We all have a purpose in life, sometimes we know it, and sometimes it’s unknown. This direction, when it awakens to become clear and is accepted, then we need to focus on the end state or the desired state of our journey. For me as a thought sharer I believe that the future will belong to companies where the Leadership has awakened to a ‘Purposeful Purpose’.
Purposeful alignment of People, Organisation, Society and Environment in a manner that Performance & Profit become by products of this larger purpose. People (ensuring their Happiness and Health), Organisation (Performance and Profits), and Societal development & Environmental safety so that these become by-products of this larger Purpose. This can only happen when the larger purpose of the company finds greater alignment with the Inner purpose of its employees, stakeholders and customers.
My Journey of Purpose to Purposeful & Purposelessness…
My purpose was to be happy and make others happier. It was a purpose till it was all about me but became purposeful when I set myself a daily KRA of helping, sharing and caring for family or friends and an unknown person on the road with some small action without any expectation….leading to Purposelessness as it continues in good and bad times.
My Purposelessness developed as a rub off on me from an anchor client. Their purpose was well defined, complete with a dose of being purposeful and purposeless. My partnership of Leadership Search with the client had deepened and suddenly a change of guard left me high and dry with no mandates for the last few years. What could I do? They were not to blame as it was their call on whom they choose to deal with. It took me sometime to soak in and accept, yet I never lost hope. By god’s grace, during this period I have not poached a single employee of theirs and have always been an evangelist of their values and brand. This came to me as a habit without any mandates from them. My purposelessness had been ignited as a rub off effect of the great organisation, its leaders whom I served there, and this will hopefully last a lifetime.
Organisational alignment of Purpose…
Studies show the rising need for a purpose driven workplace for the next gen. I have already talked about this in a previous blog.[i] From being individual-specific, and a self goal to achieve, ‘Purposeful Purpose’ is fast becoming a global workplace order. The mantra – “It’s not about you or me, nor is about who is wrong or right! It’s all about us moving to a safe, wholesome space and aligning our purposes.” This requires a shift in the focus from only profit based, number-oriented performance to consciously enabling employees to find their larger purpose or at least some common causes of connect. The Chief Purpose Officer has his main task cut out – to define and get the organisation to imbibe a purpose wherein profit and performance automatically follow due to the productivity of the happy employees. Purposefulness for community is built into the eco system.
Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behaviour at Stanford, warns that job stress and poor management is killing us — accounting for up to 8% of annual health costs and leading to 120,000 excess deaths every year in the United States. Pfeffer defines one of the main culprits that is making us sick as ‘social pollution’, or harmful workplace practices that take a psychological and physical toll on employees. Social pollution is what happens when your employer makes you lose your work-life balance. Work always comes first.[ii] Pfeffer suggests leaving the organization if the work gets too toxic, mental and physical health come before the prestige of working for a brand name.
A global MNC decided to take a hard, critical look at it employee policies when they sensed acute employee dissatisfaction. It adopted an approach where it decided that the employees will be important stakeholders in the policy changes. A comprehensive survey of the employees yielded results which the Board and CEO had initially not thought of. The results showed that employees required a ‘purpose’ to work. While they accepted that an everyday working environment would not be exciting or filled with meaningful experiences, what they needed was to know that they were working towards something that impacts people positively. Routine work was turning out to be boring and employees needed something to engage them and keep them present and interested. After careful evaluation of employees and having a continuous feedback system, the employee policies were changed to reflect the changing times. The company made a ‘Purposeful Purpose’ – the customer is king for us and employees are our internal customers. They need to be taken care of in such a manner that they will automatically take care of the end customers in the market place.
Organizations need to realize that it is high time that the health and happiness of employees are kept in mind and the leadership should be made accountable for this. Preempting damage by implementing some on ground changes will go a long way in preventing employee burnout. Some policy changes that will prevent burnout and help employees find a sense of purpose could be:
· Flexi- hours for the convenience of employees. This requires a shift in the way the managers lead their teams, they need to be trained for this. There needs to care about this not being misused. Command & Control needs to give way to Collaboration & Co operation.
· A law firm in New Zealand is experimenting with 4 day work week without any bosses. A consultancy in UK has 9 days a fortnight with Fridays off.[iii] Self governed leadership at all levels who are empowered responsibly is the new order. This needs to go down tothe level of masses such as factory workers , people working in farms , dairy , health care etc.
· Social is being creatively used to communicate and engage with the employees. The purpose mantra can be defined as Happy Customers – External AND Internal. This KRA views the employees as customers of the company and their satisfaction is focussed upon too. Innovation starts from here …
· Employees should no longer be required to check emails after office hours. An artificial intelligence system can be put in place to detect urgent, high priority mails and send a text to the employees to notify them about it especially after office hours, ensuring strictly need based connectivity. Down time is equally important to rejuvenate.
· A weekly ‘Give back to Society & Environment’ activity can be organized for the employees across departments to reinforce the team building, collaboration and open communication. Deeper Connections are often formed here.
· Employees can be provided with an anonymous feedback system, where they could point out anything that was not right and similarly feedback could be given. A neutral supervisor/coach should be available to discuss unresolved issues or disagreements and to prevent misuse of the system. Transparency in decision making is key as it helps people find meaning easily. It’s for them, by them.
· Healthy food options can be introduced; sleeping bags for naps, meditation classes and gyms in the office to encourage a healthy lifestyle. Good rest / power naps are an essential need is deeply understood. Office B&B (bed and breakfast) will be built in the future design of work places. Flexible health insurance plans with co-pay options should focus on employee welfare even after retirement. It’s a spirit of lifelong commitment between employee and employer.
· Regular town hall meetings across the company are a must. The management needs to ensure that these meetings don’t become intellectual exercises which have the tick box marked, yet are a waste of time, where leadership barks and people nod their heads and smiling photos and remarks are put up in the company website. Expectations need to be addressed. Acceptance setting and also training for acceptance is a must to reduce stress.
· A non-performer should be given enough time, training and help to measure up for success. Effective remedy is required as the non performer’s failure is also somewhat a failure of the leadership and the environment. It’s a legacy issue. Exit interviews should be taken seriously to detect cracks in the system before hand.
Summarizing for now ….more to come
The key to success of the organization are its employees. Employee policies should now acquire the flavour of being ‘social movements’ – those that encourage the employees to be a part of the change. An opinion piece in NY Times[iv] says that peoples’ attitudes toward authority have changed. They don’t trust it. They want to see people who look like them to be running things. Any movement that earns legitimacy has to spread ownership around. Successful movements create ‘optimal distinctiveness’ which is making people feel like they are part of it and that they can stand out in it. ‘Purposeful Purpose’ helps leadership and people down the line in companies become self aware. It helps in making ‘human friendly’ policies in a humane way, taking care of the needs of the employees and customers without having to compromise on the quality and amount of work done.