We have the largest generation of workers ever entering our workplaces and they are fuelled by the desire to do meaningful work and be of service. As leaders, how do we help our employees connect with a sense of purpose at work?
My story began at 12 years old after seeing a World Vision ad on television asking me to ‘sponsor a child.’ This had led me to start questioning the state of the world and starting my first business at 12, going on to become listed in the top 30 entrepreneurs under 30 twice in a row. It is said that by the age of 12, a child today has been exposed to over 12,000 advertisements across multiple platforms such as mobile, television, internet and more! Combine that with the increased rate of cause-marketing or cause-related campaigning, during our key psychological development period, this generation is being fed messages constantly that ‘the world needs changing,’ and ‘we need your help.’ So you can understand that naturally, this is the mentality and desire we carry wherever we go.
So beyond having a meaningful mission statement, how do you help your team connect with a sense of purpose in your workplace? This is not only important to attract and retain top ‘millennial’ talent, but more generally to facilitate a workplace that cultivates human potential and a place for performance.
It is very easy to start to just see (and treat) a job as a just a job, with no real impact or significant meaning behind it. I’m sure you’d agree though that each role within an organisation exists for a specific reason, it exists to solve a challenge for someone – if it didn’t, it simply wouldn’t exist! So there is purpose and meaning beneath all we do in business and in the workplace, our role as leaders and facilitators is to help our team become aware of the meaning behind what we are doing and link this to their own sense of purpose.
Here are 3 ways that I have seen work very effectively in helping your team feel a connection to purpose at work. After supporting teams within Apple, Google, Telstra and more in boosting creative potential and performance, here are some ideas you can apply to your team today!
1. Understand your team’s compass.
They say that you can’t motivate others, but you can understand what motivates them and help them reconnect with this. You may have a compelling mission statement, but it’s important to understand that each member of the team has their own internal motivator. It is our role to understand what the motivators and drivers are of our team, both professionally and personally. For some, they simply want to earn money so that they can take a 3-month break to travel to South America. Others may believe in environmental justice and be working to play a role in building a sustainable future. Whatever it is, it is important that as leaders and facilitators, we understand what these are and help our team link these personal drivers to organisational goals and their day-to-day role. You can come to understand these drivers by inviting each employee into having a very open and non-judgemental conversation about their big WHY and make sure you let them know that your intention here is purely to understand and that what they share will be held safely.
2. Educate on WHY!
Each role within an organisation exists for a reason if it didn’t solve a problem for someone else – either another employee or a customer – it wouldn’t exist. So each role does have importance and purpose. Having very clear position descriptions and outlines of the function of each role is crucial so that each team member can see the direct impact of their role and how it might affect other colleagues or the wider community. Beyond this, imagine if you could also link the purpose of this role with the purpose of the organisation. Building continuity between the organisation’s purpose and then the purpose of each individual role will help your team understand the broader implications of their position, having them realise that they are crucial to the achievement of your organisation’s mission. You can start doing this by providing an answer for ‘why’ behind every ‘what’ and every task.
3. Build a sense of home.
There is a fundamental desire within all humans to belong, to be part of a community and feel a sense of safety. Especially as we enter the ‘collaborative economy’ and begin working with people and in a landscape driven by the community, we must create places of belonging. This means that we need to start to create spaces that are able to hold the complexity of the human condition, places where our team are able to share what is really going on and don’t feel like they need to close off parts of themselves at work. Some workplaces do this with a weekly ‘circle-up’ or ‘team checkin’ where a team would be guided through a meditation and then invite everyone to openly share how they are feeling and if there are any challenges they are bringing to work. This is treated as a very safe space where everyone’s courage is protected and our aim is to simply listen and be heard. No need to ‘fix’ anyone’s challenges, just simply understand where everyone is. This creates spaces for safety, for a sense of home.
So I would invite you to start scheduling some meetings with your team, plan out a loose agenda and some specific inquiries. The more time you take to understand your team and their underlying motivators, the more you can facilitate a workplace for them to produce their best work and remain well in the pursuit!
Want to dive deeper into this topic?
I’ve recently partnered with Twosix Wellness and am offering a mindfulness and purpose intensive to select teams each month. We work as a team to develop a practice of mindfulness as we strengthen our sense of purpose at work and reconnect with the ‘fire’ in our role!
You can get in touch with us at to see if this might be a fit for you and your team.
To read more about my work facilitating community, purpose and creative potential in workplaces, you can check out my website here.
Here’s to more meaning, more connection, and more creativity!
Article by Al Jeffery
Al Jeffery is an international facilitator and communicator; creating spaces for community, potential and creative progress. Having worked with the likes of Apple, Google and Telstra among others, Al helps leaders integrate presence and vulnerability to effectively lead intergenerational teams. Learn more about Al at www.aljeffery.com!