Purpose—Mightier Than the Perk

If we were to ask the typical employee in your organization to describe their work, what’s the likelihood that they will say something like this? “I come down to the office, I get on my back, and I start painting. And I think I’m in the Sistine Chapel.

And how would it influence your organization’s performance if this is how motivated every employee felt at work every day?

Judging from the success of Warren Buffett, who has actually used these exact words to describe his relationship with work, it would appear that a highly motivated employee is a highly effective employee. It is no wonder that employee engagement has, for a long time, been one of the holy grails of HR. But what’s been trending in recent days is the mechanism being used to address it.

Leading organizations are going beyond bonuses and awards to look at the end-to-end employee experience – Design Thinking meets Talent Management. “Nearly 80% of executives rated employee experience ‘very important’ or ‘important’,” according to the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report.

But the report also reveals that companies’ ability to “address these issues of engagement…has dropped by 14 percent since last year.” One reason employee engagement is lagging is that most of these efforts continue to focus on one dimension only – extrinsic rewards. A powerful alternative to creating a strong employee experience is to provide employees with intrinsic rewards at work – to create the conditions where employees do what they do at work not simply for material benefits, but also for the love of it.

At Mentora, our Five Pillars of Inner Mastery provide a number of powerful intrinsic drivers that managers can utilize to motivate employees, such as:

  1. Helping people forge Purpose and meaning in their work
  2. Cultivating Wisdom by fostering empowered thoughts and uplifting emotions
  3. Helping people operate from a calm, centered, intuitive space within themselves by pursuing Self-Realization 
  4. Opening their hearts to Love – to taking joy in others’ joy by caring for and connecting with people
  5. Empowering employees to pursue continuous Growth so they can approach their highest potential in life and work

Let’s look at the first of these pillars – Purpose. In recent times, there’s been a profusion of interest in this topic –  organizations are keen to find their soul, their “why”. Why are they in business, in what way are they building a better future, and for whom?

If your organization has made great progress in this direction, and if it has led to a powerful purpose for you and your team, that’s great. Stay with it because it works. This strategy+business article on organizational effectiveness notes that “when it’s clear to employees that they’re helping others through their work,” the brain’s reward system lights up and “their intrinsic motivation rapidly expands.

But if you’re stuck in a place where you want to create a strong purpose for yourself and your team, and this purpose hasn’t yet emerged from top management, then do not give up hope or wait indefinitely. Seize the moment and take matters into your own hands – forge an inspiring purpose for your own work, and for the work your team is doing. It may not apply to the whole organization, but it may very well apply to what you and your team does. And recent findings in organizational psychology suggest that this is all you really need to do in order to infuse your work with greater purpose and meaning.

Imagine, for instance, if you were a doorman at the corporate headquarters of a large bank. What is your purpose? In one of our Forging Purpose workshops, one of our banking clients shared with us that their office doorman engages employees in a few seconds of some playful salsa dance moves as they walk into the building every morning.

Our client once asked the doorman what motivates him to do this. He replied, “Look, all of you go into this building and work really hard to serve this bank and its customers. Because of your hard work, we have so many jobs in our community, including mine. So my goal is to make sure I can at least put a smile on your face as you walk in to do all the important work in the long day ahead!” What a powerful, inspiring, and self-designed Purpose!

So remember, purpose is a powerful way to enhance your team’s and your own experience at work, to maximize engagement. And, like the doorman in our story, you can take on this challenge to craft purpose for yourself and your team without waiting for the organization to do it for you.