Employee Surveys

How to inspire passion and purpose at work (to make employees stay)

Lydia Watson

Have you ever teared up at an advert for a high street bank? One that shows the company being there for customers’ key life moments – from birth to death, and everything in-between? 

You may well have a healthy level of cynicism, and see that as low-level emotional manipulation. But those ads are effective because, when it comes down to it, we’re motivated by the idea of making the world a better place. Whether individually, from the companies we use, or the ones we work for, having a sense of purpose matters. 

What does purpose mean, and why is it personal?

We’ve spoken about business purpose before – the idea that your organisation was created for a specific reason, one bigger than its day-to-day function. But how does that trickle down to individual purpose… and why should people leaders even care about that?

It’s what turns work into a calling. 85% of us say we have a purpose – though 65% can’t put it into words – but what it comes down to is ‘aspiration’, and the sense of making a difference. For most people (70%, in fact) work is the best opportunity to do that. And leaders need to facilitate that.  

Why should business leaders care about individual purpose?

Higher profits. Higher engagement (which leads to better performance, and higher profits). Healthier, resilient, loyal employees. These are all benefits linked to a strong sense of purpose – so it’s something business leaders need to consider as a priority.

But it’s not just what a sense of purpose can do, it’s what happens what it’s not there:

While it’s clear that purpose matters, the problem is that only 55% of managers see it as their responsibility, with many senior leaders not considering individual purpose at all. 

Recommended survey: our Purpose deep dive

You get it, purpose matters. Making that your superpower means assessing where you are right now. Thanks to our 20+ question sets, you can focus specifically on that topic and use our Purpose Deep Dive. You’ll learn where you are, where you need to be, and how to get there.

 1. Understood

These questions focus on how good your organisation is at sharing it’s wider purpose, whether values are clear and easy to understand, and if they resonate with your employees’ personal values. This helps you understand if you’re getting the basics right: making your organisational purpose clear, communicated, and out there. 

Ideas to improve this area: 

One organisation makes sure its purpose is clear and communicated with a thorough four-day “cultural orientation”followed by regular large and small meetings to generate discussion. Whatever your methods, reinforce that message, and give your employees opportunities to talk openly about it.

2. Unique

These questions look at how unique, relevant, and strong your organisation’s purpose is, compared to the rest of the industry. It asks about how this is translated to customers, and how distinctive it is. This helps you understand the authenticity and relevance of your communicated purpose, compared to competitors, encouraging your team to stick around. 

Ideas to improve this area:

One energy company used a heartfelt video communicating the impact its workers have on the wider community, supporting people’s wellbeing by helping their lives run more smoothly. When you’re not in an obviously purpose-driven job, like a healthcare worker, it can be hard to know what you’re adding. Try to appeal to your employees’ emotional connection to what they do, and why they do it. Help them see the bigger picture.

3. Applied

These questions are all about how much purpose influences behaviour, and whether it has a positive effect on people’s working lives. This helps you see if organisational purpose is connected to people’s individual purpose, whether it flows through to their day-to-day behaviour, and if people feel united by a common goal. 

Ideas to improve this area:

A PwC study recommended that business leaders focus on individual fulfillment to make purpose a practical function, by bridging the gap between commercial outcomes and personal feelings of accomplishment. That could mean training and development – which 87% of millennials see as a priorityFor people to really live and breathe your purpose, for it to be their own, you need to give them the training and encouragement to do so, and make sure you’re hiring people who share your values.

4. Inspired

These questions are focused on employees feeling motivated by your organisation’s purpose – whether it drives them to succeed, acts as a guide, and whether they see the leadership exhibiting the same sort of behaviours. This helps you learn the power of purpose in your organisation, and what you can tweak to make it a key performance driver.

Ideas to improve this area:

Like baking a loaf of bread, what’s more motivating than seeing the end result of your hard work? Research from both McKinsey and PwC encourages leaders to show and tell employees the impact of their work on the world – it makes them five times more excited to work there, and three times more likely to feel fulfilled in their purpose overall.

Qlearsite Employee Feedback Platform: is purpose your superpower? If not, find out how it can be

  • Ready-made question sets: research-based surveys, on a wide range of topics you need answers about. Just pick your deep dive, and you’re good to go
  • 15-minute survey set-up: after you’ve chosen the question set, add your branding, add your recipient list, and you’ll be well on your way to finding your people power
  • Instant insights: there’s no wasted time waiting for data to be evaluated and reviewed, just an immediate view of your biggest challenges and opportunities
  • Context from language analysis: our Platform auto-analyses your employees’ comments, so you get the “why?” and “what next?” behind your scores


It’s time to start the conversation

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