Jess Van Der Welt at HRM has written a thought-provoking article about how to inspire teams to work together in achieving the mission of the organisation they work for.

How to use your business’ purpose to inspire engagement

Jess Van Der Walt

US millennials have an “alarmingly low” sense of their business’ purpose at work, a Gallup study has found. Millennials make up 38 per cent of the current US workforce, yet only one third of them strongly agree that they feel their work is important to their organisation’s mission. This means nearly one quarter of the US working population are not inspired to do their absolute best for their company and clients.
Over the years engagement has become a top agenda focus for businesses around the world. Australia is statistically close to the US, only 24 per cent of our working population feel actively engaged. New research suggests that a business’ purpose, or the lack of one, might be the cause. Almost all of us desire a sense of purpose in the work that we do, and there is a strong consensus that this is a critical factor for engagement.

As HR professionals and business leaders, we no longer have the luxury of ignoring this absence of purpose – satisfied with people who simply ‘show up’. We need to proactively connect our people to the big picture of our organisation. Here are three simple tips that will help you develop a clear sense of purpose to inspire and drive your team.

1. Start with why

In his seminal TED Talk in 2009, Simon Sinek introduced a simple yet powerful concept of how great leaders inspire action: They start with why.

People do not buy what you do, but why you do it. When it comes to cultivating a culture of engagement – one that inspires action from your people – your why must be at the centre of everything.

The LEGO Group is a company that mastered their why. LEGO’s why is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. As Jim Hemerling, an organisational change expert, highlighted in his recent TED Talk, LEGO’s purpose is not to increase sales or developing products, it is about giving millions of children access to LEGO and enabling them to experience the joy of learning through play. LEGO intentionally position everything they do through the lens of their why.

2. Stories trump strategy

Once you have a clear understanding of your why, you need to explore how your business’ purpose will be communicated and understood by your people. Strategy and vision statements are good, but great leaders and great organisations know the power of stories. Stories communicate more detail, more emotion and inspire more action than a strategy statement or powerpoint presentation.

There are a number of companies who are utilising media and the arts to creatively share their stories, producing everything from short films to published picture books. Storytelling does not need to be a big investment, it is often simple and organically constructed stories that are most powerful, those stories centred on your clients and customers. Bringing to life their experiences and successes reminds everyone of the value of their labour.

3. Speak a common language

The beauty of organisations is that they represent a diverse group of people with different working backgrounds, life experiences, nationalities and cultures. But a part of working together is achieving unified understanding and commitment. This shared understanding (developed with the above two tips) creates a common language for talking about work.

The All Blacks, one of the world’s most successful sporting teams, used the power of language to inspire and transform their team when standards and results were slipping. A book written in 1999 by John Kirwan and Sean Fitzpatrick helped instill a set of principles that bound the group together through shared beliefs.

A common language enables everyone to communicate, collaborate and problem solve more effectively. It also has the power to motivate and inspire your people if they are linked strategically with your business’ purpose through storytelling.