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Purpose in the Modern Workplace

Why Today’s Leaders Are Investing in Meaning

March 18 2020 • 2 min read

Purpose in the Modern Workplace

Why Today’s Leaders Are Investing in Meaning


The average person will spend one-third of their life at work. That adds up to 90,000 hours or more over the course of a lifetime. And that number is only going up. In the information era, today’s workforce is always on. They're connected to their work through an endless series of digital channels and devices.

Considering this, it should come as no surprise that 9 in 10 workers would willingly take a pay cut if it meant engaging in more purposeful work. As such, companies must embed purpose in every aspect of work. This will help them stay competitive when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.

Defining Purpose

Forbes writer and leadership strategist Samantha Todd says it best. “The most basic definition of purpose is the ‘why’ question—why someone is working on a task, why a task matters to a job, why a job matters to an organization.” In other words, purpose is what gives meaning to the tasks we undertake. Purpose brings meaning to work and helps employees understand the contributions they are making to the company. It also helps them understand their broader contributions to society.

The Consequences of Unfulfilling Work

Unfortunately, as of 2018, only 34% of U.S. workers claimed to feel engaged or enthusiastic and committed to their work and workplace. This lack of engagement (a lack of purpose) results in substantial personal and economic losses. 

Not only does lack of purpose cost U.S. companies an estimated $500 Billion each year, but it also has social repercussions. We’re seeing record high numbers of employees experiencing burnout, depression, and anxiety. According to a recent survey from Korn Ferry, overall stress levels have risen by 20% in recent years. 

Furthermore, the newest members of the workforce—Generation Z—are experiencing record levels of loneliness and isolation, with 75% reporting that their workplace lacks meaningful connection. 

Recognizing the Engagement Gap

Recently, a Harvard Business Review study discovered that nearly 71% of executives believe employee engagement is essential for achieving organizational success. However, only 24% reported that their employees were adequately engaged. Experts refer to this phenomenon as “the engagement gap.” The future of work will rely on closing that gap. 

Showing the Value of Work

With millennials unabashedly demanding purpose-driven work, and Gen Z following closely in their footsteps, the bottom line and market value are no longer enough to create fulfilling work environments. Instead, thought-leaders are taking steps to demonstrate the connection between worker’s contributions and the bigger picture. 

The Future of Work is Purpose-Driven

Considering the demand for skilled workers, purpose can no longer take a backseat in recruitment and employee development. So how can modern organizations temper stress levels, engage an increasingly remote workforce, and boost engagement? By closing the “engagement gap” and infusing every role and task with purpose. 

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