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Discovery Surveys, Inc.
Specializing in Employee Opinion and Customer Satisfaction Surveys
Improving the Workplace
THE POWER OF PURPOSE

By Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D. President of Discovery Surveys, Inc.

1 out of 4 employees say management is not committed to the organization's mission.

Every summer my wife and I volunteer for a day at the finish line of the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. It is the nation's largest fundraising bike-a-thon. My wife works in the information booth and I make sandwiches for the thousands of tired cyclists after their grueling 2-day ride. Several hundred volunteers do all kinds of relatively mundane work (loading and unloading trucks of food and luggage, setting up chairs, serving food, grilling burgers, and picking up garbage). They work tirelessly from 7:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon. Everyone from children to seniors all work their butts off. Everyone does so with a smile on their face. No one complains about the amount of work, the managers, the heat, or who is not working hard. The teamwork, good spirit, and amount of work that is accomplished is truly amazing. Why do we work so hard? The volunteers have a purpose. All proceeds go to funding cancer research and treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.

THE PROBLEM

Many senior managers lose sight of the fact that employees are seeking purpose and meaning in their lives and in their work. Instead, management tries to rally the troops by:

  • Boasting about quarterly profits or increased market share;

  • Providing good pay and benefits;

  • Offering incentives for increased production; or

  • Threatening job cuts.

As a result, employees put in their time but are not nearly as motivated as they could be. Their work becomes "just a job." Instead of finding meaning in their work, they are forced to find it outside of work.

In organizations with a strong mission, employees come to work feeling like they are working toward a much grander goal than making money for the company or themselves. They are performing work that is consistent with something they value. In these organizations, employees are more engaged in their work and are more productive, cooperative, and committed to the organization.

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WHAT TO DO

Employees need to know that they are working for something important and that no matter what their job responsibilities - managing a department or sweeping the floors - their work is contributing to the mission. Here is how leaders can help employees find purpose and meaning in their work:

  1. Develop a compelling mission.

    A mission needs to be a clear and succinct. It must describe the underlying purpose of the organization in a way that resonates with employees. Here are a few good ones:

    • To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. Used by Facebook.

    • To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful. Used by Google.

    • To bring the best personal computing experience to students, educators, creative professionals and consumers around the world through innovative hardware, software and Internet offerings. Used by Apple.

    • To work toward the day every child in America enters school prepared to succeed. Used by Jump Start, a national non-profit that helps pre-school children develop language and literacy skills.

  2. Hire employees who resonate with the mission.

    Ask job applicants questions to discern the likelihood they will embrace your organization's mission. Look for examples of how they have worked toward similar missions in the past.

  3. Train employees about the mission.

    Develop an onboarding program that clearly communicates the mission to new employees. Continuously train all employees about the mission and how it should guide their everyday work.

  4. Integrate the mission into your standard operating procedures.

    The mission should play a role in all aspects of how the organization functions, including:

    • The short and long range goals;

    • How decisions are made;

    • How budgets are set;

    • The organizational chart;

    • How customers are treated;

    • How the phone is answered;

    • What new business opportunities are considered;

    • Who the organization uses as suppliers; and

    • Day-to-day operating procedures.

  5. Build your culture around the mission.

    The culture consists of the values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs, and habits it uses. Senior managers need to constantly reinforce the mission by:

    • Referring to it in all speeches and written communications;

    • Telling stories that are examples of how the organization is living its mission;

    • Holding company events that are consistent with the mission;

    • Giving to charitable causes that support the mission; and

    • Providing employees with the opportunity to volunteer for activities (on company time) that are consistent with the mission.

  6. Continually refer to the organization's mission.

    To reinforce the importance and centrality of the mission, it should be the constantly repeated mantra at all company meetings. For each decision made, the group should ask, "How does this help serve our mission?"

CONCLUSION

Employees search for purpose and meaning in their work. If they can find it in your organization, they will be highly motivated, engaged, and committed. It is management's responsibility to make certain the mission is more than just words on the wall.

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All material is © copyright , The Discovery Consulting Group, Inc.

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