Your roadmap to cultivate a purposeful culture

If you want to retain your team and recruit the best talent, you must have a purposeful culture that’s rooted in core values—not perks.

Building a purposeful culture

Pool tables, happy hours and free meals are perks your organization might be proud to showcase. But they won’t keep employees from fleeing your doors.

A culture that aligns with employee purpose, on the other hand? Now you’re talking.

Employees are leaving jobs in record numbers to, in part, find more meaning in their day-to-day work. A post-pandemic world has left many reevaluating their lives and careers—and joining workplaces whose values align with their own. Purposeful cultures foster a sense of belonging and meaning.

Study after study repeatedly show that employees working for purpose-driven organizations are more engaged in their work. Engaged employees are more productive and perform better. The result? High retention and job satisfaction. And happier employees.

So, how do you infuse meaningful purpose into your culture? Here are some steps to consider:

1. Define your core values.

Do you have a list of values? Are they defined? And are they easily accessed by all employees? Your answer should be yes. Cultures are formed by design or default. The absence of values speaks volumes.

You can’t have a purposeful culture without a set of values. That means more than a list of feel-good words or phrases sitting on HR’s desk collecting dust.

Employees must understand your organization’s values, share them and believe in them. Unsure if they do? Use an audit or survey to get their input. Do they understand your mission and values, and what they mean to them and their department?

2. Live your values.

Values are empty platitudes if not backed by action. You must bring them to life and make them meaningful to employees. This could be through giving back to the community, charitable donations and volunteer service, or a new company initiative or project tied to your values and purpose.

Employers struggling with how to stem the tide of the “Great Resignation” must take steps to evaluate if their culture aligns with their vision, purpose and goals—and take steps to fix disconnects.

For instance, proclaiming, “We have a culture of inclusivity,” is meaningless unless you consistently show it and prove that you walk the talk. What does inclusivity look like at your organization? Is there a culture of belonging? The employee experience and organizational values must align.

3. Share purpose through storytelling.

Leadership should talk about organizational values and purpose when recognizing business accomplishments and how employees contribute to those efforts. Employees at purpose-driven workplaces feel they’re invested in the company’s success. Tell the stories behind your values and purpose so employees understand what that looks like in action. This can’t be lip service. Employees must understand what the company stands for and be proud of the role they play. Employees whose purpose aligns with that of their organization are happier and more willing to advocate for their company, research shows.

4. Help your staff identify their purpose.

Don’t rely on a mission statement to inspire employees. Provide ongoing, two-way dialogue about why their work matters. Recent McKinsey research revealed 70% of employees say their sense of purpose is defined by their work. Harvard Business Review recommends asking the following questions to help workers find their purpose, and connect their purpose to your organization:

  • What are you good at doing?
  • What do you enjoy?
  • What feels most useful?
  • What creates a sense of forward momentum?
  • How do you relate to others?

5. Put your values on display throughout the employee experience.

Employees should believe in and be motivated by your company’s purpose from day one. Include them in your job post, discuss them during hiring and onboarding and in employee reviews. Be intentional and take advantage of every opportunity to showcase your culture.

Building a purposeful culture is an inside-out job. There are no shortcuts. Perks are not substitutes for values. Perks don’t equal purpose. Don’t confuse the two if you want to recruit and retain the best talent.

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