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Catalyzing the Purpose-Driven Employee


By Drew Bonfiglio

Purpose is everywhere these days.

So, what does it mean for someone to be purpose-driven?

The purpose-driven employee wants meaningful work. She cares. She wants to know that your business is not hiding behind rhetoric, green- or blue-washing, or false promises. She wants her individual contributions and values to align with the goals and values of the organization. And, in all likelihood, she watched Simon Sinek's TED Talk and really cares about the inner-most circle -- the why.

Often the literature talks about the benefits of being a purpose-driven company: increased optimism, confidence, employee satisfaction and productivity. These are great, and we want to see more companies driven by purpose. But at my company, Emzingo, we believe that companies -- even the good ones -- are leaving too much on the table. There are three opportunities for organizations to take advantage of the purpose-driven movement that are too often overlooked.

1. Create a strategy to leverage the experience, passion and skills of more senior purpose-driven employees

Somewhere along the way, purpose-driven became synonymous with millennials. With the risk of bursting your bubble, we have to acknowledge that millennials do not uniquely possess the ability to desire and obtain meaningful work. It is impossible for me to believe that, at any point in history, people just didn’t care. And it's even harder to believe that people over 35 don’t want meaning, purpose and job satisfaction as much as the 23-year-old fresh out of college. So, our recommendation is to make sure your company doesn't neglect the passionate, tenured employees who love the business, have a ton of knowledge and are expensive to replace.

One example of investment in these employees is IBM’s Corporate Service Corps that was launched in 2008 "to help communities around the world solve critical problems while providing IBM employees unique leadership development opportunities.” These participants can inspire the purpose-driven millennials. According to an IBM survey, 76 percent of employees said the experience "boosted their desire to complete their business career at IBM."

2. View the recruiting process as a chance to do more than say your organization is purpose-driven

On-campus recruiting presentations, posts to job boards and LinkedIn, and even well-made commercials, ads and social media campaigns don’t fully capture the essence of an organization’s purpose. Although I’m sure Airbnb would disagree. But herein lies the opportunity.

Be bold. Integrate your values and commitment to purpose-driven employees into your recruiting -- not just in your marketing during the recruiting process, but actually into the process itself.

Here’s an example. Emzingo worked with a global IT consulting firm to design a recruiting event that is part experiential-interactive interview, part social innovation workshop. Student recruits participate in a live mini-case study to tackle a local social entrepreneur's biggest challenge. The IT firm (recruiter in this case) gets a unique look at how students approach a real-life problem. And as part of the process it supports a local organization by providing new ideas and insights from the student "consultants."  The investment in this activity is, of course, to recruit the best and brightest. It also very clearly aligns with the company's commitment to doing more than making money by providing IT services.

3. Innovate

The world looks different to the purpose-driven employee. She or he constantly looks at the world through a different lens than the employee who just shows up to do a job. This comes with a natural opportunity to innovate.

Imagine for a moment that you are walking through your office. If you’re a maintenance person, what stands out to you? Maybe you notice the damaged fire alarm cover. Or perhaps temperature is a little off. Now imagine that you’re an office manager, what stands out now? Supplies at the printer station? Pens on the supply shelf? You get the point. It is all about the lens through which you see the world.

Purpose-driven employees see the world differently, which means they will identify different opportunities. Tedd Saunders, chief sustainability officer of the Saunders Hotel Group, is the perfect example. He is known as one of the first “green hotel” innovators.

In a recent interview for a Net Impact Boston event, I spoke to Tedd about his approach. He just saw the world differently. In the 1980s, he saw being a better environmental steward as a business opportunity. At this time, it was not even something that crossed the minds of people in the hospitality sector.

So, I encourage you to embrace the “purpose-drivenness” of employees and channel the passion and energy to identify new opportunities and drive innovation. Purpose can be a powerful lens for creating value.

‘Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is a chance to work hard at work worth doing.’

- Leslie Knope quoting Theodore Roosevelt

Image credit: Emzingo.com

Drew Bonfiglio is co-founder of Emzingo.

3p Contributor

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