What makes us wake up every day, go to our work spaces, tackle tasks and be our most productive selves? The answer to this would vary with individuals. But there are common themes: recognition, fun work environment, dream role, money, peer relationships, and the biggest of all – a sense of purpose.

According to Aaron Hurst, author of the Purpose Economy, humans fall into three camps: money-oriented, status-oriented, and purpose-oriented. In his book, he describes that some people see work as an “unavoidable necessity”. Others want “to be successful and prove themselves” even if it means doing something they don’t enjoy. A third type “believes work has the potential to be a valuable and meaningful part of their life.” The millennial workforce falls in the third category – seeking to contribute to the society.

But how can one find purpose? Hurst’s research revealed some interesting findings.

  • Employees had a deeper sense of purpose in workplaces where women were in leadership positions or the male: female ratio at work was equal.
  • The same job may mean different things to different people. For example, being a doctor could instill purpose in one person, as it helps other people. Another doctor might just derive status or recognition from his job. A third doctor might just be in it for the money.
  • Against popular belief, not everyone in the field of social, educational or developmental work, has a strong sense of purpose.

So, how do we identify purpose oriented people? Such people are more engaged, more productive, better champions of the company, and tend to stay longer in their roles, according to the surveys. The challenge is for companies to hire purpose-oriented people when they can, and promote them where possible.

Here are two crucial practices to attract purpose-driven employees.

  • Communicate why your company exists. Seventh Generation, a manufacturer of household goods like soaps and toilet paper, is a stellar example of this. It employs the maximum number of millennials. The company’s products are authentically imbued with a higher purpose: to inspire a consumer revolution that nurtures the health of the next seven generations. Learning: a company’s purpose is not a pretty set of words. Actions speak louder than words. This is what connects people to your organization.
  • Create shared value for your stakeholders. This means generating economic benefits, while addressing social challenges. According to experts like Michael Porter, “Shared value is not social responsibility, philanthropy, or even sustainability, but a new way to achieve economic success.” Ask yourself, what can you do for your employees beyond giving them wages, that make their life more meaningful? Or how is your business socially useful? A great place to start – your vision and mission.

With the two practices suggested above, you’ll have the attention of the most dynamic members of our workforce today. But remember: the key is not to just identify purposes, but to embed them in everyday aspects of work. They then become tangible, impacting the day to day operations. And what better way to bring the sense of purpose to the fore every day?

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