Build Your Company with the Two Greatest Human Motivators in Mind

Do your employees wake up every morning excited to come to work? Or do they get out of bed begrudgingly and run out the clock? Odds are, it’s the latter. Below CEO Today hears from Craig Kielburger, Holly Branson and Marc Kielburger, authors of WEconomy: You Can Find Meaning, Make a Living, and Change the World, on the lack of necessary motivators when building a business.

The vast majority of the global workforce is mentally checked out, with only 13% actively engaged. Gallup calls it the “Worldwide Employee Engagement Crisis.”

We’re willing to bet this crisis was caused by a deficit in one of the greatest human motivators: purpose. Too many companies assume that a salary and the odd job perk are enough to keep people engaged and productive. Clocking in for a paycheque is certainly a good reason to come to work, but a profit incentive alone will do just that—get your employees through the door. Purpose is an untapped resource that will get your team working harder for you, and for their own self-fulfillment.

If you want more than minimum viable effort, your team needs to be invested in their jobs, and it’s much easier to feel connected to a company with a cause. Give your employees the chance to flex their personal values on company time. Give them purpose.

When we say purpose, we mean the chance to work toward a greater good. Your company’s purpose is its reason for existence, beyond the mission statement or product map. It’s also the secret to staff engagement, loyalty and retention, especially for the generation currently climbing the corporate ranks. A whopping 75% of millennials say they would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company, and 88% say their job is more fulfilling when employers give them the chance to make positive social impact.

Young people, and in fact every generation, are craving more meaning at work. Boomers are delaying retirement in favour of career makeovers and more satisfying jobs. Purpose, as a motivator, transcends age demographics.

So, where to start with purpose as an engagement strategy?

Good companies will already have a cause commitment, ideally embedded into the very DNA. A business today needs to do more than the bare minimum. It’s no longer enough to do no harm, you’ve got to do some good. If you haven’t found your corporate cause, this is your first opportunity to use purpose as a motivator: ask your team.

Send out employee surveys, hold focus groups and town halls to find out: What cause do you care about most? What could the company be doing to help that cause? How can we leverage core assets for community betterment or positive global change? Give your team ownership over the purpose you’re bringing into the office—give them the opportunity to choose and shape it, and, in turn, offer them something greater: the chance to give back through the company.

Give your team permission to approach you with charity partnership opportunities. In fact, encourage it (though make sure they present a good business case). Link your incentive and reward programs to more than just money. Consider a named donation to a charity of choice for top performers. Offer employees paid time off to volunteer. Even simple, daily gestures are meaningful: donate leftover food from large meetings, or gently used office supplies. Invite a speaker from the benefiting organization so that your team understands the impact they are making.

Charity events or department trips to volunteer can do double duty as one-on-one time with clients, networking with prospects, team-building or honouring employees.

Once you have a cause that suits your business, amplify it throughout all systems. Make purpose part of recruitment and orientation. New team members need to know the HR policies and where the bathroom is, but they also need to know that the company volunteered thousands of hours last quarter, and that you host a mentorship program for local youth interested in the industry.

Finally, celebrate your purpose. Make sure your team knows the impact created by their efforts and the company. Set out for happy hour after reaching a fundraising goal, honour them as you would if they’d finished a major project.

CEOs and corporate leaders today should be seen as titans of business, but also as champions of social causes in their communities and among their peers. When purpose and profit unite, the employee, the business and the community thrives.

The average person spends about 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime—help make them count for more by injecting purpose into the job. Combine purpose and profit to motivate your team to their fullest potential.

Your company and your team will thank you.

Craig Kielburger, Holly Branson and Marc Kielburger are authors of WEconomy: You Can Find Meaning, Make a Living, and Change the World (Published by Wiley, March 2018).

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