2022 and beyond
Purpose is emerging as a key business priority as the unprecedented circumstances of the last few years have prompted many to rethink their priorities and question the place work has in their lives.
Although work plays a significant role in most people’s lives, it is not valued by many on its own. In the face of high levels of employee turnover and “the Great Resignation”, employers have needed to develop strategies to attract and retain the best people. Developing a sense of purpose and deriving meaning from work have emerged alongside flexibility and belonging as having a significant impact on an individual’s sense of what matters in their life.
The Resolution Foundation identified purpose and meaning from work as one of the three most highly prized aspects of a job. McKinsey reported that 70% of people say they define their purpose through work, with Millennials even more likely to see their work as their life calling. Deloitte’s 2022 annual survey of Gen Z and Millennials found that 21% of Gen Z and 26% of Millennials rated a sense of meaning from work as a top reason in choosing a place to work, and that 40% of Gen Z and Millennials in leadership positions have rejected a job and/or assignment based on personal ethics. PwC research found that employees see purpose as a way of bringing meaning to their work and understanding their contributions to the company, as well as society. Employees reported needing to find meaning in their work to be fully engaged.
There is growing recognition of the business benefits of a clear purpose. Businesses can boost innovation and brand value by aligning an individual’s sense of purpose with that of the organisation. Those employees who say that they live their purpose at work are 6.5 times more likely to report higher resilience, four times more likely to report better health, six times more likely to want to stay with an organisation, and 1.5 times more likely to go above and beyond to make the company a success. Studies also show variety and autonomy improve mental health and reduce burn-out at work.
Taken together these studies underline the significant emphasis employees increasingly place on purpose and meaning, both in relation to their work and their organisation. In the face of changing expectations, employers have an important role to play in aligning an individual’s sense of purpose with that of the organisation. In recognition of the importance of purpose to organisational success, some organisations have responded by appointing senior executives with specific responsibility for purpose.