JP Morgan Chase recently hosted an intimate inclusive economy event in Canary Wharf, in the heart of London’s business district. I arrived promptly at 9:30am and stood with a dozen strangers waiting to ride the very swanky elevator 31 floors into the sky. That’s when the butterfly arrived….
There we were, standing in the lobby, when the monarch’s gorgeous, orange colour caught all our eyes at once. We watched this beautiful, delicate creature search excitedly for its exit from the building. What a perfect irony, I remember thinking. This rare, graceful creature breathing life into the austere, concrete jungle of Canary Wharf. And like so many who find themselves trapped in their workplaces, the butterfly seemed to be getting more and more frantic to escape.
As the elevator doors finally slid open for us, the butterfly settled softly on a baseboard near a smart looking businessman. To my delight, he bent down and gently cupped the butterfly in his hands. He headed for the front doors, forgoing his elevator ride in favour of releasing the butterfly outdoors.
What a perfect moment…. It could have been a Buddhist parable! Even in a cold, all-business place like Canary Wharf, if someone is given a reason to care, they’ll show up, step up, and go the extra mile. It was a great reminder that there’s more to business (and to life) than just getting to the meeting on time.
Employee Engagement Hinges on a Purpose Beyond Profit
It seems lately everyone is talking about employee engagement. Engagement improves productivity, which increases revenues. Engagement reduces turnover, cutting operating costs. The list goes on. Frankly, we’re seeing too many organizations that grasp the importance of employee engagement, but still fail to take advantage of the single most effective determinant on this game-changing issue—defining a purpose beyond profit.
It’s true for even the best of us. A few weeks ago, I attended B Together, a retreat where certified B Corp companies come together to connect, learn, and share with like-minded peers. One session included some 15 B Corps who wanted to explore how they might better engage their staff.
For 30 minutes, some of the leading and most provocative UK B Corps shared unique ideas and best practices for engaging employees, including benefits, days off, flex time, paid and unpaid volunteer time, and meaningful volunteer opportunities, all in the name of employee engagement.
Near the end of the discussion I suggested, “Everything we’ve spoken about has real merit; these are all proven drivers of employee engagement. But in my experience, as a millennial and also just a human, I feel most engaged in my work when I feel connected to a greater purpose.”
I shared with the group that every six weeks, Junxion’s Vancouver and London offices convene an all-hands call. Our CEO and London MD religiously open the calls with a restatement of our company’s purpose, mission and values. I explained how this immediately sets the tone, reminding us of what connects us as a team, despite the many miles between us, and why we do the work we do. Hand on heart, every single time I leave these ‘routine’ calls, I feel wholly reconnected to my team and my work. I’m always jazzed. To me, this is engagement.
In contrast, even as a group of B Corps who truly understand the value of purpose, my peers at B Together were taking theirs for granted and had forgotten the real power of regularly communicating their purpose to their employees.
Paul Polman, CEO at Unilever, recently shared the insight that 55% of millennial employees feel more loyalty and motivation working for a business with a purpose that supports social causes.
When a massive, global leader like Unilever is preaching purpose, we can be sure the world of work is changing: purpose can and should be leveraged to engage employees.
Are your employees engaged?
Over the past 20+ years, in our work with hundreds of companies, social enterprises, non-profits, and NGOs, we’ve identified a long list of indicators of employees’ engagement. Here’s a list of those indicators you can use to assess your own company’s success engaging your people around a purpose beyond profit:
- Do your employees know your purpose beyond profit? Do they understand it? Do they agree with it?
- Can your employees clearly state how purpose influences the work the company does?
- Do your employees care enough to innovate and come up with new ideas or ways to generate more sales even if that is not their core function?
- Do your employees mention your company purpose (or associated themes) on their personal social channels?
- Do your employees consistently make workplace decisions in line with your purpose?
- Do your employees live your company’s purpose in their personal life?
If you answered no to even one of these questions, there is room for you to define, articulate, communicate, and leverage your purpose beyond profit.
If you want to explore what’s missing, or how you can ‘do’ purpose differently to better engage employees at your organization, get in touch. We’d love to start an inspiring conversation with you.
Shayla Meyer is a consultant based in Junxion’s London office. She specializes in helping companies measure and improve their performance on employee and community engagement.