What is the meaning of my work?
It seems a bit French/German philosophical, but it and the bubbling undercurrent of looking for purpose that millennials are bringing to the workplace have shifted the plates a bit. Back in the day, the goal of many employees was the gold watch.
Purpose has become the catch phrase, buzzword of millennials. Finding meaning in their day-to-day lives is pushing aside the archaic idea of “deferred retirement plans” which many equate to “deferred living plans”. They want to live and be present now and feel that their work and lives matter now.
Employers must articulate and provide employees with a strong sense of purpose from the get-go. Here are 4 tips to create a purpose-driven work environment.
1. Ask Why: As an employer, owner, or manager, often our own individual purpose gets clouded with day-to-day pressures and fires to quell. We can easily fall into the what trap – forgetting that why is more important than what. Stop and ask yourself why you began this business, why you wanted to work with this company, why you studied what you studied. Revisit your organization mission statement. Let the words settle in. This is personal. Write it on a little paper and keep it in your desk, somewhere you can take it out once in a while. This is your key. This is what will ground you.
2. Support Personal Growth and Reap the Benefits: Purpose is personal. When an employer provides opportunities for employees to grow, challenge themselves, and explore passions, they are helping employees reach personal dreams. Tap into your employees’ talents and dreams by getting them to use them at the workplace. By recognizing their strengths, you can challenge them to get even better by setting individual goals based on these strengths (whether it be sales, writing great copy, detecting hacks etc.)
3. “Pay No Attention to that Man Behind the Curtain!”: Purpose is social, too. You’ve got to let your Oz out. If your engineer creates a sound system for a toy, let her experience a child playing with the toy. Find ways to connect the work (the man behind the curtain) to the client. Oftentimes only the salesperson or frontline managers get the pleasure of that direct connection. Give the team in the background an opportunity to see how their work makes someone else’s life better.
4. Though Purpose Must Be Clear, The Path Can Change: Thousands of years ago, it was fine to stand up on a mountain with laws etched in stone and tell people exactly what to do. Though an organization’s purpose and mission must reflect that company and be a strong statement, the path to reach it fluctuates and changes. It’s alive and growing. Employees will constantly shape, and reshape that path. Give them a voice in being part of that accomplishment. And if your organization is going through an overhaul, involve employees in a new mission statement and purpose. They can participate in the ground level of what the organization should embody and express.
A way to lure millennials and keep them is having a clear organization purpose that goes beyond prophet and showing them how their role in the company will be meaningful. Excellence is never a list of things to check off. Instead excellence is found in the way you work and the meaning you find in your work. Find purpose. Be excellent. Keep employee engagement at a high. Repeat.