It’s said that over the course of an adult’s life, they will spend up to 4,821 days working on projects that may not inspire or motivate them as they do not align with their personal values. Increasingly employees are looking for more than just pay and perks, they want purpose.
“A sense of purpose can significantly improve psychological wellbeing,” says Marcela Slepica, Clinical Director, AccessEAP. “Poor mental health and a lack of purpose in work can negatively impact employees and could make them feel worse. Work can contribute positively to employee’s wellbeing, by providing social interaction, a sense of structure, achievement and meaning. Additionally, it can be a distraction from distressing events in a person’s life which they may be struggling to cope with.”
Finding purpose in both personal and professional life has been proven to make a huge impact on one’s productivity, happiness and even their health.
“Purpose is integral to any successful working environment, especially for younger generations,” Slepica continues.
“Millennials, who will make up 75 per cent of the Australian Workforce by 2025¹, are particularly driven by purpose. As such, businesses need to focus on ensuring this need is being met for their employees or else they may leave. Purpose, continued learning and flexibility are key for the future workforce, leading to increased engagement, higher job satisfaction and ultimately, better business performance.
Purpose can be embodied in a variety of ways.
For some, it comes with feelings of being appreciated and recognised, others are looking for work that contributes to society and for many, they want to make a difference. Employers should work with their team to identify what inspires them or clearly define how the individual or the team makes a difference or what difference their contribution is making every day.
Marcela Slepica works with a number of clients at AccessEAP providing mental health awareness and workplace wellbeing programs across various industries. Here she offers advice on how employers can create a sense of purpose and positively impact the lives of workers and workplace culture.
Lead the way
Managers have an opportunity to inspire their staff to find purpose in their workplace due to their authority, credibility and influence. But it’s important to remember that finding purpose is not a ‘quick fix’, it requires a sustained leadership commitment for it to be meaningful, it needs to be more than words which may be perceived as tokenism. People can feel if it is genuine.
Ensure people feel valued
Employees want to feel that what they are doing is appreciated and matters in the context of the greater goals of the business. Recognise your staff for the good work that they do. This encourages engagement which leads to a positive workplace atmosphere and will contribute to productivity.
Personal and career development opportunities are another way for employees to find more purpose at work, especially if the work is routine and does not allow for creativity or flexibility. It’s imperative for managers to offer training and provide development opportunities available to employees at all times. Employees of today are constantly yearning to learn, to fulfil themselves intellectually and be seen as more than another cog in a machine to improve the company’s bottom line.
Connect to a greater cause
Investing time into creating a sense of purpose for individuals impacts on the culture. If people feel valued, and that they are contributing to the bigger purpose or goals of an organisation and that everyone has an important role, they are more likely to feel a sense of inclusion. By being informed about how the business works from the small tasks to the end product, employees gather a greater understanding of how they are making a difference.
In some organisations, surplus profits are directed into programs to assist the community, in others, teams get together to participate in activities to raise money for their favourite charity. Some employees enjoy this activity as it gives them a sense of achievement and meaning. This allows the team to give and to feel proud of their organisation thereby impacting on the culture and engagement. Adopting purpose-led initiatives will require dedicated and consistent efforts, and in the longer term, it will become a way of thinking and behaving that will change the dynamics of the business and give both your team and business the opportunity to make a difference.