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Much has already been said about the value corporate social responsibility initiatives brings to a company. Particularly, younger generations of employees place larger expectations on businesses to play their role in solving societal and environmental concerns, with some studies suggesting they care more about a company’s overall purpose than the paycheck it provides.

Such expectations have grown dramatically over the course of the pandemic. According to research done by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, nearly two-thirds of US-based employees surveyed said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life, with nearly half saying that they are reconsidering the kind of work they do because of the pandemic. Moreover, millennials were three times more likely than others to say that they were reevaluating work.

Professional services firm Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) echo the sentiment. Employees who find value in what they do are more motivated, more productive, and are likelier to stay with a company than those who are simply going through the motions.

“Purpose at work is about how to get people aligned with something bigger. When you connect the company’s purpose to what individuals do at work, they see connections between what they do and how their contributions make a difference to the company and to society,” PwC wrote on their website.

“When an employer’s brand is consistent and aligned inside the organization as well as out, employees extend that brand to customers. Similarly, a person’s experience at work is deeply influenced by their organization’s culture — that is, the self-sustaining patterns of behaving, feeling, thinking and believing that determine ‘how we do things around here.’ A culture that is diverse and inclusive, where people feel trusted and heard, and where leaders lead by example, can instill a sense of fulfillment and inspire employees to deliver a higher quality of work.”

McKinsey noted that when an employee’s values are aligned with an organization’s purpose, it leads to stronger engagement, heightened loyalty, and a greater willingness to recommend the company to others.

Further research has found that despite nearly nine out of ten employees saying they seek purpose in life, and seven out of ten saying their sense of purpose is defined by work, only 15% of frontline managers and frontline employees say that they are living their purpose in their day-to-day work. Worse still, nearly half of the employees disagreed with the statement.

To compare, 85% of upper management and executives agree that their purpose is fulfilled by their daily work.

This “purpose hierarchy” gap has negative implications. Less satisfied respondents reported lower average work and life outcomes than more satisfied peers did—everything from reduced feelings of energy and life satisfaction to lower engagement, satisfaction, and excitement about work.

“While such gaps should distress you — many of the employees closest to your products and customers may have stopped relying on you for the purpose they say they want — the findings also offer hope,” McKinsey wrote.

“When employees at any level say that their purpose is fulfilled by their work, the work and life outcomes they report are anywhere from two to five times higher than those reported by their unfulfilled peers. And this finding holds regardless of whether employees currently rely on work for purpose. In other words, organizations should aspire to ensure that their employees’ purpose is fulfilled at work, whether or not employees initially think they rely on work for this. Employees — and the organization — stand to benefit anyway.” — Bjorn Biel M. Beltran