Understanding The Role Purpose Plays In The Workforce

Nasa Man in Space

During a tour of the NASA space centre in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor working a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man, introduced himself and asked what he was doing.

The janitor confidently responded, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”

This is an inspiring example of how people can find purpose in their work and see the full impact of the work they do. In this blog, we’ll look at how you can help your people find purpose in their jobs, and why this matters.

Let’s start with why it matters.

We spend a heck of a lot of time at work. The average person spends 90,000 hours at work in their lifetime. Yet how often do you come across someone passionate about what they do?

A recent study from LinkedIn reported that 49% of employees would trade a portion of their salary to continue in their current role with an added sense of purpose.

More and more professionals are looking for positions at companies where they can have a meaningful impact and experience personal growth.

When your employees can’t see why they come into work every day, many will push it to the back of their mind or choose to focus on making money to support their family and pay for hobbies. This is problematic because it isn’t sustainable.

Unhappy workforce

If this is their ‘Purpose’, they will become unhappy, demotivated and stop fulfilling their potential.

“69% of disengaged employees will leave for as little as a 5 percent pay increase, while only 25% of engaged employees will leave for the same amount” – Dale Carnegie Research

However, connecting your employees to work that brings out their sense of purpose will only benefit your company. Employees that are more satisfied and fulfilled are higher performers, more productive, and likely to stay longer.

When your staff have this sense of meaning in their work, it means that even when things become challenging, which they inevitably will, they can come back time and time again to the purpose of their role and find the motivation to perform.

What’s also interesting is that Purpose is a powerful motivator regardless of differences in region, culture, language, and occupation.

Figuring out your Purpose is hard.

If you work for a charity or in healthcare, it may be easy to help people find the deeper meaning in their work. But what if you work in an office, a call centre, or a software company?

Let’s start with what your purpose is not. It’s not your company’s mission. That’s too big for people to feel a part of. It’s also not your vision (which is there to show others your plans for the future).

It is a statement written for your most valuable asset – your employees.

Your purpose is written to excite and engage them. Get it right and it will drive innovation, give clarity and direction, and allow all decisions to be made confidently.

Your Purpose has to be about the shared goals between your business and your staff. If you can align those, your team will understand why their individual roles are important and you can craft their jobs into something meaningful.

How do you connect employees with a sense of purpose?

Ask anyone what their purpose is and you’ll probably be met by blank stares and several seconds of “errrrmm”. It takes a hefty dose of self-awareness – something a lot of people are lacking.

You can help staff understand their purpose by asking them to pay attention to when they find themselves unexpectedly fueled or energised in a meeting, a work project or in an interaction with a colleague.

Having them reflect on this will reveal what motivates them. When you know that, you can be more intentional about creating those moments of purpose.


Too many companies believe a pay increase or shallow work perks are enough to win back disengaged employees, when in fact, the real solution could be the most cost-effective and straightforward method – make their work matter.

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