Research by Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy, suggests that 28% of the 150 million-member U.S. workforce defines the role of work in their lives as a source of personal fulfillment and a way to help others. He says, “When employees bring purpose to their work, they have stronger relationships, feel they make a greater impact, and report that they are more likely to grow as people.”

How can leaders ensure that people experience this fulfillment at work?

Let’s look back at the post we wrote about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Of the five levels of needs – physiological, safety, belonging, esteem, and self-actualization – leaders are known to focus on the first two because they are more tangible. Efforts to meet these needs show up as contemporary workspaces that are open and vibrant, benefits of flexi-time, insurance, clear career pathways, appraisals to appreciate and promote, etc. These policies and organizational practices form the hygiene factors of a team, but themselves doesn’t lead to purpose. That’s where the other three levels of needs matter.

It’s a leader’s responsibility

Says Hurst, attending to needs of belonging, esteem, and actualization is a leader’s duty. He calls it the ‘duty of care’ and defines it as a leader’s responsibility to assist employees with networking and relationship building with colleagues, partners, and customers. When employees feel that they are wanted at work, they experience belonging, and that could open up the doors to more fulfillment. Why? Building stronger relationships or a culture where people can express affection, caring, and compassion towards one another, create a sense of safety and inclusion. This, in turn, builds teams that take more risks together, learn better, and hence perform better. They will align better with the organization.

“A duty of care also includes the establishment of other attributes such as autonomy, trust, being collaborative, relatedness, independence, balance, and clarity for esteem, and eventual workplace-actualization to be achieved. It can help unleash employees’ passion and creativity which then ideally unites them with a greater sense of purpose in their work,” emphasizes Hurst. Employees in high-trust, high-relatedness companies show 74% less stress, 50% higher productivity, and 76% more engagement than those in low-trust environments. And for millennials, autonomy in jobs to lead projects and make decisions is a stronger motivator than the paycheck.

Thus, the call of the day is for leaders to attend to higher-order needs, and lead people towards their individual mastery and growth.

How? By creating experiences that spur employees to not just meet goals, but also grow emotionally and envision a life where they achieve more.  After all, as Maslow said, the need for personal growth and discovery is present throughout a person’s life. By catering to it at the workplace, leaders can create a critical mass of people who grow together and ultimately become a community with purpose and direction.

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