Top Talents Wants to Stand for Something: Companies, Lead With Purpose

By Executive coaching News

In the modern workplace, purpose drives talent, impacting both individual and team performance. Without purpose, skilled employees will eventually develop an escape plan. Therefore, if performance is measured to determine overall success, a sense of purpose must be cultivated across the company.

How are successful organizations leading their workforce to find such meaning in their professional roles? Well, there are many reasons why people work, and although money, status, and prestige are motivating factors, they don’t provide the long-term satisfaction of having a purpose. And according to new research, rather than try to force purposeful work arrangement, thriving companies focus on uncovering unique factors that inspire people to do their job well.

From Baby Boomers to Gen X,Y, and Z, people are inspired to work for one reason or another; only now, that reason is more meaningful than bringing home a paycheck. This presents a rare opportunity for companies to form meaningful relationships with employees while attracting and retaining top talent. Retention rates show, purpose-oriented professionals display increased loyalty due to greater levels of happiness with their work.

Years ago, Harvard Business Review surveyed 19,000 people with the question, “What stands in the way of people being more satisfied and productive at work?” Results concluded that companies are far better served by systematically investing in meeting as many of their employees’ core needs as possible, so they’re freed and fueled to bring the best of themselves to work. Additionally, with Linkedin reporting that only 30% of the workforce is actively involved, enthusiastic, and committed to their work, we believe it’s time to highlight a few of the methods companies currently use to connect with people and develop a purposeful working environment.    

The Mission-First Mindset

In today’s economic environment, people pursue jobs that matter to them, explain a meaningful relationship, and fulfil a purpose. For companies looking to stand out from the crowd, mission-first mindset enables both leadership and current employees to further lead with purpose. By “leading with the mission,” companies verbally and visually share their most important operating goal in the form of a purpose-driven statement. When communicated well, it’s impactful, concise, and engaging. And most importantly, it functions as a beacon of light, attracting the right people. In their largest global study on purpose at work, LinkedIn concluded with the following statement confirming why expressing the company mission has never been more important:

“As the economy evolves, purpose and recruiting purpose-oriented talent will be a competitive differentiator. Companies of all sizes and industries are realizing the power of inspiring employees with a strong social mission, and creating an environment that fosters purpose.”

Similar to emphasizing the importance of health and wellness, companies that lead with their mission must be willing to “practice what they preach.” That is, they function and live by it as a cohesive team. With the effects of increased productivity and more engaged employees, the following examples speak to the value of the mission-first mindset:  

ResMed

Based in San Diego, ResMed is a world-leading health device company with more than 5 million cloud-connected devices for daily remote patient monitoring, specifically developing award-winning devices and software solutions that help treat and manage sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other respiratory conditions.

Hinting at the significance (meaning) of their products, ResMed believes “That every breath is an opportunity to make a positive change in people’s lives. We’ve been helping change lives since 1989, and our logo embodies this guiding philosophy.” Of course, a belief requires supporting action in order to compel people to take notice and potentially see — and feel — meaning. This is done with intention and clarity through leading with the following mission:

“Our mission is to change 20 million lives by 2020. We’re proud to make equipment and connected health solutions that give those with sleep apnea, COPD and other respiratory diseases the gift of breath.”

Structured as an impact objective, ResMed partners (customers, suppliers, internal team) seamlessly align themselves with the key reason as to why they operate: working to save lives by contributing to the company’s world-leading products. And this empowers employees to show pride and ownership when asked, “what do you do for a living?” Knowing their time, energy, and skill is valued and meaningful to something larger, their work provides a sense of purpose and value that can’t be matched by many others.

Illumina

Another flourishing San Diego-based company leading with a mission-first mindset is Illumina. Focused on “improving human health by unlocking the power of the genome” (Illumina’s mission statement), the company cultivates purpose by clearly educating employees on where they fit and how they drive success. Emphasizing urgency, Illumina employees understand that the projects and products they work on bring meaning to the lives of others on a daily basis. As Illumina puts it, “We know our work matters. We understand that every day — every minute — is important. There’s urgency to our mission because today’s discoveries have the potential to help tomorrow’s patients.”

Ultimately, by “unlocking the genome” and leading with a mission-first mindset, Illumina motivates employees to feel excited, optimistic about doing meaningful work, arriving and leaving every day with a clear understanding of their purpose not only in the office but also in their daily life.

Advice offered in the following Forbes article on “Having a Mission-Driven Company”: Mission statements must reflect commitment to higher social good for the community they serve, both local and global. Authenticity and transparency build trust. These companies illustrate this message:

Patagonia: Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.

Intuit: Powering prosperity around the world. We do it by attracting the world’s top talent, bringing vital partners into our global platform, and leaving the world a better place through exceptional corporate citizenship.

Petco: To improve the quality of life for all pets by creating and supporting programs that save the lives of homeless pets and promote healthy relationships between people and pets.

Thrive Global: Thrive Global’s mission is to end the stress and burnout epidemic by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance well-being, performance, and purpose, and create a healthier relationship with technology.

Health and Wellness

Having a purpose positively influences physical and mental health. Viewed inversely, physical health can lead to a greater sense of purpose. As studies show, “having a purpose in life appears to widely buffer against mortality risk across the adult years.” Heart disease, Alzheimer’s, pain management: living with a sense of purpose reduces risk attributed to these health issues.

