how you develop yourself as a leader

Will ‘Purpose Alignment’ Become the Most Important Strategy in Talent Management?

Covid-19 saw a lot of movement in the job market. But it is not over yet. The drastic change in the world environment has prompted many employees to reflect on their purpose in life. Along the path of this reflection, some would have considered if their career is in line with their purpose in life.

Perhaps you have done some reflection too?

Globalisation and technology enable a much wider selection of careers to choose from. At the same time, the idea of work-life integration and mindfulness has become mainstream, fuelling desires to ‘love what you do’ and ‘live your purpose in life’.

A survey by McKinseyshowed that since Covid-19 “nearly two-thirds of US-based employees … are reflecting on their purpose in life. And nearly half said that they are reconsidering the kind of work they do because of the pandemic.”(1)

This is not just a phenomenon in the US

A survey by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in the UK shows 40% of 18-24-year-olds and 25% of 45-54-year-olds are considering a career change after the pandemic(2). Assuming a similar statistic for Singapore, that means around one-third of your talents are reconsidering whether they want to continue working with your company. The potential turnover is high!

A lot of companies focus on talent engagement in a bid to get their employees to stay. Nevertheless, for some employees, it feels very surface level because they are not engaged at a deeper level – their purpose in life.

Why is it important to engage at this level?

The same survey by McKinsey revealed that employees whose purpose is aligned with their company show exponential benefit to both parties. Employees not just see better job satisfaction, they are also more satisfied in life, and are likely to be healthier. For the employers, there is a correlation with an increase in productivity, more engagement (within and outside working hours), and lower turnover.

It almost sounds too good to be true

And yet it is true. 70% of working individuals said their sense of purpose is defined by their work(1). If this stat is not convincing enough for you to take serious action to align your talents’ purpose, your talents will eventually solve the problem themselves – often by walking into another company’s doors where they hope it is ‘the one’.

“I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn’t.”
~ Albert Camus

So, here are some ‘How tos’ to get you started. They are deliberately generic because each organisation is unique and will need its unique plan. Our specialists can help guide you in more detail.

A word of warning! Before you begin, you must be transparent in your intention and be prepared to follow through to the end. Few things are as personal as one’s purpose in life, and it would require a great deal of trust and psychological safety for employees to share it. You may only get surface-level answers or what your talents believe is ‘the right answer’ if there is a lack of trust in leaders, managers or the company.

For example, Anne works in fashion retail and would love to own her boutique shop one day. But for now, she is content with learning on the job and making a salary while she saves up for her business capital. If she is feeling insecure about her job, she may suspect that if she tells the whole truth, the company may see her as a future competitor or she is not committed to the company in the long term. It would be in her interest to say the safe thing, where her purpose is to see customers’ delight in finding the clothes they want.

If you haven’t yet got it, build a safe space between your employees and managers. While you are doing that…

Familiarise with the types of purposes and their different nuances

Some people are content with saving up for a future family/business/self-related expense. Others are looking for more empowerment in their job and career growth. There are some who want to be part of a bigger or altruistic mission.

And yes, it is possible to have these three different purposes at the same time. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is often interpreted as a bottom-up approach but in fact, people are on the constant lookout to fulfill several or all the needs at the same time.

Improve Conversational Skills

The next step is for managers to have trusting, deep and human conversations with their employees, see what patterns emerge and match the organisation’s purpose. To create authenticity, it is recommended that the conversation starts ‘at the top’. Improving conversational skills is part of how you develop yourself as a leader.

Once this is done, it’s not the end! To make your talents feel like youtruly care about them, the conversation should continue periodically. The only constant changes, and when people or their circumstances change, their purpose will adapt too.

You already have invested a lot of resources into your talent

This process may feel very resource-intensive. However, your talents are one of your company’s greatest assets and there is still potential to generate further ‘returns’. Some companies have made an effort to align themselves with their employees’ purpose by offering benefits like a sabbatical year, flexible working, volunteer leave, cross-posting, multi-disciplinary projects, etc. All because they recognise that retaining talent that is skilled, trained, who has organisational knowledge; contributes to the company’s competitive advantage.

Don’t be surprised if you find that as low as 10% of your talents are aligned with your company’s mission. The number should closely match your employee engagement rate because purpose alignment is the key link between your talents and the company.

Once you know where you are starting from, you can fine-tune your recruiting, onboarding and feedback process to include purpose to cultivate future talents. So what are you waiting for? There’s a lot of work to do!


Naina Dhingra, Andrew Samo, Bill Schaninger, and Matt Schrimper, April 2021, “Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave”

Katie Jacobs, June 2020, “The impact of COVID-19 on the labour market” CIPD Youtube Channel

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