Three Ways to Foster Employee Success By Identifying the "Why"

Many professionals are familiar with Simon Sinek’s concept of the Golden Circle. In short, he stresses that the most successful leaders and businesses start with the “why”, not the “what” or the “how”. If this is the case, it should be no surprise that what really drives engagement, motivation, and employee success is when employees feel like they play a part in that mission. They know their “why”; they find meaning in their work.

In fact, a recent study by YPulse found that "76% of millennials would rather have a career they are passionate about but doesn’t earn a lot of money than have a high-earning career that they are not passionate about." This isn’t just a trend limited to millennials, though. A study by PwC also showed that across generations, 55% of women value meaningful work as do 48% of men.

So, why is it so hard to find that meaning? Why don’t we just know how we contribute to our organization’s mission? Let’s go back in time for a moment and think about our onboarding, especially those of us who have worked at large, matrixed companies. During new hire orientation, you likely heard all about the company’s “why”. You heard a mission statement, you learned the company values, and you heard about the five- or ten-year vision. You went home after your first couple days and thought, ‘I’ve joined an incredible organization.’ How did you feel 30 days later? 90? 365? Did you still feel that electricity once you were elbow-deep in your day-to-day tasks? Do you still remember the company’s mission statement or core values? That transition is where engagement plummets and the “why” becomes a distant memory.

What do we do about it? How do we prove to every employee – no matter their role – that they contribute to the “why”? Let’s go over three ways identifying meaning in our work can foster employee success.

1. Ask!

It goes without saying that open communication is key to the success of any workforce. Often, though, that open communication doesn't always including digging into an employee’s personal motivations and connection to the bigger picture. Maybe leaders don’t know how to ask, or maybe employees don’t feel comfortable asking, “How does what I do here achieve company objectives?” In order to foster that culture of engagement and employee success, we have to prime our leaders, HR teams, and employees to have these discussions.

One solution we have created at Structural is the ability to poll specific audiences through Structural Connect. Whether it’s an anonymous or public poll, you’re able to get a point-in-time pulse on how your team (or even specific employees) are feeling. This is a great way to connect the dots between annual engagement surveys or large team meetings.

2. Impactful recognition

Recognition has a huge impact on the employee experience, yet it is regularly one of the lower-scoring items on engagement surveys. According to a recent study by Gallup, in order for recognition to foster employee success, “feedback should be frequent...and timely to ensure that the employee knows the significance of the recent achievement and to reinforce company values.” Let’s focus specifically on those last two points: the employee should know the significance of the achievement and the recognition should reinforce company values. If recognition is done right, that employee will see how their accomplishment contributed to their organization and it should tie back to those values they learned about in orientation.

In addition to sending out polls through Structural Connect, Connect also allows for lots of customized recognition. Maybe you want to share a photo from a recent sales summit and tag your internal presenters, maybe you have an upcoming event you want to recognize the organizing team for, or maybe you want to dedicate a Friday post to your rockstar employee of the week. All of these are great ways to show the significance of the achievement as well as tie it back to the company mission and values helping that employee find meaning in their work.

3. Leaders: make your “why” known

This should be a no-brainer: lead by example. If you want your teams to know the importance of having a “why”, make sure they know yours! This can show up a variety of ways: make your passions and motivations clear when you onboard a new team member; in team meetings, share what you are working on and how it contributes not only to team but company objectives; and be transparent. If you’ve got something on your plate that doesn’t bring you energy, be honest about it. It makes you human and it reminds your team that all of us have things we do that we don’t love in our jobs. However, if we’re able to pinpoint what we do love, and what makes us feel valued, it makes it worth it.

Incorporating these three approaches to helping employees find their “why” will impact engagement, employee success, and ultimately retention. Thoughts or best practices? Please let us know! We'd love to hear how your organization fosters employee success and communication. Take our Employee Success Quotient survey to be included in our study and see how your organization compares.

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