By calling out employee efforts that tie to company purpose, organizations can drive loyalty.
By Gary Beckstrand
When anthropologists evaluate groups of people and try to define cultures, the first characteristics they look for are mutual purpose and vision, and with good reason—a unified purpose is what connects people and separates distinctive groups.
Purpose is growing increasingly relevant, especially to corporations trying to define company culture. Today, purpose in and outside of the workplace is a large part of the collective consciousness. Millennials—73 million strong in the U.S. and the largest population in the workforce—are particularly focused on living purpose-driven lives and finding meaning in their work, according to a recent study from Gallup. They want to feel connected to a greater good that transcends a steady paycheck and health coverage—as do the rest of the generations in the workforce.
Many companies, from food chains like Even Stevens to shoe retailers like TOMS, are making concerted efforts to articulate the greater purpose of their businesses, both to their employees and consumers. But these and other tactics might not be completely scratching the purpose itch. Only 27 percent of employees believe in their organization’s values, according to a study from Gallup, and many are compelled to leave their job because the organization’s purported values and mission don’t match reality.
So, how else can companies convey their purpose and keep employees engaged? Organizations may want to consider leveraging the power of appreciation to impact employee feelings of purpose and connectedness.
A strategy of continual, meaningful employee recognition will drive a strong, purposeful organization. A recent study from the O.C. Tanner Institute discovered connections between giving, receiving, and observing recognition to feelings of purpose in the workplace and belief in the company mission. The largest impact on employees’ perceived connection between their work and organizational success was seen when employees “often” or “always” give, receive, and observe recognition. In fact, 41 percent more employees in this group will understand how their work contributes to the success of the organization when compared to those who “never” or “rarely” give, receive, and observe recognition. Encouraging a culture of frequent employee recognition helps employees understand how their work directly impacts the greater good of the entire organization.
But generating recognition and purpose involve more than identifying how a person impacts the bottom line and recognizing their efforts in doing so. Organizations need a clear definition of these words and to demonstrate how their service/mission ties back to fundamental human needs. Because regardless of where they work, many people will value similar core principles, some of which include:
1. Connection: Relationships and the ability to communicate on a deeper level.
2. Nurturing: Mentorship of others and the giving and receiving of compassionate service.
3. Meaning: Awareness of one’s abilities and how they matter to others.
4. Security: Feelings of confidence in one’s surroundings and job.
5. Finances: The ability to save or spend and increase one’s own profit.
Companies can take part in helping their employees find meaning in their jobs. Internal recognition efforts can be shaped around the organization’s appreciation of employees , particularly when are reinforcing the company’s mission and clearly communicating how that mission makes a meaningful difference in the world. For example, an IT security company can recognize its employees for creating or building on strong products that protect customers from cyber attacks, tying the recognition back into the company’s overall mission of making the world a safer place. Recognizing employees’ efforts in helping organizations fight off malware and other cybersecurity threats helps fulfill employees’ core values of finding both meaning and security in life.
To help reinforce the core value of connection, companies can recognize employees for teamwork, their ability to form relationships with clients, and communication skills under pressure. What’s more, organizations can encourage nurturing behaviors by recognizing employees of all levels who take time to mentor other employees and are willing to offer a helping hand when a department needs assistance.
Reinforcing purpose helps employees more easily connect and relate to the company’s overall mission, and recognition can emphasize that connection. But aligning employees to a company’s purpose is only a wish list item if not put in motion. Continuous, intentional employee recognition is critical part of the plan.
Gary Beckstrand is vice president of the O.C. Tanner Institute.