Everyone deserves an opportunity to live well. Especially at work.

In fact, well-being leadership continues to inspire employees across the world to seek out meaningful work environments that fulfill a measurable purpose: happiness and health. Showing little resemblance of past “wellness programs,” forward-thinking, thriving companies are more aware of how people feel, both when they walk into the building and when they leave for the day — or weekend!. From mental well-being to proper nutrition, humans are hardwired to seek balance and comfort in life, something that’s difficult to do as an employee. Let’s face the facts: the average American will spend 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime.

Fitness rewards, insurance incentives, professional nutrition services, access to gourmet meals, personal trainers, subsidized fitness plans, yoga, and meditation, these all reflect ways that companies communicate an important message to their employees: healthy employees make happy employees, a vital component of high-performing companies.

Similarly, as any good leader would tell you: lead by example and “walk your talk” — an important detail to consider when designing an environment for employees to identify purpose. In doing so, employees will better connect with their employer, and clearly link increased happiness to their relationship with work — their wellbeing.

The best examples of companies who provide the most impressive health and wellness opportunities are also the most proactive. Let’s look at those who get it, the ones facilitating employee well-being and a sense of purpose:

Microsoft

Few companies have resources as abundant as Microsoft. And it shows in their approach to employee wellness.  Weight management and fitness training are the tip of the iceberg; Microsoft subsidizes gym memberships or fitness  equipment and activity purchases while also providing free onsite classes — not to mention accessible walking and running tracks, along with practice courts for many sports. The Microsoft campus also provides onsite clinics, optometrists, and pharmacists. The attention to purposeful work is enhanced with the company’s employee-assistance program, which offers free personal and family counseling, stress management, and referrals for child and elder care. Reflecting an inclusive environment, cafés come stocked with healthy dining options, including a labeling system to help employees easily identify healthy food options. Needless to say this is the pinnacle of a feel-good-be-happy relationship between employees and a company. And boy does it inspire people to work purposefully. The numbers don’t lie!

However impressive these wellness benefits may be, there are many other examples of great companies doing good work to lay a foundation for employee purpose. Two in particular, DJO Global, INC., and NuVasive (leader in the global-spine industry), are native to the San Diego region and produce solutions that elevate human health across the country. Aligned with their reason for existing (their ‘why’), these companies have crafted industry-recognized wellness programs that make it easier for employees to stay healthy while working, as well as adopt a wellness mindset characterized by attainable goals and endless resources.

In essence, they place equal importance on maintaining healthy employees as they do healthy patients — a clear statement expressed on DJO’s website: “DJO encourages and promotes health and well being, not only through our company mission and products, but through our employees as well.” From events, rewards, discounts, and food, to facilities, education and reimbursement, these programs provide living, breathing people an enhanced sense of pride and purpose in their daily lives: living well staying healthy.

Giving Back and Making a Difference

Western Digital

“Teams of Western Digital employees participated in eco-friendly volunteerism in support of our philanthropic pillar to address environmental issues in our communities around the world. We only have one Earth and preserving the environment is a cause that is fully embraced by our company,” read the introduction to Western Digital’s July 26th blog post: Western Digital for the Environment Around the World. Highlighting the company’s employee-impact initiatives, the message is clear: Western Digital not only cares about the environment and climate issues, it’s now intertwined in their purpose for conducting business. And most importantly, this meaning trickles down to each and every employee.

Recognized globally for transforming data, Western Digital claims its key to doing business is creating an optimal environment for employees to thrive. Simply stated, the company excels at cultivating employee purpose through meaningful work and giving back to the communities in which it operates: volunteerism, community grants, and hunger relief to name a few. As company leaders describe it,

“We believe that the most effective way to embrace the diversity of our customers and communities is to mirror it from within.”

This statement should be modeled by other companies wishing to make a difference in their industry or even local community. With a commitment to giving back, Western Digital employees serve as the brand’s heart, reflecting their purpose out into the world with one cohesive message: We care.

Teradata

Teradata Cares. No, this is not another generic statement used to lure talent in the door; this is a verbal commitment to every employee of Teradata, and it’s backed by action. A global data-for-good business, Teradata’s unique mindset has enabled them to develop a passionate, purpose-driven workforce. Two key factors serve as the heart of the company: driving positive change and creating balance through giving back. In fact, Teradata employees are encouraged and empowered to seek out opportunities to engage with their individual communities according to their own specific interests. Key areas of focus include improving youth education, strengthening neighborhoods, and caring for the environment and supporting sustainability.   

From the words of employees, “Teradata is all about delivering positive outcomes using good data”; “Through the Teradata Cares program we are able to spread our love across the world.” By ensuring employees can make a difference in their own unique way, there’s no shortage of purpose; professional and personal aspirations are aligned and this combined energy further drives the company’s mission.

The Takeaway

Purpose drives talent and business success. Using a mission-first mindset; offering impactful health and wellness options; or giving back and making a difference in local communities, all positively affect how purpose is cultivated in the workplace. Summarized in LinkedIn’s “Purpose at Work Report,” connecting employees with purpose brings measurable business impact. Research from the EY Beacon Institute and Harvard Business School shows that companies that lead with purpose are more likely to be profitable. And as Executive Chairman and Co-founder LinkedIn Reid Hoffman explains,

“If you are in a position to influence hiring, talent management, or employee experience — the purpose movement cannot be ignored.”