Creating A Sense Of Purpose In The Workplace

Now more than ever employees are looking for a sense of purpose and meaning in their work. But where does that purpose come from — the worker or the organization? 
Click here to listen to this week’s minisode.

There is a story about President Kennedy visiting to NASA in the 1960s. While he was visiting he was walking down a hallway and saw a man who was carrying a broom and a bucket and Kennedy asked the man what he did at NASA. The man, who was a janitor at Nasa, replied, “Sir, I help put a man on the moon”.

That story has been told and retold because it is a great example of the importance of having a sense of purpose in the work that we do. But where does that sense of purpose come from? Is it something that the organization is supposed to provide for you or is it something that the employee is supposed to come to work with?

I think the answer is that it is partially the responsibility of both parties to create. I believe that the organization needs to help employees connect what they are doing to the impact they are having in a way that helps them see how they are changing the organization, the community and the world. Organizations can do this through stories, through helping employees feel like they belong at the company and giving them opportunities to grow and advance.

But it is also partially the responsibility of the employee. The employee cannot just show up to work and assume the organization is going to hold their hand and do everything for them. Employees need to have an open mind, they need to find ways to contribute and they need to figure out why they are working for the organization in the first place.

The greatest sense of purpose comes when both the organization and the employee create and nurture that purpose and that mindset on a daily basis. Do you agree with me? Who do you think is responsible for creating a sense of purpose at work?

Watch the companion video on YouTube here.

Jacob Morgan is a best-selling author, speaker, and futurist. His new book, The Employee Experience Advantage (Wiley) analyzes over 250 global organizations to understand how to create a place where people genuinely want to show up to work. Subscribe to his newsletter, visit TheFutureOrganization, or become a member of the new Facebook Community The Future If…and join the discussion.