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We spend an average of 40 hours every week working, so it makes sense that our wellbeing is improved when we have a strong sense of identity and purpose at work. In the past, many companies weren’t concerned with their employees’ sense of purpose – they instead saw themselves as purely transactional. Staff were simply expected to do the job they were being paid to do. There was a greater divide between our home and working lives. 

Now, numerous studies have shown that employees are reflecting on their sense of purpose in the workplace in greater numbers. Importantly, they’re also prepared to quit if they don’t feel their jobs contribute a significant sense of purpose to their lives. So how can companies work to retain staff by helping them feel connected to the work they do and enriched by it?

According to a survey of over 1,000 workers conducted last year by McKinsey & Company, “nearly two-thirds of US-based employees we surveyed said that COVID-19 has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. And nearly half said that they are reconsidering the kind of work they do because of the pandemic.” 

These results would come as no surprise to those who have been following news of what’s been coined ‘The Great Resignation’, in which large numbers of people overseas have quit their job as a result of the pandemic. In Australia, we haven’t see such vast numbers of resignations yet, however some analysts predict we will see an influx of people leaving their jobs in the first quarter of next year. 

It’s clear that organisations who consider their employees’ wellbeing and sense of purpose have a better chance of retaining talent. Here are some things you can do to support your staff:

5 Tips for Creating a Sense of Purpose at Work 

1. Define your company values. It’s very easy for organisations to primarily focus on what they do and how well they’re doing it. However, companies need to be clear on the “why” as well. A business with a strong sense of purpose has a greater capacity for aligning with and contributing to employees’ sense of purpose. Identify your company values and think about how you’re contributing. Look to grow in areas that contribute to employee satisfaction such as community involvement and charitable contributions.

2. Help employees discover their motivators. Some employees will already have a strong sense of what motivates them and what their strengths are. Other times, employees will greatly benefit from initiatives and progras that help them to work out what gives them a sense of purpose. Either way, it’s important for your company to be across what drives staff in order for them to remain motivated.

3. Create a positive work environment. There’s nothing more corrosive to employee wellbeing than a toxic workplace. Toxic workplaces can be created in many ways, such as staff being micro-managed or given unrealistic expectations. Work to create a supportive and professional environment. Allow employees to voice any concerns they may have.

4. Generate growth and development opportunities. Employees need to feel a sense of purpose in their work but they also require opportunities to grow in order to feel satisfied. If people don’t have a sense that they’re progressing and improving, then they can start to feel bored and unsatisfied.

5. Recognise employee achievement. Acknowledging staff for the great work they’ve been doing is vital to maintaining their sense of purpose at work. Incentives such as bonuses are a great way to recognise achievements but it’s equally important for staff to feel appreciated via simple measures such as a phone call to praise them, or calling out achievements in meetings.