@Vera Petrunina|Dreamstime
Does Your Job Provide You with Purpose?

Does Your Job Provide You with Purpose?

July 1, 2021
Employees who find a sense of purpose in their jobs are more resilient to stress, more engaged, more connected to co-workers and more likely to stay with their company.

Today, ask yourself a profound question. Why are you waking up? Dig deep past the answer that you are going to your job to support yourself, your family, your loved ones. Is there a larger, greater purpose to the work you are doing?

If you can answer yes and pinpoint how your work fulfills a specific purpose in your life that you want to achieve, then count yourself very lucky.

This question, an existential one to be sure, is what many people across the country are asking themselves after trying to come to terms with the pandemic. They are examining their lives, and many are questioning whether they are finding meaning and purpose in their jobs. Unfortunately, this has led to many people leaving their jobs to find one with purpose.

However, sometimes employees are not connecting their jobs to a purpose that could already exist.

“The good news is that finding purpose is often easier than you might think if you widen your perspective on what you are doing and who you are affecting,” explains Victor Strecher, CEO of Kumanu. and a professor at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

He provides a simple example of talking to a sanitation worker and asking why he does his job. The worker replied it’s for the money.  But Strecher pointed out that sanitation, a pretty recent development for mankind, is at the core of health and that his work is absolutely essential to keeping people healthy. A sparkle came into the man’s eye, reports Strecher.

A New Point of View

“This new perspective -- pointing out that his work has a purpose – can cause a number of things to happen. The soul-level satisfaction in finding purpose in how you spend the majority of your day changes your behavior. If you feel what you are doing matters, then you become more engaged, you increase your connection with those around you and identify more closely with your company,” says Strecher.

This level of engagement in fulfilling a purpose simultaneously affects employees and employers. “An employee with a purpose brings their best self to work and doesn’t think of leaving, which is especially a concern now with a large percentage of the population is thinking about leaving their jobs. And furthermore, the employee takes better care of themselves by eating better, working out, and choosing  less risky health behaviors since the lack of purpose are often at the root cause of these behaviors.”

Getting to the root cause of behavior is why Strecher formed the company in the first place. Kumanu means nourish and cherish in the Māori language spoken by the indigenous people of New Zealand. “I wanted to dig deeper than traditional well-being programs. I wanted to get to the deepest level of why employees were experiencing issues. Why do people overeat, and smoke and drink too much? What is the root cause of these behaviors and I found that often people lack meaning, direction and a purpose in their lives.”

While it might not always be apparent, employers are in a position to help employees either find or support their purpose. Strecher points to studies that employees who say their employer supports their personal purpose are 3.5 times as likely to have a strong sense of dignity at work — and as a result, they are 2.3 times more likely to stay with their company.

The Process

To help employers start down this road to becoming a purposeful company that in turn provides purpose to its workforce, Strecher suggests beginning with the mid-level managers. They are in the difficult position of addressing both employees’ needs, which are much greater after the pandemic, and corporate goals. At the top of the company, most leaders do want to become a purposeful company according to research that Kamanu has done, but at the middle-manager level that goal isn’t showing up. Yet those are the managers that face the daily pressure of dealing with a workforce that currently is very stressed. 

Getting a baseline of where the company is on this journey can be achieved through technology, explains Strecher.  “Using artificial intelligence (AI) we provide a system, called a PurposeCloud, that helps companies understand what is happening at their company. The way to determine that is through directly interacting with employees, through natural language processing, that gets a read on employees.  Employees are prompted through an app to share their emotional states and the system probes further and then offers over 100 tips and strategies. The AI portion is able to learn about the person and offer the most relevant information. Some companies offer links and phone numbers for resources. And while the app can address the employee's individual concerns, the company gets a Sentiment report that lets them know what is happening on a company-wide, not individual basis. However, real-time information can be used to address concerns.  

“Using an app in this area has a number of benefits. Many people find it easier to interact with technology about these issues than talk to a counselor. It can also lessen the stigma that sometimes comes with dealing with mental health issues. And by offering easy-to-use tips and guidelines it opens up a wider range of healthcare compared to going to a spa or retreat to get answers,” says Strecher.

The Power

The feedback gives employees the power to “change their own weather,” a phrase Stecher is particularly fond of. The app can guide someone who wakes up foggy to methods that can help clear out the clouds. “We can flip our emotions more quickly this way and focus on what we have identified as our purpose. It keeps us on track.”  Studies support the benefit of aligning ourselves with our purpose. Over 800 peer-reviewed studies show that people with purpose live more fulfilling lives and have more resilient minds and bodies.

The importance of ensuring that we are in sync with our purpose has also been an area of scientific research. Through the help of medical imaging, scientists are looking into the effect having a purpose in life has on our brain. “Research about feelings of purpose affect the working of our brains has been demonstrated through MRI scans,” says Strecher.  Research has shown that people with higher levels of meaning in life have increased connectivity within nodes of the brain, which in turn means that they are better able to handle negative situations and their stress levels are reduced.” 

Just as our brain functions better when we have a higher purpose, so too will a company function better with a defined sense of purpose. “Organizations can have their own purpose as well as tap into an employees’ sense of purpose,” says Strecher. An example is an MRI machine manufacturing company that has posted photos on the factory wall of children who were saved using the company's machines. 

“Organizations, like people, are here for a reason,” says Strecher. “Finding that reason and using every resource possible to help employees  pursue that reason is the highest calling we have in this life.”

Sponsored Recommendations

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of IndustryWeek, create an account today!