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12 Ways To Encourage a Sense of Purpose in the Workplace

Where do you get your sense of purpose from?

Maybe it’s the work itself, or the challenge that it brings. Maybe it’s the fact that you’re able to help others. Or, maybe it comes from a sense of community with your colleagues.

It could be a combination of all of those factors.

Many companies emphasize the importance of the team having a common sense of purpose. But how does a company actually make that happen? When a company is made up of thousands of employees, or its workforce is distributed, how do you boost a sense of purpose on that scale?

Here you’ll find 12 actionable ways to help inspire a sense of purpose in the workplace.

1. Inspire Employees by Starting With “Why”

Too many companies only focus on what they do and how they do it.

What’s missing? The “Why.”

For Simon Sinek, the author of “Start With Why,” more companies should focus on why they do what they do. By defining your company’s purpose, you can communicate this higher calling to your employees and use it as a guidepost for everything you do.

For example, Netflix’s culture deck was key to preserving their culture as they grew in their early years. Eventually, they released it to the public where it’s been seen over 15 million times on LinkedIn alone.

Another example was Holstee’s Manifesto, which was written by the company’s founders so they could define their own success. They eventually released their manifesto on their website. It went viral and has now been translated into 13 languages.

2. Foster a Sense of Purpose Outside of Work

When companies go all-in with instilling a sense of purpose at work they tend to overdo it and hammer it over the heads of their employees. They also tend to forget their employees have their own lives—and purpose—outside of work.

Organizations should encourage their employees to pursue their passions outside of work, and give them both the time and resources to do so.

For example, Basecamp, a project management software company, provides its employees with a $1000 annual continuing education allowance. You can also allow for flexible schedules to give your employees the ability to pursue their interests outside of work.

3. Make Work Matter

Managers and leadership need to understand the importance of the team having a sense of purpose.

Today’s employees don’t just want an important title and a nice salary from their job. They want to know how they contribute to the company’s mission. 

As Daniel Pink, the author of “Drive: Self-Direction, Mastery & the Purpose Motive,” says, “When the profit motive becomes unmoored from the purpose motive, bad things happen.” Profit and purpose need to work hand-in-hand to keep employees motivated.

4. Ask: Where Do You Get Your Sense of Purpose From?

Short term goals can be great for motivating employees to reach a deadline. But what about long-term motivation?

Researcher Amy Wrzesniewski found that those who thought of their jobs as a calling were more satisfied than those who thought of it as just a job. She interviewed hospital janitors who believed their role went above cleaning and was about helping patients heal.

Asking employees what their sense of purpose is can unlock surprising reasons for why they’re motivated in their role.

If you’re using an employee communication tool like Beekeeper, you can get feedback from workers and use the results to:

  • Better define their roles
  • Adjust responsibilities to better fit their sense of purpose
  • Make sure they’re engaged in their work

5. Create Opportunities for Growth and Learning

One way to make employees feel like they matter is to invest in their education and training. 

And that applies to all employees, not just a select few VP’s. Offering growth opportunities to a select few can make others feel undervalued.

Investing in a culture of continuous learning will:

  • Give employees more confidence in their abilities
  • Encourage employees to take on challenging tasks

Along with one-on-one support, powerful communications software can foster that culture of learning. And remember: learning and development don’t always have to be in the form of a manual or standard course. Gamification is a fun and effective way to engage employees.

6. Make Collaboration Easy

Collaboration highlights the importance of the team having a common sense of purpose. If a team collaborates on a project and they don’t have a clear sense of why they’re doing it, the project isn’t likely to succeed.

This is particularly important to consider in a post-COVID world when so many employees are working remotely. Remote workers don’t always have the opportunity for spontaneous collaboration. They rely on communication tools to reach out to colleagues and find mentors.

For remote workers, successful collaboration is largely dependent on the tools they use. 

