Aligning Purpose for Growth and Wellbeing

You may have heard the word ‘Ikigai’. If you haven’t, it’s a Japanese term similar to ‘purpose and being’. Think of it as answering the question: “What is the reason for my life?”

As our work and life become more integrated, more of us are trying to find our ‘ikigai’ through our careers. After all, if you are spending 9 hours a day working, it should be something you enjoy, right?

“Do what you love, love what you do”

Research by McKinsey found that “70 percent of employees said that their sense of purpose is defined by their work”.

So, when employees’ purpose is aligned with their work, what benefits can we see?

Surprisingly many, according to the research. Aligned employees are more likely to be intrinsically motivated, so they can be more productive and produce better results without close supervision. To add to that, there is less turnover among employees whose purpose is aligned with the company’s purpose. For the employees personally, they see improved physical health, mental health, sleep, cognitive function, and resilience.

How to align an employees’ purpose when the organisation has thousands of employees?

Purpose affects motivation, and depending on the type of purpose, motivation can be driven through extrinsic rewards or in intrinsic ways.

Most organisations have a compensation & benefit structures where it can address purpose relating to financial rewards such as buying a car, house, holiday etc. Most employees, especially at junior levels are satisfied with this arrangement. However, after we attain a certain level of income, money can no longer fulfill the gap that is in our lives. As the saying goes, “Money can’t buy happiness”.

So what do you do as a manager?

In every team, there are team members who are more motivated intrinsically than extrinsically. You just need to find out who they are. Alignment works on different levels. Your team member’s purpose doesn’t have to be aligned to the organisation’s lofty goals. Alignment can be done at the level of the team’s objectives.

For example, remember Shelly, the marketing executive who dreams of owning an online shop selling baby products? How is she aligned with the organisation’s goal?
She knows she needs be good at online marketing to attract customers for her future shop. She learns about online marketing on her own time and produces good results in her daytime job because it achieves two goals.
1. She can prove to herself that she is getting better at online marketing.
2. She will get performance bonus from her good results.

Shelly’s desire to become a better online marketer is enough to make her align with one of the team’s objectives, which is to improve marketing conversion.

Here are some steps you can take to find out your team members’ purpose and how aligned they are with your organisation’s objectives and goals.

“You have to accept that the world—like the people who live in it—is imperfect, but that it is still full of opportunities for growth and achievement.”
~ Hector Garcia Puigcerver

Speak frankly

Be upfront about your intentions for having a conversation about “purpose” with your team members. In this current climate, it can easily be interpreted as a bad intention and backfire. Some of your team members may be afraid to talk to you about their purpose as it may ‘expose’ them of not be loyal to the company because they have a different goal in their life.

Listen fully

Managers are often thought of caring for the organisation more than its people. Here is your chance to show differently. When having the ‘purpose’ conversation, don’t judge and don’t question. Improve your listening skills by accepting fully what your team members are telling you. Some may reveal that they are at the organisation to achieve a certain goal before they leave. By respecting this, at least you know how to plan for your team’s pipeline and team members’ career paths. You can still work out a way for this person to achieve their goals while they are working for the company,

Communicate purpose often

It’s easy to have this conversation along with the annual review then its business as usual. For more higher impact, purpose has to come into the daily business. For example, when deciding, ask yourself if it is in line with the organisation’s purpose? Ask your team members what is important to them.

Measure the right thing

What you measure is the strongest signal to your team members what you care about. If you want to show them that you care about their motivation, you can measure it every now and again with a reliable tool, and use the results to have conversations in your regular meetings:

• How has work aligned with your purpose last week?
• How is your motivation last week?
• Were there any ‘high points’ last week? What was the reason?

Then, have a discussion with them about what might be driving their motivation up or down, and what would be helpful to maximise their motivation.

As you align your team members’ purpose, you will see an improvement in your team’s motivation. Where team members are aware and respect each other’s purpose, a stronger bond will be created, further increasing your team’s optimal performance.

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