Purpose is the most critical factor of employee engagement. When properly cultivated, it aligns your team members’ individual pursuits and passions with those of the organization to drive increased retention, customer satisfaction, and profitability. And while the impact of purpose is holistically significant, it can still be one of the most difficult factors to identify and achieve at both an individual and organizational level.

This is largely because purpose is driven by passion, and discovering what you’re most passionate about is a lifelong journey. What’s most important to you can shift both quickly and in the long term – especially in challenging times – but as you learn more, you can begin to focus on the goals and opportunities that will allow your passions to be fulfilled.

At an individual level, it’s important that work is closely tied to passion – and in many cases, what you’re passionate about will have little to do with your professional life. True passion is about what ignites you and drives you to fulfill your life’s purpose. Maybe family is your main driving force, or maybe you’re most passionate about helping others. Whatever it is that drives you, finding ways to integrate that into your professional life is a challenging but rewarding journey.

At an organizational level, the key focus is on a shared purpose, fueled by the understanding that the team is more capable collectively than any individual on his or her own. While individual purpose and passions are still present, we must find ways for them to also serve the mission of the organization. This aligned purpose in collaboration with others is infectious and can quickly lead to positive influence throughout the team.

Identifying purpose is a nonstop process, and it’s ultimately up to a team’s leaders to communicate with employees and ensure individual and organizational purpose are connected and mutually reinforcing of one another.

Purpose in times of adversity

It’s always a challenge to help employees’ identify and pursue their individual purpose, but it is especially difficult in our current day when you’re also laser-focused on simply surviving as an organization. While this may seem like a time to put purpose-finding on the back-burner, it is in fact more important now than it’s ever been.

Purpose can play a paramount role in guiding people through uncertainty. People with a strong sense of purpose tend to be more resilient and to exhibit better recovery from negative events. Research also shows that those who say they are “living their purpose” at work are four times more likely to report higher engagement levels than those who say they aren’t.

Those with a strong sense of purpose are able to experience the benefits, but many are faced with challenges in the act of finding that purpose today. In an era clouded with unknowns as we all attempt to acclimate to the “new normal,” finding and maintaining strong direction can seem like an unending uphill climb. Fewer meaningful face-to-face interactions and mounting stresses and anxieties can leave individuals feeling alienated and void of purpose within a larger organization.

This is where trust can combine with purpose to elevate employees toward resiliency in times of turmoil.

Where purpose meets trust

For an organization to enrich its employee engagement while fostering a sense of purpose, trust must permeate across all levels. Employees must be able to trust one another to effectively collaborate and follow through on initiatives. Team members must also be able to trust that leadership’s actions will align with their words – especially in uncertain times.

As the current global challenges progress and eventually culminate in the “next normal,” employees will be paying attention to whether or not their organization’s actions match its ambitious and optimistic words during this time. And many will factor this into their decision as to either stay or go.

It’s relatively easy to lay out a plan of purpose to rally the team in the short term, but remaining true to that path while weathering the storm of the day is much more challenging. When done confidently and with conviction, trust grows to help solidify the alignment and spirit of all involved. When there is a disconnect between words and actions, however, trust wavers and the purpose of many employees – and of the organization as a whole – can slowly fade into obscurity.

While times are undoubtedly difficult now, new challenges will arise as adversity fades and we begin trying to find the best way forward in a post-pandemic world.

What to do

Now is the time to start openly discussing purpose both individually and as a team. Remain open, honest, and empathetic during these discussions, aiming to understand what each employee wants in life and from work and what you can do to help achieve it. Opening a dialogue on this can begin building both purpose and trust as foundational factors of your greater culture.

Purpose combined with care also creates its own unique benefits, cultivating a stronger sense of belonging and a more enriched culture throughout your organization.

Once purpose has been brought to the forefront, begin finding ways the driving passions of individuals can contribute to the mission of the organization. It can also prove beneficial to adjust roles as needed in order to provide employees with new opportunities to engage their passions and find their purpose.

Think of the famous quote from the janitor at NASA who when asked by JFK what his job was, said that he was “helping to put a man on the moon.” Not everyone in your organization is going take that one giant leap for mankind, but everyone involved can help take the small steps to get there.

Experience the impact of true employee engagement with Sicora Consulting

Sicora Consulting has helped organizations of all sizes and in all sectors elevate their employee engagement to achieve improved morale, productivity, and results. Through our 8 Factors of Engagement program, we leverage direct input from you and your team to deliver actionable solutions for sustainable change.

Organizations that utilize the 8 Factors of Engagement experience an increase of 15% in actively engaged employees within nine months or less.

Contact us today to sail into 2021 with a greater resolve of purpose and a foundation of trust.