Employee disengagement and turnover have become a costly nightmare for companies worldwide. Not only are millions of dollars wasted every year, but organizational growth is stifled. Businesses are unable to produce at peak efficiency, and valuable company resources must be re-allocated into recruiting and hiring replacements for people who leave because they are not supported or satisfied in their work.
Every employer’s dream is to find employees who desire to dedicate themselves to the company — where their efforts are not draining but sustaining, and they seem to access an endless source of iterative juice. Unfortunately, this motivation cannot be artificially created. Only intentional, conscious and vigilant alignment practices can manifest that scenario. For more engaged employees, you must satisfy their fundamental human desire to fulfill a higher purpose.
We think it’s possible to have the best of all worlds, where an organization’s higher purpose is in line with and supported by an individual employee’s professional and personal ambitions. Here’s how:
1. Align Your Team with Organizational Purpose
The first step is to develop a company mission, vision and values list — a grand purpose behind what your company does and how everyone will approach the road to getting there. Make all of this explicit so you can enroll every employee in a shared reality. This vision is a mix of what is already true and also what you aspire for.
If you have a lofty goal to be an agent of change, the world of status quo will always be pulling you away from your higher purpose. You have to consciously and intentionally move toward it with everything you do. The worst thing you can do in having a corporate philosophy is to write it on the wall and never talk about it again.
Drifting away from your purpose will set the company on a course toward rampant cynicism. Your employees will point to the wall of values and and say, “Be the Change? Ha! We’re not that, that’s a joke.” In cases like this, you’re better off not having a mission at all, because now you have a lack of organizational integrity. This delta between what you say and who you are breeds mistrust throughout your entire organization.
2. Keep Your Mission and Values Top of Mind
The chief advocate of your company mission needs to be the CEO. (Click here to tweet this thought.) That person must connect every action and initiative to the deeper purpose. They must check in regularly to make sure the team is inspired and the company philosophy is alive and well.
Values can and should be lived every day, and you can start by asking employees how they’ve exhibited them. Check in regularly with questions like:
- How close do you feel to our stated purpose?
- How did you live one of our values this week?
- What can the company do better to facilitate your alignment with our purpose?
3. Align People’s Professional Goals With Those of the Organization
Have you ever heard of the saying “life is suffering”? Some employers interpret this to literally mean that employees must suffer: long hours, menial tasks, disrespect by management. But the saying really means that people are caught in a perpetual loop. We desire something and there is a feeling of unrest until we attain it. Once we do, we immediately desire the next thing and so on, never reaching true satisfaction.
The ultimate success scenario is when the goals a person is responsible for in business line up with personal ambitions and objectives. The work we do for others leaves a significant and indelible imprint in our lives. New capabilities and confidence naturally emerge. Through accomplishing a business objective, employees learn and grow and feel the deep satisfaction of their own professional desires.
Stepping beyond our historical capabilities changes us (and grows us) neurologically, emotionally and even physically. We notice things differently, fine tune our awareness, develop muscle memory and have different skills in our bodies. As Paulo Coelho said, “The reward of our work is not what we get, but what we become.”
4. Support People’s Personal Goals Outside of the Company
During one of our quarterly retreats, I asked all of our employees to share their personal goals. After several weeks, I sent a follow-up email asking, “What can the company do to help you achieve your personal goals this year?”
Seems counter-intuitive, right? An employee’s pursuit of personal purpose will take away from the time they allocate to organizational purpose, won’t it?
It turns out that the opposite is true.
Many managers and business owners get caught up in the dangerous assumption that energy and time are fixed resources in a zero-sum game. This scarcity mindset dictates that if an employee spends 10 hours each week on a personal project, that’s 10 hours not spent on the business. If you think of a number of hours in terms of fixed output, you’re missing out on the truth.
The amount of output a knowledge worker can produce in an hour is affected by more factors than the passage of time.Energy, mood, level of care and commitment, level of presence and focus all play a role.
A person can show up for an hour of work just to get a project done and collect a check. But they feel uninspired and terrible about the way they are treated. That hour of effort will produce one outcome. Another person sits down to work with the mindset that their company is awesome, they feel committed and aligned with team and company goals and even supported in their personal goals. That hour of output is vastly superior in quality and quantity.
In The Dream Manager, Matthew Kelly argues that a company can only achieve its highest potential if its employees are reaching theirs. His solution to the employee engagement conundrum is for people to be supported by leadership to achieve both company objectives and personal dreams.
That support directly influences longevity and the quality of work produced. Kelly states that this supportive response is not extraordinary; it’s human. When we hear about someone’s dreams, our natural response is to aid in their realization. When they achieve personal goals, the resultant satisfaction and positive energy comes back and influences everything they do.
Develop your company’s purpose and align your employees’ professional goals with it. Genuinely support them in their personal goals and continue having conversations about what they do and who they are becoming.
If you’ve gotten clear on the company values and hire people who naturally fit and resonate with them, you’ll discover that employees’ personal goals often highly compliment the company’s. The fulfillment of purpose not only keeps people satisfied in their roles, but goes a long way towards establishing the strong bond to keep your best talent — and keep your talent doing their best.
How do you think a company mission would affect your workplace? Share in the comments!