What is purpose, and where does it come from?
While it is important to be aligned with the mission of your organization, this alignment is not enough to guarantee a sense of purpose in your daily work. We experience a sense of purpose when we make a positive Impact, connect with other people by forging Relationships, and stretch ourselves to achieve Growth. These three factors are critical to high job satisfaction and overall well-being. Therefore, recognizing and acting on opportunities to form relationships, make an impact, and grow as a person is the first step to realizing a higher level of fulfillment in your work.
What This Means for Leaders in HR
We asked 130-plus HR People + Strategy members from New York and Seattle to share what gave them the highest purpose in the daily work through their relationships, impact they felt they had, and moments of personal growth. Here is what we learned about what gives HRPS members meaning in their work, along with some tips for how to boost purpose in your own work.
When it comes to purpose, according to Michael Steger's study at Colorado State University, the most important factor is our relationships. Relationships, both in and out of the workplace, reinforce our sense of value, require us to engage, and ultimately help us grow. To maximize purpose in your work, you need to invest in relationships. For HRPS members, the relationship that matters most appears to be that with their peers or colleagues.
Take Action: Think of the person who gives most purpose and energy in your work. Who do you most look forward to engaging with at work? What is it about them? Let them know next time you see them or shoot them a quick email letting them know that they are a big reason you look forward to coming to work.
Making an impact by contributing to something greater than yourself is what most people think of when they think about purpose. We experience purpose when we know we have done something that we believe matters—to others, to society, and to ourselves. From the small and mundane daily choices we make to systemic and historic impact, we strive to contribute to the well-being of the world around us. Feeling a sense of impact is incredibly important for job satisfaction and wellbeing. The No. 1 way in which HR People + Strategy participants feel they make a meaningful impact in their work is through coaching.
Take Action: Think about the following questions: Who are you coaching now? How can you double your impact on them as a coach? What else could you be doing for them?
One of the most common misconceptions about personal growth at work is that it is tied to promotions and moving up the ladder. The truth is that people grow in different ways. Some people strive to master a task like a professional athlete or musician. Some people grow by engaging in things that scare them. Some people grow by constantly trying new things. Some gain the most purpose from acquiring new knowledge. It is critical to become aware of how you grow and to ensure you are constantly gaining purpose from personal growth. Being exposed to new thinking and learning and stepping outside of one's comfort zone are the most common ways for HRPS respondents to feel a sense of personal growth.
Take Action: Set learning goals. Read one article per day. Attend two external events this quarter. Run a lab in your department to find new solutions and get outside your comfort zone.