Do you consider it your responsibility as an employer to provide your employees with meaningful work? It’s general knowledge that the more employees are engaged in their work, the more loyal and productive they’ll be. In a candidate’s market, that’s pretty important.
But it’s also been said that you can’t hand someone meaning with a title, role, or activity. The person has to choose to ascribe meaning to his or her work. So who is responsible for your employees attaining meaningful work?
Consider the true story of a manufacturing company that produced medical devices. All the employees enjoyed working there because they felt they were participating in saving lives. It was a very purposeful company culture. Eventually, however, the pressure to please shareholders mounted, and the company became concerned primarily with its stock price. As the focus shifted from saving lives to making money, workers started jumping ship and interviewing elsewhere to find meaningful work.
Apparently, that manufacturing company missed out on some important research, according to Vic Strecher, a behavioral scientist, professor, and Director of Innovation and Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health. Strecher shares results of long-term research from a book, Firms of Endearment. Over a period of 15 years, researchers compared profit-driven companies from Standard & Poor’s 500 and companies selected from the Good to Great book by Jim Collins to purpose-driven companies such as Trader Joe’s, REI, Costco, and 3M. These firms all had a purpose that transcended producing revenue.
“By 2013, over the fifteen-year period, the Good to Great companies returned 263 percent of investment, completely swamping the 118 percent return from the S&P 500. But hold on to your stock portfolio: by 2013, the Firms of Endearment ended up returning 1,681 percent of investment!”
Obviously, people are more engaged and productive when you provide your employees with a great reason to come to work! Even though each person must ascribe meaning to his or her work, your organization can create a vision, mission, and culture that cultivate a sense of purpose, teamwork, and belonging in your employees. You need to sell a purpose that your workers can buy.
Strecher is passionate about helping people live and work with purpose. Here are his 6 Quick Steps for Finding Your Company’s Authentic Purpose:
It’s hard not to focus on profit alone when the pressure is on. But the research shows that you’ll be more profitable when you provide your employees with meaningful work. And in a candidate’s market, employee retention is another key to profitability. So take your eyes off the money, shift to finding your company’s purpose, and prepare to be happily surprised!