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Sustainable Innovation

Purpose: A key driver of employee engagement

Purpose: The new employee value proposition
Published: January 8, 2024
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How much potential are we wasting?

Research shows that only 23% of people are actively engaged at work. 

With more than three quarters of the workforce disengaged, this is a huge missed opportunity. How much more value could organisations deliver if they had 100% of their people actively engaged in their work? 

What constitutes engagement?

We know that happy people work harder (12% harder, in fact), but engagement is about more than this. Engaged employees:

  • feel connected to their team and their organisation
  • have meaningful work 
  • are proud of their contribution
  • take ownership of their work
  • give more to their colleagues and their organisation 
  • feel trusted and valued

One driver of employee engagement that has received huge attention since the pandemic is flexibility. Trusting people to choose when, where and how they work is vital for getting the best out of them. 

But a bigger and lesser-known factor of employee engagement is purpose. Purposeful organisations are those that provide their people with meaningful work – with the opportunity to work towards something that they believe matters. 

The truth is that human beings need purpose. Spending so much of one’s life on work that we do not believe to be important is psychologically and emotionally damaging – not to mention an enormous waste of human potential. 

What is true purpose?

But surely it’s not possible for every organisation to have a purpose? Isn’t this just a nice-to-have for those directly tackling social or environmental issues? What about industries engaged in the hands-on business of creating the things that make the world go round?

True purpose is for every organisation, of every size, in every sector. Purpose is something that puts positive impact at the heart of what the organisation and its people are doing. A purposeful organisation intends to profit by creating that value – not in spite of it. 

A purpose is something that connects the profit imperative with a bigger goal. It provides a connection between employees and the world beyond their organisation’s boundaries. Rather than an empty statement, it truly means something to people. 

Need some inspiration? 

Here are some examples of our clients and their purposes:

  • Lendlease (construction) – ‘To create places where communities thrive.’
  • Vita Group (manufacturing) – ‘Creating comfort, delivering performance and enhancing everyday life.’
  • Experian (finance) – 'To create a better tomorrow for people, for businesses, and for our communities.'
  • Polpharma (health and pharma) – ‘Helping people to live a healthy life in a healthy world.’
  • Forvia (automotive) – 'To pioneer technology for mobility experiences that matter to people.'

What does having a purpose look like?

At Impact, our purpose is to liberate the human potential in organisations so that together we can solve the complex problems that challenge humanity.

We got curious about how this purpose shows up, so we asked our global colleagues at Impact what it means to them... 

Here's what our people said...

The responses testified to the way that our purpose works across multiple levels. It’s felt powerfully on a personal level (and often influences other areas of an individual's life). And at the same time, it’s also evident in our teams, our partnerships with clients, our leadership, and our alignment on an organisational level. 

People from across Impact emphasised that our purpose is intrinsic to our practice – and that they can't be separate things. Our purpose pervades the work that we do everyday and shows up across all parts of the organisation, brought to life by different people in different ways

Respondents attested to our purpose as being authentic, inspiring and important; it gives us meaningful work. And this brings us together: everyone articulated it as 'our purpose', not 'Impact's purpose'. And finally, what came up for many people was the connection between purpose and resilience. Our purpose keeps us on track, aligned, and driven, and therefore more capable of withstanding shocks and disruption.

Purpose for future-fit business

As our global environmental, economic and social issues intensify, purpose is becoming an increasingly vital aspect of any organisation looking to flourish in the decades ahead. 

There are numerous benefits to being purpose-led. One study shows that such organisations report 30% higher levels of innovation and 40% higher levels of retention than competitors. 

Furthermore, research shows that 39% of millennials and 34% of Gen Zs have turned down roles with employers that do not align with their values. And these populations are wise to the difference between empty statements and meaningful purpose. It’s important to them that they are actively engaged in the purpose, that they are empowered to drive change in their organisation. They know that change is a deeply human process, and that it only works when everyone is involved in it. 

The connection between employee engagement and meaningful purpose is clear. For organisations that want to attract and engage top talent, defining a clear purpose and empowering their people to live that purpose is the number one place to start. 

Find out more about purpose and positive impact, and get in touch today to start a conversation.