So much is written about connecting an organization’s purpose with employee values.  Has this stemmed the massive exodus of employees leaving for better pay, a better work culture or better mental health due to pandemic burnout?  No.  Resignations are still on the upswing.

What if we flip the situation? What if managers begin to understand their employees and uncover the purpose employees bring to the table?

TIGERS Research Discovered Purpose

The research that underscores the TIGERS 6 Principles™ — trust, interdependence, genuineness, empathy, risk resolution and success from psychology, business and education group dynamic studies –discovered that purpose is an outcome of belonging.

Leaders who are committed to employee development and career growth learn about the employee’s value system and passions. They accomplish this though ongoing conversations. These leaders have a much easier job discovering employee purpose and connecting it to the work they perform.

Purpose isn’t a condition that Leaders can manipulate an employee into.  It is an outcome of good corporate governance and a work culture that values employees as stakeholders in organizational success rather than a cost of doing business.

Leaders who know the importance of belonging for building their work communities understand that employees must feel safe. They can’t feel safe if they suffer from paycheck-to-paycheck stress management.  Employees require confidence that their basic food, clothing and shelter issues are satisfied. Organizations that hold employee compensation to the most minimal compensation possible, force employees to focus more on economic survival than the work they perform. These organizations also fail to connect with employee purpose in sustainable ways.

Until employee basic needs are satisfied, it is hard for employees to build belonging and sense of purpose within an organization.

Leaders Build Belonging

Leaders who build belonging in the work community realize there are responsibilities they have for an employee’s training, career growth, development, work relationships and opportunity. When these factors connect to the value system an employee brings to the table, work purpose is much easier to develop and flourish.

This means that managers and supervisors must take  time to build an understanding of the employees they supervise. It doesn’t mean becoming the employee’s best friend. It does mean learning about the employee and understanding what that employee needs to be successful and why.

Conversations around “why” are extremely important to purpose.  The only genuine way to do this is to talk to the employee, gain their trust and learn what is most important to the employee. Managers who perform these conversations discover  how to connect the employee’s passions to the work employees perform.

Here’s an example.

An organization I endorse tapped into employees’ purpose both at work and in their private lives.  One employee, for example, wore fresh flowers in her hair everyday as a restaurant server.  Other employees also wanted flowers lo wear or share with customers. The owners discovered that gardening was the employee’s off-hour passion and tapped into that passion by providing a small grant for the employee to expand her garden.  Then they purchased the flowers from her for other employees adding both pride and another source of income to the her financial growth.  This employee started working as a restaurant server, then was transferred to accounting and later became the head grounds designer for this elite property. She experiences her purpose every day – helping things grow and contributing to beauty. Work is joy.

In another situation the owners learned that an employee is a Native spear fisherman. They purchased fresh fish from him for the restaurant. They also provided a small grant for him to gather other friends and fisherman in what is now known as the Fisherman’s Collaborative that supports sea to table price security.  These owners tap into employee passions and then expand purpose with both well-being and financial security.

Other Drivers of Purpose

Leaders who regularly connect and talk with their employees learn about employee strengths. In a SHRM study it was discovered that employees report that only 15% of their skills are tapped by the work they perform. It is difficult to connect to purpose when this is the case.  Therefore, cross-functional team solutions, learning circles and affinity groups are organizational ways to tap into employee purpose. This unlocks outside-the-job-scope-box opportunities. These opportunities include enhancing employee career growth while activating their strengths and purpose in team challenge assignments. This also enhances the growth and productivity of the organizations they serve.

In the 35 years I have been building collaborative work cultures, I am convinced that purpose is a two-way street. Leaders who are connecting with and learning about their employees most definitely hold the keys to employee retention by activating purpose..

Copyright TIGERS Success Series, Inc. by Dianne Crampton

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