Engaging Employees with Purpose


In a 2017 commencement speech, Facebook CEO/Founder Mark Zuckerberg urged Harvard grads to pursue purpose over success:

“Purpose is that sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for.  Purpose is what creates true happiness.”

Mark Zuckerberg

Every company has a purpose to fulfill. Yet, if you were to survey employees with “what is the purpose of your work?” How many do you think will say something even remotely resembling their corporate mission statement? Employees are engaged when they have a clear sense of the company’s purpose/mission. Here are two key reasons why purpose matters:

Everything Starts with Why (Purpose)

Simon Sinek emphasizes the importance of purpose with his Golden Circle model. Three concentric circles beginning with WHAT on the outside, then HOW and finally WHY in the center.  Sinek asserts that the best way to motivate people toward your desired action is to speak to their emotion, not logic.

Purpose speaks to the emotional core in the limbic system of our brains. Despite what we may think, our decisions have been scientifically proven to be influenced by our emotions. Our logic merely comes behind to justify the decisions our emotions have already made. The company purpose is intended to be a unifier.  People desire to work in service of a cause that’s greater than themselves.

Read also: Engaging Employees with Autonomy

Purpose is a key motivator

Maintain the Vital Connection

From the beginning of time, work has always been in service of others. In the purely agricultural societies, crops were exchanged for livestock/poultry. Artisan societies saw the Blacksmith make the horseshoes for the Rancher.

In today’s Corporate America, outside of Customer Service and Sales, work has become detached from those it’s truly meant to serve. Work seems to be just about getting the widget to the adjacent department to meet the turn around time (TAT). Or it’s about getting the sponsor to approve the project deliverable.  

When employees truly understand who that widget is for focus and quality improves. So does engagement. The deliverables are no longer for the sponsor, they’re for the client or the member.

Read also: Engaging Employees with Mastery

Purpose (the why) is a siren song to customers. When it’s clear, the right customers will find you and tell others.  It’s a steady drumbeat for the heart of employees. It’s the common theme that connects all departments.