When employees feel disconnected from their jobs — or their work doesn’t bring a sense of purpose to their lives — they’re more likely to quit. Unfortunately, this is happening all around lately. Troubling signs like productivity theater and resenteeism are flooding the work zone. Clearly, many employees are struggling to connect their organization’s purpose with their own.
According to McKinsey, 70% of employees find a sense of relevance through work. This doesn’t mean people expect their job to define them 100%. But when personal and business purposes align, everyone benefits. Workforce engagement and loyalty tend to improve significantly. As a result, employees become more willing to advocate for their employer and recommend prospective applicants.
Why should leaders care? Because when you create a culture of psychological safety and compassion, you empower people to be authentic at work. This, in turn, drives commitment, satisfaction, and team performance.
Keys to Connect With Employee Purpose
1. Start by Ensuring Psychological Safety
In a world overflowing with toxic workplaces, psychological safety is more important than ever. No one should have to fear humiliation or punishment when they share concerns, ideas, and mistakes. Everyone should feel free to speak up and support one another without rejection or embarrassment.
The definition of psychological safety isn’t everyone being nice to others all the time. Rather, it is a work environment where everyone is welcome to:
- Share feedback
- Challenge the status quo, and
- Work together to resolve disagreements.
But these conditions don’t materialize out of thin air. They depend on supportive top-down leadership.
2. Facilitate Open Communication
Purpose-driven cultures thrive when leaders consistently encourage a free flow of communication. This is possible when everyone feels a shared sense of ownership and trust.
In practice, trust emerges when all team members are willing to offer peers a “soft landing.” In other words, when a teammate is in a vulnerable position, others recognize and respect their situation and honor their point of view.
When teams approach authenticity with grace, it sends a powerful message throughout the organization. But this won’t start until leaders establish ground rules and set a consistent example for others to emulate in day-to-day settings. As team members become more familiar and comfortable with others’ abilities, personalities, and perspectives, respectful collaboration can naturally take hold.
3. Measure What Matters
Finally, companies that recognize people as their most valuable asset apply appropriate metrics to measure engagement, growth, and satisfaction.
Quarterly pulse surveys can include some probing questions to assess employee sentiment about psychological safety and leadership communication. This provides meaningful data you can use to compare results against historical trends and statistical norms.
Benefits of Connecting Purpose and Work
Studies show that people who live their purpose at work are more productive than those who don’t or can’t. They’re also more resilient, healthier, and less likely to leave their company.
Most of us find this kind of culture appealing. In fact, more than 80% of employees want their employer to value them as humans — not just worker bees. Yet, only 45% actually believe they’re seen this way. This gap is important. It means too many of us feel like mere cogs in an endless wheel designed for others’ benefit.
So, where does the concept of engagement fit into this picture? Successful performance doesn’t happen by accident. It comes when organizations tap into employees’ passions and strengths. People who feel engaged, seen, and heard are more likely to contribute their full selves to work whenever they’re working.
Of course, in today’s “work from anywhere” world, leaders often find it difficult to understand what team members feel internally. This uncertainty can cause them to respond in unhelpful ways. No wonder remote and hybrid employees often find it harder to connect with their organization’s purpose!
The best solution is for leaders to reach out proactively to ensure that team members are finding meaningful value in their work. Building and maintaining those connections takes time, space, intention, and investment. But eventually, as you engage in conversations and build camaraderie unrelated to business tasks, trust will develop and the rest will follow.
Compensation and benefit packages matter to employees. But even the best salaries and perks can’t compare to a purpose-driven culture. People need regular reinforcement to confirm that they are contributing in ways that make a meaningful impact. This kind of human connection only comes when leaders take the time to develop genuine relationships with everyone on their team — and encourage others to do the same.
Building a Culture of Authenticity: One Idea That Works
Although connecting with each employee’s purpose may take time, it doesn’t need to be complicated. Start by committing to bring everyone together in person, even if only periodically or on an annual basis. People naturally want to form human connections with team members, and in-person meetings are the best way to promote that kind of relational energy.
At Authenticx, we’ve established a practice that helps. We invite each team member to choose one word as their own personal beacon for the year. The goal is for everyone to select a term that describes how they’re trying to grow as an individual.
Part of living that word comes from the act of sharing the word’s meaning with others and the journey each of us travels with that intention throughout the year. So we all know each other’s words. Each quarter, we schedule word-sharing sessions to discuss where we’re struggling, where we need to be accountable, and where we’re finding success.
Recently, one of our employees shared the word “engagement.” It’s a perfect word for capturing the need to tap into people’s passions and strengths to achieve business success. When people feel seen, heard, and engaged they’re likely to contribute more fully when they’re working.
We’ve found that this practice opens a window into each employee’s mindset and often offers a new insight into their work role and performance. By learning more about what matters to team members, we can spark more useful discussions. And we see this “single word” exercise as a starting point for these conversations.
A Final Note on Purpose at Work
When people feel empowered, respected, trusted, and valued, they’re more likely to challenge themselves, remain committed, and stay on board. These are worthwhile outcomes for any organization, no matter what the mission may be.
This is why purpose-focused leaders don’t hover, but they do pay close attention. They listen to employees’ needs, tap into their passions, and promote connections across teams. As a result, team members can develop a healthy emotional commitment to their work and resilience that keeps them moving forward — even during difficult times.