Align employee and organizational goals to drive ownership and engagement
Business purpose becomes real when people not only understand what it means to their day-to-day work, but also feel personally committed to it.
Purpose-driven companies are characterized not only by their meeting societal needs, but also by employees who feel connected and committed to the cause. Authentic purpose enables employees to appreciate the connection between their work and the larger impact of the organization. This alignment can lead to a greater sense of belonging in employees who feel they are part of something bigger than themselves – and inspire motivation to achieve common goals.
Research from the Center for Creative Leadership on deliberate leadership suggests that when employees’ personal values and goals are aligned with the company’s purpose – and employees are in tune with the broader agenda and values - employees are more likely to bring their “whole” to work, generating deep personal engagement.
Below are three imperatives for leaders to cultivate strong alignment between employee purpose and organizational purpose.
1. Believe in the “power” of purpose.
When it comes to talent performance, intrinsic motivation (behavior driven by personal satisfaction or pleasure) is found to be more powerful than extrinsic motivation (behavior driven by external incentives such as compensation). Employees who feel a deep sense of purpose every day they show up for work are naturally more fulfilled and engaged. Organizations can harness the power of purpose by intentionally building it into every step of employees’ career paths, helping them discover and live their personal purpose by connecting it to company values.
An example of this concept brought to life can be seen in the orientation program of TCS, a global IT company headquartered in India. New TCS employees are matched with a nonprofit organization as their first client, allowing them to see that their contributions go beyond a paycheck, to a “bigger” goal. Other activities encouraged throughout an employee’s career include joining a nonprofit board of directors, leading a pro bono project, and leading community service initiatives. The IT company adheres to a philosophy that the workforce should have the freedom to fulfill its larger purpose that goes far beyond just volunteering once in a while.
There are many ways for leaders to bring a purpose to life in the organization and use it to foster a sense of belonging and commitment, but the starting point is to believe that the purpose can make the difference to empower employees.
2. Maintain authenticity when setting the goal.
Purpose is far more important and critical than a simple phrase that an organization celebrates on its website or displays behind the reception desk. Living the purpose often starts from the “inside out” and is demonstrated by leaders who lead by example. Inauthentic purpose often results in “green whitening” or “purpose whitening,” which, when exposed, can cause employees to feel disconnected and cause irreparable damage to the organization’s brand.
Providing a space for people to explore their authentic personal purpose—regardless of organizational purpose—can go a long way to building trust and ultimately keeping employees engaged. In the event that there is a mismatch between the organizational goal and the individual goal, HR should welcome an honest dialogue. An employee may feel more aligned with another organization’s goal and leave. On the other hand, the employee’s contribution could influence the purpose of his current organization.
If, for example, an automotive expert has a set of values and goals that differ from the company they work for, they can help change an organization’s environmental, social and governance philosophy. Organizations must consider and value these inputs.
3. Create a story around the goal to make it real.
A narrative, where purpose is the focal point, can help employees connect their personal contributions and values to the overall purpose of the organization. Seeing yourself play a part in the story helps cultivate a sense of belonging and togetherness – a sense that each employee plays a part in the whole.
An illustration of this organizational narrative can be seen by Mahindra Group, a conglomerate in India, which has built its core purpose around the RISE philosophy, making it the focus of all purpose-related initiatives. In the RISE philosophy, the company interprets “community” in the broadest sense of all stakeholders: individuals, associates, social groups and the planet. RISE is the North Star defining how various business groups within the conglomerate are to “live” their purpose.
By championing the organizational purpose as a “hero” in a company’s story, employees from all departments can prioritize work that serves the purpose and collaborate across boundaries with shared commitment. to achieve the agreed objectives. When guided and aligned with goal-oriented organizational principles, employees at different levels are better able to make decisions that benefit all stakeholders.
Connect individual contributions to the higher purpose
To truly drive personal engagement, the goal must be integrated into strategic priorities in a visible and tangible way; he must connect emotionally with people and their personal aspirations and challenges. By aligning employee and organizational goals, leaders can help each employee feel that their individual contributions matter to the whole, and in turn foster a collective sense of belonging and commitment.