How Purpose in the Workplace Offers North Star for HR Leaders

 Purpose at work drives key business outcomes

Employee Experience Inspiring Leadership & Management Purpose

Finding meaning in a job drives all kinds of important outcomes, from retention to bottom line success, according to Great Place To Work® research.

When you pull back the curtain on great workplaces — where leaders have built trust with employees and workers give extra to help the organization innovate and grow — the key ingredient is purpose.

In Great Place To Work research, the biggest indicator of whether an employee will stay in their job is whether they find their work meaningful. If they feel their day-to-day is not meaningful — if it’s “just a job” — they’re far less likely to want to stay with their company.

How do you create a sense of purpose for employees and what does it look like when employees are truly connected to meaningful work? That’s the focus of a new report from Great Place To Work: “The Power of Purpose in the Workplace.”

What are the benefits of purpose?

Employees who report that their work is more than “just a job” are two to six times more likely to stay with their organization long-term.

Only 52% of workers at average U.S. workplaces say they plan to stay at their company for a long time, according to a 2021 market survey of 14,000 global employees. Among the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For®, that number jumps to 86%.

Employees with meaningful work are also more likely to report being in a high state of well-being. Only 16% of employees at typical U.S. companies said they were in this highest state of wellness in a Johns Hopkins study of 14,000 people from 37 countries. For the 100 Best Companies, that jumps to 58%.  The biggest gaps in their experience? Purpose and connection.

The data is unequivocal on the need for meaningful work. Its presence is what sets apart the best workplaces regardless of geography or industry. When an employee says their work lacks meaning, it often indicates a gap in how different groups experience the workplace. Millennial workers are less likely to report that their work has special meaning, even when they work for great workplaces. In Great Place To Work research, only 79% of millennials report meaningful work compared to 90% of baby boomer workers.

Does purpose bring profit?

Companies that embrace purpose have been shown to reap the financial rewards — if they have clear leadership. In a Harvard Business School study using Great Place To Work data, it wasn’t enough for employees to report meaningful work. The financial returns (beating the market by 6.9%) only came when employees also said, “management makes its expectations clear.”

Ready to dive in on connecting employees with meaningful work?

Download your copy of the report today.


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Ted Kitterman