A great paycheck might have been enough to motivate workers to perform at their best and stay loyal in the past. Now, though, employees and freelancers want more. In this article, Adam Ferrari, Ferrari Energy CEO, explains how and why leaders should strive to provide workers a sense of purpose.
Largely the reason employees no longer subscribe to the “I’ll work for the same company for 30 years then leave with a gold watch engraved with my name and company logo” paradigm is that they have been conditioned to expect more out of life than their parents might have. People now realize that if they want to achieve a higher level of life satisfaction, they must find fulfillment in their work. This realization is a good thing for employers.
As an employer, you will benefit from this search for a purpose in life. A sense of purpose will be a significant contributor to whether or not your employees enjoy their work. If they enjoy their work, they will be more productive, stay with the company longer, and be more likely to contribute innovative and creative ideas. It’s all about attitude, and attitude must be cultivated.
Whether true or not, the oft-told story of a conversation John F. Kennedy had during a visit to the NASA Space Center in 1962 is illustrative of how this vital principle works. It is said that President Kennedy took a wrong turn during his visit to the Space Center and ended up in a service corridor. Upon encountering a gentleman cleaning his mop, Kennedy said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What do you do here?” The man replied, “Well, Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
A man with a mop that feels he is contributing to the space race has likely been told on more than one occasion that every contribution matters and that without everyone’s best efforts, the entire team fails. This is the kind of attitude that today’s employers should strive to cultivate in modern employees.
Emphasizing “why” a job within your organization needs to be done over “what” needs to be done will bring the focus squarely on the task’s purpose. If an employee clearly understands that even the smallest amount of dirt and grime can foul up the electronics that guide a rocket ship, the employee will have a purpose in cleaning the floors.
Recognizing a job well done, no matter how insignificant to the grand scheme of things a task is, will convey an important message. If you only congratulate the top salespeople, it will be difficult for critical support staff to find their sense of purpose. If leadership shows that they believe every job is essential to the organization’s overall success, employees will believe it too.
Never limit the growth potential of your employees. In contrast to the outdated Peter Principle, there are worse things for an organization than having employees promoted to a level that stretches their competence limits. One of those worse things is to have employees that feel trapped beneath their potential and find no purpose or satisfaction in their work.