Wearing multiple hats at work is commonplace for many roles across a myriad of sectors, but it is especially true for those who work in human resources (HR) as well as learning and development (L&D). There’s never been a more dynamic time to work in this field, largely because of the dramatic shift in how employees view their work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have reevaluated their expectations and priorities.

Due to this shift in perspective, HR and L&D professionals have now morphed into health and safety officers, future of work experts — to manage the transition to a more digital and distributed work environment — and culture shapers. Work from home opportunities and flexible paid time off (PTO) options are nice perks, but some employees are left wanting more from their employer — a sense of purpose. Attitudes have evolved and people expect more from their jobs. As it turns out, a purpose-driven organization may be the key to unlocking talent.

What Is Purpose?

Purpose is an organization’s aspirational drive beyond maximizing shareholder value. It’s why an organization matters to its people. Defining a corporation’s “why” and making sure it guides decisions and operations has become a cornerstone of doing business. Having a strong sense of shared purpose helps drive employee engagement, facilitates business transformation and helps increase customer loyalty.

A Purpose-driven culture leads to increased engagement and retention.

Promoting a purpose-driven culture within your company benefits employees, and it can also help drive better results for your organization. Data shows when work is rewarding with learning opportunities, people are more motivated to work harder. The 2022 Integral Employee Activation Index found that when a company’s values align with their employees, workers are more likely to have a positive mindset about their job, feel better about their company culture and come to work prepared to take positive actions on behalf of the organization both online and offline.

When a company loses an employee, it costs them. The financial strain isn’t the only burden leaders are tasked to deal with during this time. They are also facing the fact that the person who left took the institutional knowledge and skills they have for your operation with them.  Retention issues can create a vicious cycle for a company, as leadership must recruit and train new talent, which has an impact on the bottom line.

This year, Hillenbrand launched “Purpose, Shape What Matters for Tomorrow”™ and successfully trained over 6,500 associates globally on a new set of core values no matter what operating company they worked in or what role and level they had. We didn’t want it to be just a set of words, we wanted our purpose to leap into decisions we make, how we operate and innovate. The lessons we learned from this process can be applied to any organization looking to improve their employee experience.

Find your influencers.

For us, a global organization with employees in over 40 countries, we needed to find local voices within our organization that carried weight and influence. While executive management support is imperative, success cannot solely be placed on their shoulders. Employees want to hear from their peers, who can share personal stories that exemplify what living your purpose looks like. This is why we chose a global, multifunctional team of our own employees to help facilitate and embed purpose from all angles. Once the team was chosen, they received training on key messages and expectations to ensure consistency in communications. They then held hundreds of sessions across countries, businesses, functions and levels throughout the organization bringing together employees to celebrate our new purpose and embed an understanding of new core values and further ideate all the ways in which we can bring purpose to life.

Stay on message.

Purpose should be the meaning behind everything your company does. From how your people serve customers, to what companies to plan to acquire, to how to think about sustainability — purpose must be at the core. What is more important is that all employees — entry-level workers to the C-suite — know this. To get everyone on board, leadership must demonstrate purpose and company core values in their role and communicate their support to employees.

Attracting and retaining purpose-driven employees.

As an HR leader, I am always thinking about how we can grow and improve by leveraging our talent base and shaping a great company culture. Launching this initiative is the first step to a transformational journey. Purpose-driven companies often embrace diversity, reward innovation and encourage differing opinions — all of which can help attract and retain talent.

Amplified by the pandemic and generational expectations of the evolving workforce, purpose should move to the forefront of executive-level conversations and board meetings. Leading with purpose can be a critical element of a sound business strategy and can create a competitive advantage.

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