HR Answers: Help your employees find purpose at work

Uncovering strengths and aligning them with core values increases engagement.

Does “purpose” matter? For centuries, humans have pondered “meaning and purpose”—what it means to live, and perhaps a bit more recently, to work. In 2019, the organizational musings on purpose have not radically changed from the past.

Purpose need not be a lofty ideal, nor something to find in retirement. Today, “purpose” is moving up the ranks in leadership research—specifically, the ability to shape teams and businesses with purpose is fundamental. According to Bain & Company, “Purpose should be something actionable we can apply to ourselves and our work.” Simply stated, purpose is a strengths-based approach to work aligned with values and unique capabilities. And yes, it can be measured.

For the past decade, Gallup’s employee engagement surveys have uncovered a visible lack of engagement at work. However, in 2018, engagement scores rose. 34 percent of employees were more enthusiastic and committed to their work and workplace. Over the previous 18 years, the average was 30 percent, fluctuating between 26 percent in 2000 and 34 percent in 2018. That said, it’s important to balance that slight rise with the 53 percent who remain in the “not engaged” category. They show up but are not emotionally connected to the work. Helping employees find their purpose within your organization will help boost those engagement scores.


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