Telling the truth about SME life today

What can leaders be doing to encourage their employees to find their purpose?

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a rut, feeling tired and like you’re in the same mundane daily routine? You may even recognise many members of your team feeling the same way, as they lack enthusiasm in their work. Entrepreneur, author and educator, Eloise Skinner, talks through what you can do as a leader to help your team get their zest back through self-fulfilment and a purpose-filled life.

Regardless of industry, sector or job type, leaders and employees can all agree on one thing: 2021 has been a year of change and uncertainty.  According to national statistics, job vacancies in the UK are at a record high, with employees across the world joining the ‘Great Resignation’ (a term so common that it now carries its own Wikipedia entry).

But amongst all of the charts, statistics and official data, there are much more human reasons for this shift: reasons that are deeply personal to every employee who hands in their notice.  Over the past eighteen months, many employees have had a chance to really reflect on their working lives – to figure out exactly what they want from their job, and how they might be able to craft a lifestyle that serves them on a more ‘existential’ level.  In short, many employees have gone searching for purpose, fulfilment and meaningful work.

But this trend – towards greater meaning, purpose and fulfilment – doesn’t have to conclude with a resignation letter and a career change.  It’s possible that employees can find their purpose within their current role, and leaders should take responsibility for supporting this process.  Here’s how.

First, leaders should show their understanding of purpose

When it comes to motivating and inspiring employees, forget official policies and company handbooks for a moment.  Start, instead, with your own behaviour as a leader.  Are you passionate about your work?  Why?  What aspects of your role give you the energy to lead an effective team?  How would you define your own purpose, and how does that interact with the work you do as a leader?  Answering these questions for yourself first will give you a firm foundation from which to help others.

Second, leaders should facilitate opportunities for purpose-finding work

Think about the regular opportunities you have to bring your team together.  Instead of small talk or generic ice-breaker exercises, could you introduce a purpose-finding element to your gathering?  This could be as simple as opening up a discussion about your company’s values and mission, or encouraging employees to share the meaningful aspects of their work.  Or, if you wanted to broaden the discussion out, you could share case studies, experiences or testimonials from your clients, customers and users.  Often, purpose is found in connecting to the real impact that an individual’s work has in the world.  This is a difficult task for employees who aren’t always exposed to the eventual impact of their work (for example, those in non-client or non-consumer facing positions).  Sharing the positive impact of every employee’s contribution can be central in strengthening a sense of organisational purpose.

Third, leaders should readjust and redefine roles where possible

Many leaders will be familiar with asking the typical catch-up question: ‘so, how do you think things are going?’.  But this shouldn’t be the end of the conversation.  It might be the case that an employee enjoys the role and the culture, but wants to focus on a specific aspect of their work, or a specific element of their job.  As much as possible, leaders should encourage employees to lean into their strengths and passions – this might mean, if it’s possible, opening up opportunities for employees to deepen their knowledge in a particular area of interest.  Other examples of this ‘role flexibility’ include allowing employees to take trainings or courses related to areas of particular passion, or refining job descriptions to focus in on an individual employee’s strengths.  Of course, there will be aspects of every job that simply need to get done – but there are also opportunities to tailor, readjust or recalibrate roles to fit an employee’s sense of purpose.  And the payoff for leaders?  Increased employee loyalty, energy, ambition and trust in the company’s leadership.

And finally, leaders should prioritise fulfilment for employees

It can be easy to lose sight of the most important element of this question: the personal fulfilment of each employee.  Of course, the company’s success, goals and objectives are important – but, ultimately, the company is made up of individual human beings, each with their own desires, ambitions and hopes.  By prioritising the individual employee, and meeting them on a personal, human level, leaders are far more likely to end up with a team of motivated, committed, purposeful people.  And, of course, this is what makes an organisation ‘successful’ – not just in terms of external output, revenue or reputation, but in terms of supporting the employees who work for its success.



Related Stories

More From

Most Read


If you enjoyed this article,
why not join our newsletter?

We promise only quality content, tailored to suit what our readers like to see!