The New Era of Work: The Urgent Need to Lead Employees To Greater Fulfillment at Work

leadership meaning at work purpose social support Aug 31, 2021

This new, mid-pandemic era (it isn't over yet) has caused employees to reconsider their careers, jobs and take a close look at how fulfilled they are at work. In fact, more people in the United States are searching "what is the purpose of my life" on Google more than ever before. The data suggests that this search went from "unpopular" to 3X more popular than other searches!

This isn't the first time we've heard about the importance of purpose at work. In fact, a few decades ago, this was such a hot topic that corporations invested vast resources to go further than the standard mission and vision statements to generate corporate purpose statements. And, it worked for a while. But now more than ever before, there's an urgency to help employees find meaning in what they do each day at work - and that is something you're either going to provide or allow them to create on their own with the resources of your competitors.

People are seeking books, investing in online courses, and attending seminars from "gurus" in an urgent attempt to find their personal purpose or destiny. I know this because for the past 5 years I have been a life coach to these exact people. Yes, I have been coaching your employees on how to find fulfillment in life and work simultaneously. I have seen the anxiety and depression these people feel when they believe that there is no meaning or purpose for them in life. Many of them end up leaving their jobs, creating exit strategies and start innovating and building their own businesses - their strong desire to be valued, utilized, and challenged drives them to become the "CEO of their life" and take valuable innovation outside of the organization.

Question: Could your organization be missing out on opportunities for innovation?

On a psychological level, people need to feel that they are needed and valued. The most fulfilling type of work is when there is a clear "why" or purpose for the task at hand - otherwise, the person feels useless. Prior to the pandemic, salary, bonuses, PTO, and benefits could compensate for a lack of personal purpose at work. However, today your employees require more. On June 24, 2021, NPR reported a "Great Resignation" where a record 4 million employees said "I quit!" and walked out of their jobs.

Tired and burned out from working more hours than usual from a remote desk, with little to zero engagement, leadership, vision, camaraderie, or honest conversation about their personal lives - employees have had enough time to realize what they really want out of life.

You are probably thinking that you already do this. However, if that was the case, then why is there such a disparity between the level of purpose frontline managers and employees experience at work versus upper management?

A recent study by McKinsey & Company (April 2021) revealed a "stark purpose gap" between upper management and the front line. 85% of executives and upper-level management agree that they can live their personal purpose in their day-to-day work, in contrast, only 15% of front-line workers and managers could say the same.

Frontline managers and employees (85%) that did not experience purpose and fulfillment in their day-to-day work also experience less energy, decreased satisfaction with life, and lower engagement and excitement about work. This "purpose gap" has implications on the bottom line for your company and will lead to greater turnover, employee satisfaction, and engagement in the future if not addressed now.

What can companies and leaders do?

1) Start taking action. Start making better choices. Firstly, make sure your organization's purpose is updated and relevant to our times. Don't just say you are going to start supporting charities. While that is great and we totally promote social consciousness and impact - that is NOT a substitute for paying attention to your organization's and employees' purpose.

2) Humble yourselves. In our recent LinkedIn poll, we asked about the top leadership quality employees value in their managers - Humility was the answer time and time again. As a leader, put yourself in the shoes of your front line, embrace empathy, sit down with them, reflect, connect and give ask them quality questions about what they learned during these last 18 months. Ask about their priorities in life, family, and work, and truly care about their responses.

3) Prioritize the psychological safety and well-being of your employees. Most employees are in a sort of "fight or flight" mode right now and they will be for a long time. They need to feel safe in your care so that they can be open about their needs.

These are just a few ways you can begin your journey as a brave, purpose-driven leader. We welcome you to follow us and this series of articles continues.


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