Using WhatsApp is a bad idea if you’re concerned about data security and scalability. When you’re choosing collaboration software, keep in mind:

  • How and how often employees will interact with the team app on a daily basis
  • How easy the app is to implement
  • The app’s security and integrations capabilities

7. Give Rewards and Recognition

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind. That’s why recognizing employees for their contributions to the team and company helps them understand why their work matters.

We’re motivated by how our work helps those around us. Knowing that what we do daily makes a difference encourages a greater sense of purpose.

It’s not just the big achievements that deserve recognition. Small-scale accomplishments matter, too. But it can be hard to keep track of those in a big company. If your team is distributed, celebrating in person isn’t always an option.

That’s where software and automation can make a big difference. With a tool like Xoxoday, you can automatically send gift cards to employees to celebrate work anniversaries. With Beekeeper, you can survey an employee’s peers to ask what they enjoy most about working with their colleagues. Then, you can use that information to post a virtual thank you card.

8. Focus on Frontline Workers 

The majority of advice about motivating employees assumes that those employees work in an office. But what about frontline workers?

Finding the right strategy for motivating frontline workers and giving them a sense of purpose can be difficult. Without the proper tools, frontline workers remain disconnected from the organization they work for. And given the stress caused by the pandemic, many frontline workers are taking labor action to fight for their rights.

Keeping frontline employees motivated starts with empowerment. With a tool like Webalo, for example, process engineers are able to update apps remotely without relying on corporate resources. MobieTrain is a mobile-first microlearning platform that lets frontline workers improve their skills and knowledge wherever they are.

9. Make Safety a Top Priority

When employees feel that the company they work for prioritizes their safety, they’re much more likely to be invested in the work they do.

Improving safety starts with using the right communication tools.

At Beekeeper, we’ve helped our customers measurably improve workplace safety.

The Budd Group, a facility maintenance company, was able to use Beekeeper to improve communication and safety for its 1,000 employees. Before Beekeeper, getting the word out about severe weather conditions was next to impossible. Now, they can reach their employees reliably and track how many have seen updates. 

“In terms of helping create a safety culture, this is the best that we have. It’s been a huge improvement to be able to get information out there to people on what they can do to make their job sites safer.”

– Halston Kirkpatrick, The Budd Group

10. Create More Opportunities for Submitting Feedback

In order to give employees a sense of purpose in the workplace, they have to feel their feedback is welcome and needed. Employees who feel that their voice is heard are 4.6X more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

It’s helpful to use a survey planning checklist to make sure that you’re:

  • Asking questions based on specific objectives
  • Using the right tools to conduct surveys on a regular basis
  • Using the right types of surveys to reach employees

Frequent surveys show employees that their feedback will have an impact. They can also give you real data for employee engagement and satisfaction.

11. Involve Your Company Cheerleaders

Every organization has its cheerleaders. They are the people who:

  • Are natural leaders within their team
  • Speak up most during meetings, often to express what others are thinking
  • Organize non-work events for their colleagues
  • Are most likely to be the ‘face’ of the company

When we’ve lost a sense of purpose in our work, looking to a cheerleader we know can rekindle our motivation. If they’re fired up about their job, maybe we can be, too.

But often, the reach that cheerleaders have is limited to their immediate co-workers. By giving cheerleaders a platform on a company-wide communication tool, you can inspire less motivated workers to follow their example.

12. Make Sure Company Values Are Still Relevant

Finally, it’s worth asking the obvious:

Are the values our company drafted X number of years ago still what we want them to be today?

We’re living in a post-COVID world where the very definition of work is changing by the month: 

  • Remote work is the new normal
  • Work/life balance isn’t what it used to be
  • Safety and mental health awareness are new priorities

In many cases, company values are abstract enough to be able to withstand current events. 

But priorities change. Maybe flexible scheduling and freedom to choose your own hours move from being a perk to an important value. Maybe improving employee access to mental health resources becomes a key value, too.

Values are what give a company and its employees a sense of purpose. Make sure those values still matter.

Download our “15 Best Practices for Employee Engagement” eBook to learn more.