Observations by Laurie Dodge

I recently had the pleasure of attending a fireside chat between my business partner Anne Bahr Thompson and Alice Wastag of Glint. The Why of Work: Engaging Talent Through Shared Purpose was part of a series LinkedIn hosts for its LEAD community.

I wish we’d had more than the requisite hour allocated for these types of events as the robust conversation of this wide-ranging and complex subject was just getting started as the meeting came to a close. That said, during our time together Anne and Alice shared valuable information and insights about navigating the increasingly amorphous intersection of organizational and individual purpose pathways—including the 7 Guidelines to Connect Employees to Purpose (with three bonus points for those of us attending the event). As leaders are tasked with better understanding their organization’s purpose writ large and ensuring they cultivate environments in which employees—their greatest brand ambassadors—are respected and thrive, this talk is a must hear.

As our trend and client research have shown, people actively have been seeking greater fulfillment and more enriching environments at work for some time. Covid created both a moment of pause and an acceleration of this desire—fueling the Great Reshuffle and compelling companies to act in more meaningful and resonant ways.

Clearly, we have a long way to go in our perpetual pursuit of purpose as continued c-suite conversations and media headlines over the past decades attest. As those familiar with Onesixtyfourth know, we have high regard for Peter Drucker’s enduring wisdom. And as I consider his comments on people seeking more than money from work and expecting companies to have a higher purpose I wonder: would Peter Drucker be proud, frustrated or some combination of the two if he were part of the conversation today?

Here are a few topline takeaways worth regular consideration:

  • As noted above, the intersection of individual and business purpose is increasingly amorphous and/or inextricably bound as people redefine and reimagine work/life balance (read: work is part of life, not an enemy of life and not separate and distinct from life…).
  • Purpose is about how we live, a filter through which to guide our actions. It isn’t a campaign or a tagline.
  • “The number of people who are really motivated by money is very small (Drucker).”
  • Personal purpose sits at the intersection of three things: the things that energize us or our personal passions; our gifts or the things we’re good at that add value to others, organizations or societies; and how we personally define fulfillment and success.
  • Each of these three things are unique to who we are as individuals. Some of us seek to have impact at the societal level, others at an organizational and still others at an individual, one-on-one level. We don’t have to necessarily do this at work, but if our responsibilities and roles at work accommodate this, it’s a big plus to creating meaning and fulfillment.
  • So, it follows that people have different reasons for being at work… and not everyone will find purpose with a capital “p” at work. Although an increasing number of people would like their employer to focus on more than solely making money. Understand and respect this reality.
  • Broadstrokes, different generations think differently about purpose.
  • And, while Covid’s accelerated the Great Reshuffle for all, women have been leaving jobs and/or the workforce for decades because of persistent bro cultures (read: cultures that don’t embrace women) in many corporations. It’s more noticeable now, because so many women are doing so at the same time and being more vocal about their reasons why.
  • If you’re in business, confirm that purpose is genuinely tied to your business value proposition and that it’s credible and authentic. The purpose of a business isn’t a social mission (unless you’re a social enterprise)… rather, it’s why the business is actually in business with a seamlessly integrated layer of doing some good in the world (aka social consciousness).
  • And make sure you’re focusing on cultivating community and belonging among your greatest brand ambassadors—your employees.
  • Shareholder wealth and purpose aren’t mutually exclusive, particularly if business leaders heed the above and meaningfully consider all stakeholders.

Here’s to our pursuit of purpose… and beyond!