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Post-covid employee engagement

Fiona Passantino, mid-August, 2022

And yet most of the time, company purpose is written by a small handful of marketing and communication professionals behind closed doors. Or an external company.

About two-thirds of (US-based) employees surveyed in a recent McKinsey study said that the pandemic caused them to reflect on their purpose[i]. At the same time, “purpose” is quickly outpacing salary and flexibility as the most important consideration for a new job.

“Purpose” is a reflection of the “why’s” of everyone in the organisation; fluid, organic and constantly evolves. How do you know your purpose speaks equally to everyone?

“Purpose” is the “why” that is put into words by an organisation. That everyone has to feel connected to and energised by, no matter who they are or where they’re from; all-encompassing and large enough to pull everyone toward it.

Invisible Diversity

The only way to make sure the organisational purpose speaks to everyone is to make sure everyone is involved with writing it. Step one is becoming truly diverse.

Invisible diversity is the kind that exists between our ears . There are the different thinkers – the loners and comedians, creatives, rebels and introverts, data nuts and gamers. And there are those from very different backgrounds – extreme poverty, full-time caregiving, volunteering, extreme religious – whose experiences shape how they see the world and how they solve problems.

Diverse thinkers have the capacity to enrich the flow of ideas with radically different ways of seeing the world, with innate empathy for an overlooked customer base or potential employee pool[ii]. Diversity of thought and perspective improves organisational performance, increases profits and reduces employee churn[iii].

Getting there: seven ways towards a broader purpose

  1. Conduct an internal personality audit. Are teams made up of the same personality type? Similar educations, backgrounds, histories and ways of seeing the world? Are there visual-spatial thinkers, emotional intelligent, analysts, strategists and ball-jugglers? Insights and Gallup’ CliftonStrengths are two good tools for getting started.
  2. Pursue the missing personalities. Once it’s clear what the dominant unit “type” is, it’s also apparent which types are missing. Mapping these over the current customer type is a good way of validating the case for targeting them. Normally, large corporations do not approach art schools for interns, but having a visual-spatial on a team who can mock up a concept on the back of a napkin before the end of a meeting is unimaginably valuable.
  3. Safe space. If only “in-group” members feel free to challenge an idea or ask a question, then your diversity isn’t working to its full potential. Culture audits and anonymous surveys can reveal whether invisible diversity can come out of the shadows to help shape the conversation. To many, basic process questions are some of the dumbest, most eye-rolling of all; slow things down and are a waste of time. But chances are, more than one person in the room has no idea what the acronym that “everyone knows but no one is able to explain” actually means and will be secretly glad someone finally asked.
  4. Co-create the purpose. Back to the purpose statement; break open the mission statement and make this a company-wide exercise. A town hall style celebration event that can be richly gamified and broadcast. This exercise is actually easier than many might think; we are all human, and have all chosen to work for a particular organisation for a similar set of reasons.
  5. Make everything about the purpose. Every single touchpoint, from pre-boarding to packaging to pay slips, whether internal or external, up and down the chain of sub-brands straight to the stickers in the bathroom are opportunities to remind people why they are here; and that all activities, communication and deliverables line up neatly in a straight line underneath it.

[i] Dhingra, Samo, Schaninger and Schrimper (2021). “Help your employees find purpose – or watch them leave”. McKinsey & Company. Accessed on August 8, 2022. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/help-your-employees-find-purpose-or-watch-them-leave

[ii] Ullah, AlDhaen, Naveed, Ahmad, Scholz, Hamid, & Han (2021). Towards making an invisible diversity visible: A study of socially structured barriers for purple collar employees in the workplace. Sustainability, 13(16), 9322. Accessed on August 10, 2022.  https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/13/16/9322/pdf

[iii] Deloitte (2021). “Business succession planning Cultivating enduring value”. Accessed on January 11, 2022. https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/deloitte-private/us-dges-business-succession-planning-collection.pdf