You can’t create engagement until you identify your purpose

Corporate leaders play a complex role as they strive to keep their organizations relevant, sustainable and profitable in increasingly competitive environments.

Not only do they work to increase market share and sales, they also compete to attract and retain high-performing talent. One common approach is to increase employee engagement, and logically so, as companies with high levels of engagement consistently outperform their peers.

Yet according to a 2016 Gallup poll, less than 33 percent of the U.S. workforce feels engaged at work. Even more discouraging, that figure has not changed significantly over the past decade. What is the missing piece to the puzzle?

A person’s engagement is at its highest when he or she is achieving something personal and meaningful. We intuitively understand this. You have probably experienced the power of intrinsic motivation personally or by watching someone else triumph over incredible odds from a drive that comes from deep inside.

Yet many of the tools that have been created to increase engagement are focused on external factors that do not ignite this internal drive, such as recognition, compensation, training and the sharing of the company’s vision and strategy.

Find your purpose
As a leader, recognizing your employees, providing the appropriate compensation and training, and ensuring that your company vision and strategy are universally understood are all very important. But they will not drive the engagement you as a leader would like to see, and that your employees would like to experience.

Purpose, on the other hand, is very personal. Purpose — a deliberate choice to pursue a future-directed intention that is personally meaningful — can exist at the company level as a company purpose, and at the individual level as a personal purpose.

Companies with a higher purpose (a purpose focused on positively impacting more than just shareholders) not only perform better, they also enjoy higher levels of engagement when employees can identify with that altruistic purpose.

And the impact of employees’ personal purpose is even greater. The more one can identify with a personal purpose, regardless of whether it is connected to one’s job, the greater the level of overall engagement.

As a leader, you can elevate employee engagement by:
  Getting employees involved in identifying the altruistic element of your company purpose to which they can personally connect.
  Helping employees to identify and articulate their personal purpose.

The missing piece
This approach has been extremely effective approach at Vitamix. Having an organizational higher purpose and helping employees identify their personal purpose are parts of the culture, and consequently we have an engagement level that is more than double the national average.

It is undoubtedly important to recognize your employees, and to have the right compensation and training structures in place. Yet to solve the engagement puzzle, making it personal and meaningful through purpose is the missing piece.

Jodi L. Berg, Ph.D., is president and CEO at Vitamix