Avoid burnout by reinforcing purpose

Austrian author and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl once said, “When we are no longer able to change the situation, we change ourselves.”

The global pandemic forced substantial changes in how we live, work and interact with each other. For many, it also provided the time and space to reflect on what else may require change – including careers.

Yes, The Great Resignation may yet see millions of workers leave their jobs in ’21. The number one cause? Burnout. 

Burnout and purpose have an interesting dynamic. Purpose can help combat burnout if it’s harmonious with an individual’s work-life balance. Purpose can also accelerate burnout if it becomes an obsession. Like most things in life, it requires moderation. 

Purpose’s double-edged sword is found within the credit union movement. We see those whose deep commitment to service often means putting others first and themselves last, which results in burnout. There are also many credit union employees who haven’t had the opportunity to realize the greater purpose in the work they do, so they burnout from the daily grind.

To attract and retain talent, we have to help employees connect with their purpose (while encouraging healthy work-life boundaries). Recent McKinsey research shows that nine in ten US-based employees want more purpose in their lives, with an incredible 70 percent saying their sense of purpose is defined by their work.

So, how do we instill purpose in our people? At the Foundation, we provide programming and pathways to reflect on their personal alignment with the greater mission of the credit union movement.

Here are three recommendations to get started:

  1. Share and discuss the eight Cooperative Principles. These are the inspiration for our business model. We can we observe them in action but also use them as guideposts for how we can grow and differentiate ourselves in the marketplace. Adding the eighth Cooperative Principle of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion demonstrates that as credit unions evolve, our purpose remains constant and rooted in financial democracy.
  1. Celebrate impactful stories. The credit union movement enjoys a rich legacy of purpose-driven leaders and institutions who have found ways to grow responsibly while building financial well-being for all. This work continues today and generates incredibly inspiring stories that demonstrate we’re not just offering products, but helping to improve people’s lives. We should make every single employee feel appreciated for making those stories possible.
  1. Assess and align core values. We can help employees derive purpose from their job by connecting their personal values with the values of the credit union movement. This can reveal deeper meaning behind the work they do and provide powerful motivation. The Foundation’s Exploring Values Online is a free self-guided course that provides a few lessons and activities to help your employees explore their “why”.

While there are things we can’t change about our situation, we can be thoughtful about how we encourage change in ourselves and our organizations. Feeling purpose in our work improves impact and can mitigate burnout – enabling our employees to bring the credit union difference to life every day.

Chad Helminak

Chad Helminak

Chad is the Director of DE and Cooperative Culture at the National Credit Union Foundation. In this role he leads the Foundation’s signature Credit Union Development Education (DE) Program ... Web: www.ncuf.coop Details

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