Seventy percent of American workers report that they’d feel more loyal to a company if the company helped employees make an impact on social issues. Beyond loyalty, purposeful employees perform better. According to an Imperative study, they are more likely to have strong relationships with their colleagues, act as promoters of their organizations and rise to senior-level roles. It makes sense — most of us spend the majority of our days working, so it’s logical we’d want to feel motivated and optimistic about our companies. Especially given the inevitable ups and downs of any business, purpose can help put the long, stressful or straight-up bad days into perspective and keep us motivated to push forward.
Millennials, in particular, are seeking out purpose-driven workplaces. Sixty-four percent will not accept a job if that potential employer doesn’t have strong corporate responsibility practices. The data is relatively straightforward — employees want their companies’ values to align with their own. A mandate much easier said than done. A recent Gallup study reveals that 70 percent of workers in the U.S. are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged” at work. So even companies driven by the most altruistic of missions making the most significant social impact can miss out on all those positive outcomes — recruitment, retention, morale, performance, loyalty — if they’re not fostering that connection between employees and purpose.
Kicking off a new year for our business, this is our opportunity. Charity Network as a whole is a relatively small company with an exceptionally purpose-driven directive, and, even so, things can get siloed, departments can become insular, digital to-do lists can overtake in-person morale-building experiences. In a small or start-up business, connecting with purpose is even more essential because each employee plays a pivotal role in the company’s overall performance–maximizing each person’s activity is central to success. Here’s how we’re approaching the employee engagement challenge:
Our company exists to help nonprofits and philanthropists raise more and do more. “Purpose” isn’t something we have to manufacture, it’s deeply integrated into our business. Because of that, I think sometimes we take our cause impact for granted. One way to keep sight of our North Star is to consciously bring up our purpose and impact every single day. Whether that means reading a non-profit partner testimonial to kick off a staff meeting, posting our mission up in the office kitchen, sharing positive press coverage via Slack, volunteering at one of our clients’ holiday parties for homeless youth, or simply bringing up our social good focus in one-on-one conversations, there’s no wrong way to talk about our impact. It is up to the leadership within an organization to set the tone and model this consistent communication. Eventually, the message of purpose will become internalized and will manifest in employees’ outlooks and actions.
Within any given business, employees are going to feel varying levels of connection to the ultimate mission and outcomes. For instance, a Charitybuzz account manager working directly with non-profit partners is getting more exposure to our philanthropic impact than most other employees simply through the nature of the role. To address that inevitable disparity, leaders should be cognizant of engaging everyone, from top to bottom, across functions. Making meaningful impact is something special that can align everyone together and ensure we’re all working toward the same objectives. Aligning around purpose can even bring an organization beyond just working in parallel toward the same goals — it can provoke effective cross-departmental collaboration, communication, and respect.
Before any communications or engagement tactics are even worthwhile, the first thing a purpose-driven company needs to do is hire purpose-driven employees. For us, our company is built upon a relentless desire to figure out new ways to increase partners’ charitable impact. When we hire passionate people who embrace this ambition to make a difference, we see significantly higher retention, performance, and growth. If a purpose-driven company doesn’t prioritize candidates’ personal motivators, new hires who don’t feel authentically connected to the business may not put in their best effort or may burn out.
Purpose can be a secret weapon for success, with the right employee engagement approach in place. Moreover, it isn’t only for philanthropic organizations — healthcare and education are other prime examples, and many business innovations and service providers aim at improving the world we live in. The point when talking about purpose is that, when communicated and socialized properly, it can connect employees across geographies, roles, and backgrounds to drive success.