Will Stay or Quit Their Jobs.” Great Place To Work, 10 May 2022, www.greatplacetowork.com/purpose-at-work-predicts-if-employees-will-stay-or-quit-their-jobs.
2. “What Is Employee Engagement and How Do You Improve It?” Gallup, www.gallup.com/workplace/improve-employee-engagement-workplace. 11 Aug. 2023
3. Dhingra, Naina, et al. “Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave.” McKinsey, 5 Apr. 2021, www.mckinsey.com/help-your-employees-find-purpose-or-watch-them-leave.