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The Newly Elevated Power of Purpose

OK. That was a weird year and a half.

COVID-19 was a game changer, in so many ways.

From a business standpoint, some of the changes in emerging leadership perspectives are refreshing and exciting as they point to new ways of thinking about what a successful organization looks like today.

For example, this reset period had many employees rethinking a fundamental question:

Do I care about what I do for a living?

The clear emerging answer from a myriad of employee research on this topic is an unequivocal: Yes!

Insperity, an HR services provider, points to a Cone Communications study, which found that 85% of employees surveyed indicated that "making a meaningful difference" is one of their top motivators at work.

In a similar recent McKinsey study, 70% of people define their personal purpose through work. The McKinsey report went on to reflect that this is especially true with the millennial group who see their job as their "life calling."

Why is this important from a company perspective?

Well, these millennials are obviously the future leaders of their firms. And, they think in a fundamentally different way about work, and the hours they spend toiling away on their company's behalf. A very different perspective from that of their leaders who may be in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Very different.

A recent podcast by McKinsey entitled "The search for purpose at work," reflected that for millennials, anything that they are going to do, they are going to do it with gusto. And, importantly, millennials will approach their job from this perspective: "If I am going to do it, it has to work for me and, if it works for me, it will also be for the good of the world."

Younger people are looking for opportunities in the workplace that contribute to and accomplish things that are in alignment with their purpose. It is up to the organization to provide those opportunities to this "caring about others" group. That is how companies must keep these valuable employees engaged.

To this group, being purposeful is much more important than the mighty dollar. New thinking.

So, from a company perspective, now is the time to really, really listen to this group and sincerely understand their motivations, their personal purpose.

It is up to the company to align it's purpose - where possible - with the purposes of it's best employees. Not the other way around.

Think about these research findings.

Based on McKinsey's research, employees who see the company's purpose in line with their own...

  • are 2.6 more likely to stay with the company, and

  • are 1.5 more likely to go 'above and beyond' in making their organization a great place.

These are your leaders ...sooner than you think. They have the ability to enhance your culture and take it to a new level. As long as the company's purpose is in line with their personal purpose.

Listen to them. Intently. Openly. Acceptingly.

Here's the deal. In the coming post-COVID business environment, it is even more important that companies work hard on key business drivers such as the company's purpose, vision and culture.

Why? Because that is what your up-and-coming leaders care about most. That's where their credible and authentic passions lie.

About this "it's all about purpose" viewpoint," McKinsey's Naina Dhingra states: "There is something admirable about that."

I agree.

Just recently, I led a group of eight up-and-coming young lawyer partners from a successful, forward thinking law firm around these important concepts of vision, purpose and alignment. It was inspiring, refreshing and energizing to hear from these future leaders that their passions were not at all centered on the money and elevating their billable hourly rate.

They wanted more from their hard work and long hours than just economic success. They truly cared about what the firm should stand for and had great ideas for how to get the firm there. They wanted to work more as a team behind a common purpose.

The energy level just escalated when the discussions were about their firm making a real difference in their community, and beyond. And there was insightful talk about getting the whole firm "being on purpose."

Now, that kind of reflection and clarity about a firm's purpose can - and, in their case, will - no doubt lead to a really strong culture. And with such a strong culture, this law firm will have a strategic advantage over competitive firms.

Culture as a strategic advantage. That is what it is all about.

And, it starts with a clarity on purpose. A purpose that aligns with your employees' purpose.

Hopefully, all types of businesses will see the light and the inspiring potential of uncovering their employees' true passions and purpose and aligning them with their company's overall purpose.

A winning equation. And a new path well worth pursuing.

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