Paycheck Or Purpose? How Businesses Retain Workers By Giving Them Both

At a time when global talent shortages are reported at a 15-year high, one key to keeping the best employees happy and on board may lie in how well companies not only state their purpose and their values, but also prioritize carrying them out.

“When purpose and values are backed by meaningful action, you have the extraordinary opportunity to sharpen your company’s legacy – and have a better chance of retaining employees who otherwise might seek opportunities elsewhere,” says Maggie Z. Miller, the ForbesBooks co-author with Hannah Nokes of Magnify Your Impact: Powering Profit with Purpose.

That’s especially critical these days when 69% of companies worldwide have reported talent shortages and many employers are working to build more flexibility into jobs, something workers are demanding, according to a recent ManPowerGroup Employment Outlook Survey.

Miller points out that studies show firms that do a better job of practicing corporate responsibility can reduce average turnover over time by 25% to 50%. Employees want more than just a paycheck, although that’s important, too, she says. They want to feel that there’s some greater legacy to what they do each day and as a result they are drawn to companies that practice purpose alongside their profit.

Assisting businesses in finding and embracing purpose is what Miller and Nokes do. They are co-founders of Magnify Impact, a company that helps business leaders not only be prepared to react swiftly in times of crisis but build a proactive strategy for effective social impact.

“Part of enriching your corporate growth journey is to move beyond purely transactional business operations,” Nokes says. “Purpose and values are the rock on which your business stands.”

And an essential element of that involves developing engaged employees.

Workers Desire Fulfillment

“Strong organizational values help cultivate fulfillment, where employees become active participants in, and ambassadors of, a company’s purpose,” Miller says.

People’s desire for fulfillment at work is strong, according to a PwC/CERC survey, which found that 70% of those surveyed said they would leave their current job for a more fulfilling opportunity, and one in three would consider lower pay to find more on-the-job fulfillment.

Meanwhile, Glassdoor’s Mission and Culture Survey 2019 found that 79% of adults would consider a company’s mission and purpose before applying for a job.

But one additional hurdle companies face in keeping employees engaged these days is that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on work and culture, Nokes says.

“Many companies will never go back to a full-time, in-person workforce,” she says. “Figuring out how to manage this new style of part physical and part virtual workplace is at the forefront.

“The pandemic and its reverberating effects raise new challenges for putting a company’s purpose into practice in day-to-day situations. How do you keep your people tethered to the culture in times of stress? How do you keep employees invested in and passionate about your brand when they’re not physically together?”

Miller and Nokes say it’s important to get employees involved in helping develop the solutions to those nagging questions.

Keeping It Simple – And Ambitious

While a company’s purpose and values can and should be ambitious, they don’t need to sound grandiose, peppered with flowery language or impenetrable prose, Nokes says. Some of the most successful companies state their purpose and values in simple and straightforward language.

For example, Patagonia’s purpose is “to save our home planet” and its values are “build the best product; cause no unnecessary harm; use business to protect nature; not bound by convention.”

Definitely ambitious. Also, easy to understand.

But purpose and values can’t just be feel-good ideas. They must be acted upon, or else employees will soon see that the company doesn’t really mean what it says, and they will go in search of a place to work where the purpose truly means something, Miller says.

“It doesn’t matter if you are in a beautiful corporate headquarters with your company’s values painted artistically on the wall,” she says. “Business leaders should ask themselves and their employees, ‘Do we make decisions based on these values? How often do we talk about them in leadership meetings?’ If the answers are ‘no’ and ‘never,’ it’s leadership’s job to get those words off the wall and into the hands of their people to use them.”

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