We have experienced a wake-up call on several fronts that is prompting many to reflect on what is important in life. Since March of 2020, our work and personal world has completely changed and we are continuing to struggle to balance our work with our lives. More than 50 million have quit their jobs in “The Great Resignation”, where individuals are searching for meaning in their work. For business leaders this is of great concern and even those that are at work, the work environment itself is changing. The debate around remote work versus back to office continues to fester. Author Malcolm Gladwell slams working from home (nypost.com) which has led to a vociferous debate on social media on whether employees should be forced to be back at work in person. According to Pranali Save, Chief Human Resource Officer at Icertis, companies are finding that “remote work and the economic environment are eroding connections between employers and employees – especially in tech”. Clearly more needs to be done to help employees find the balance and build company culture in what is going to be a hybrid work environment for many industries.
A McKinsey study titled “Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave,” argues that two-third of US-based employees surveyed said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. Help-your-employees-find-purpose-or-watch-them-leave.pdf. What is interesting is in the same study there is a disconnect between company leadership and rank and file workers. Eighty-five percent of executives and upper management believe that they can live their purpose in their day-to-day work whereas 85% of frontline managers/employees are unsure or disagree that they can live their purpose in their day-to-day work. This disconnect is concerning and also important to overcome.
For decades we have been focused on growth and ‘growth mindset’; which is important for self-growth; which then also has a positive impact on work – this creates a duality between self and work. However, what the pandemic has made a lot of people realize that they need purpose in their lives and their work. Growth is no longer the driving force for business and individuals, and instead businesses must provide a space for employees to discover, cultivate and apply purpose. Pamela Maynard the CEO of Avanade a global company states, “having a purpose is both personal to me and critical to our business, more than ever employees want to contribute to something greater than themselves”. Growth Mindset introduces the trinity between self, work and community. All three need to have a positive impact.
In my book Purpose Mindset: How Microsoft Inspires Employees and Alumni to Change the World, I show why it is important to provide a space for employees to build that muscle of discovering purpose. Having a purpose mindset is an important driver. As Leo Rosten (1908-1997), the humorist, screenwriter and political scientist once said, “I cannot believe that the purpose of life is to be happy. I think the purpose of life is to be useful, to be responsible, to be compassionate. It is, above all to matter, to count, to stand for something, to have it make some difference that you lived at all.”
Purpose is not about just gifting money or offering time off for volunteer activities; what is important is to increase opportunities that allow employees to find personal meaning in their day to day work. When the work is aligned with the company’s own purpose, that sense of fulfillment will ultimately benefit the company, too. Aaron Hurst in The Purpose Economy shares that not all purpose oriented workers are teachers, and social workers; they are representing the full spectrum of the workforce – accountants, lawyers, engineers, salespeople, assistants, and janitors. Those companies that create institutional structures that enable an environment where an employee’s job is a significant source of purpose in their lives will thrive. “The benefits of getting individual purpose right are substantial, self-reinforcing, and extended not only to the well-being of employees but also to the company’s performance.”
In Purpose Mindset I lay out five principles that drive an individual to develop a purpose mindset that companies should pay attention too:
- Discovering Strengths—working from strengths and building on them to create greater possibilities.
- Working from Abundance—accessing a variety of innovative resources, from people to equipment and space, at previously unthinkable scales.
- Extending the Common Good—moving from doing things efficiently to having an impact on broad community progress.
- Igniting Movements—focusing on building a movement, not an organization, that leads to societal change.
- Embracing Empathy and Compassion —centering on the “we” rather than the “me.”
As a global community, we have become reasonably adept at describing the need for change “out there” in the world, such as promoting social justice and combating climate change. But we are not so good at talking about the change that needs to happen within us. What shifts in our beliefs, attitudes, and assumptions are necessary to bring out the best in ourselves and to do good? Since I wrote the book, Purpose Mindset, we have been conducting Purpose Mindset workshops with business, government, nonprofits and academia, around the world to help individuals identify their strengths, values and craft a personal purpose statement and then find alignment to their work. The goal is not to have complete alignment but to find the connections and strengthen those connections so that in times of stress these connections hold and we realize how we are using our strengths, values and purpose. Over 3,000 individuals have gone through our workshops from over 70 countries. These are CEOs, government leaders, academic deans, students, representing a diversity of work environments.
Below are sample Purpose Statements crafted by individuals in multiple languages.
We conducted a purpose mindset workshop for Icertis www.icertis.com, a leader in contract intelligence software, with their extended executive leadership team of over 50 people, where they crafted their personal purpose statements. Keeping that as a reference we then supported a smaller team with the CEO, cofounder and HR head to craft a purpose statement for Icertis – Build trust, strengthen bonds, and create a better world. According to Samir Bodas, CEO of Icertis “Our purpose statement is resonating with all our audiences and the investment in developing and articulating it has helped us connect to present and potential Icertians at a deeper level. Our focus on purpose truly differentiates Icertis in the market.” The company is now working on having all of their employees craft their purpose statement and find alignment to their work.” Further, to facilitate organizational and team purpose statements action to societal change, we are working with MC3 US to develop a customized Purpose Bot to support the Purpose Mindset Workshop execution. This ethical AI-Powered Bot solution will provide organizations and individuals with curated daily micro actions, to learn, connect, act and make social impact.
The British journalist and author George Monbiot’s foretold a new political-economic narrative that builds on community rather than on individualism. And that is playing out now as we enter a new post pandemic world. In “Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics in the Age of Crisis,” he shows how research in the fields of psychology, anthropology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology converge to reveal human beings’ outstanding capacity for altruism, ingrained in our DNA through natural selection. His idea of inclusive communities based on “bridging networks” (which bring together people from different backgrounds) is central to how humanity interacts and works together. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement created just such an opportunity for people to form new bridging networks to help their communities build on altruism and cooperation.
Purpose is that light – as individuals we must switch it on. As employers we must provide that space where employees can cultivate their purpose and create better work experiences and a more purposeful environment for everyone.
Written by Dr. Akhtar Badshah.
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