If the purpose of the work isn’t clear to leaders in the organiza-tion,
it won’t be clear (or inspiring) to employees. Worse yet, when
the purpose isn’t clear throughout the organization, research finds
it’s no more beneficial than any other motivation tactic.
To start, answer this question: Beyond what the organization
does or what the organization gets for what it does, why does the
The answer is its purpose.
Before using purpose to inspire others, spend time making sure
it’s clear to leaders, managers and supervisors. One way to see if the
purpose is clear is to test it with employees. Does it resonate with
them? How would they describe it? Is it emotionally compelling?
Making sure to involve employees at all levels in developing pur-pose
clarity is critical.
2. BEFORE TELLING PEOPLE WHAT TO DO, SHOW
THEM WHY IT MATTERS
A group of supply chain mangers was recently asked, “Why does
your job exist?”
A women in the back of the room raised her hand and said, “I
found out why last month. I got diagnosed with cancer and was in
an MRI machine. I looked up and realized we distribute a widget in
that model. I realized my job existed all this time to save my own life.”
Talk about an antidote to disengagement. The group was instant-ly
more energized, creative and passionate. When people can see
that their work matters to another person, they are more motivated.
Yet, organizations typically onboard and train people in their
jobs by telling them what to do and how to do it. Instead, before
telling anyone what to do or how to do it, show them why it mat-ters.
When leaders can “show purpose,” it taps into employees’
sense of empathy, which activates emotion.
Emotion is what commits people to their work. Take a look at
recruitment, onboarding and training programs in the organiza-tion:
When and how are employees shown why the work matters?
One high-impact tip is to make sure to bring in beneficiaries of
the work – the customers or users – to tell their stories of how the
product or service impacts their own lives. Research finds that just
five minutes with someone who benefits from the work can boost
motivation and fulfillment.
3. REWARD OTHER-CENTERED BEHAVIOURS
Organizational culture is ultimately characterized by what types
of behaviours are incentivized. To build a purposeful organization,
leaders need to reward purposeful behaviour.
Because purpose is “a reason for existence,” it is other-centered by
default. That is its power. Often, organizations reward self-serving
behaviours by attaching them to self-serving rewards. By solely re-warding
personal performance with incentives like commissions,
perks and promotions, leaders create a self-serving culture.
But when leaders attach rewards to things like helpfulness, self-lessness
or dedication to the purpose, people inevitably do more of
those things. Are rewards systems set up to reward self-serving be-haviours
or other-centered behaviours?
When people are more purposeful, they do better work – and
results will follow. n
Zach Mercurio is an international speaker, trainer and purpose and
meaningful work consultant. His latest book is called The Invisible
Leader: Transform Your Life, Work and Organization with the
Power of Authentic Purpose.
ORGANIZATIONS TYPICALLY ONBOARD AND TRAIN PEOPLE
IN THEIR JOBS BY TELLING THEM WHAT TO DO AND HOW
TO DO IT. INSTEAD, BEFORE TELLING ANYONE WHAT TO DO
OR HOW TO DO IT, SHOW THEM WHY IT MATTERS.
38 ❚ JANUARY 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL