Employee Engagement

Infusing the post-outbreak workplace with purpose

The conversation around finding purpose at work is not new. For decades now, experts have stressed the importance of building meaning into employees’ days in order to drive business outcomes. Those organizations that heeded the calls have reaped the benefits. A study of hundreds of companies’ stock prices found that the organizations that scored highly on purpose and clarity from management performed much better than their peers. On the flip side, 70% of executives at companies where purpose at work is not a key driver say that employees’ desire for it is impacting HR’s ability to recruit and retain top talent.

As the pandemic continues to revolutionize how we approach work and life, employee attitudes are changing. Pre-pandemic estimates show that 9 out of 10 of people would take a pay cut in exchange for more meaning at work. The fear and stress we’ve all experienced in recent months will likely shift the balance of pay and purpose even further. Similarly, the expectations on employers will continue to grow as employees seek support and flexibility in the prolonged aftermath of this trauma. Companies must be prepared to rise to the occasion, or risk losing their star players at the first sign of regained economic stability.

What does this look like in practice, though? It’s likely that part of the reason so few companies have succeeded in building a purpose-driven workplace is that there isn’t a clear roadmap for developing meaning for employees. Accordingly, we’ve reviewed the research and summarized some of the key steps to building meaning for your team below:

  • Help employees to see the big picture, and how their work contributes to it
    • As humans, we always want to feel that we matter. No one enjoys just being a cog in the wheel. From the first point of contact with a potential employee through offboarding and beyond, ensure that every individual understands the company’s goals and how their work fits in. Help them feel valued through regular feedback, recognition for a job well done, and ongoing communication to keep them up-to-date.
  • Cultivate trust through transparency and empowerment
    • Whether mistrust flows from employee to managers, and/or the other way around, these dynamics make it impossible to build a strong organization grounded in meaning. While trust can be difficult to cultivate, one key step a company can take is to train managers to empower employees. If your staff feel that they are trusted to do their best rather than being micromanaged or suspected of slacking, the majority will rise to the occasion and gain a sense of purpose from it. Similarly, if you are open and communicative, your people will feel that they are truly a part of something larger than themselves, giving meaning to their work.
  • Opportunities to grow and leverage their strengths
    • In order to gain meaning and purpose, employees must have the chance to grow as people. By providing clear career paths, opportunities for learning and upskilling, and new projects for people to engage with, you leave your team no reason to look for alternative employment. They will be excited to learn and expand their skillsets, and will feel positively towards your company as a result.
  • Respect that they’re whole people, and provide benefits tailored to their lives
    • If the myriad interrupted video calls over the past few months have taught us nothing else, it’s that people have full lives outside of work with children, family members, pets, and friends, all with individual needs. Now that we’ve learned so much about each other, don’t leave that information at the door to the office upon reentry. Leverage that knowledge to ensure your employees feel valued and supported as whole people, through work hour flexibility, an expanded menu of benefit options, and wellness support for the whole household.
  • Chances to connect
    • Last but most certainly not least, in order to feel a sense of purpose and engagement at work, people need to care and be cared about by the people around them. Give your team ample opportunity to connect with each other and build the relationships that will keep them employed by your company for years to come. One of the key reasons that people report staying with an organization is getting to work with great people every day. Plan events to help employees build community, provide digital spaces in which they can interact, and encourage socializing, rather than worrying about it. You’ll see it pay off across retention, engagement, and productivity.

These are the top strategies we’ve found to help your organization drive purpose and meaning for your team as we begin to emerge from this first (and hopefully worst) wave of the pandemic. Take this opportunity to reimagine your workplace for the better. If you’re looking for new tools to help your people connect, increase transparency and communication, and provide a seamless employee experience, come see us at or reach out at