Connection and Purpose

Paula Pyne, Principal of Uplift! Consulting was featured last month in HRPA Ottawa Up-Date magazine and shared wise words about the importance of employees having a sense of connection and purpose with the work they do.

Sense of ‘Connection and Purpose’ Critical Elements to Recruitment Strategies

More than ever before, people are looking to connect with greater purpose and meaning in their lives – and this means their work, too.

In fact, Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, shared in her recent TEDx presentation that “connection brings purpose and meaning into our lives.

It’s neurologically how we are wired, and why we are here.”

When it comes to the ever-so-familiar recruitment equation – attract, motivate and retain – HR managers are in a bit of quandary these days as the news headlines are alarming across the private and public sectors.

Let’s take a look at some of the key environmental factors and trends impacting HR today:

  • Do you like what you do? Is your work meaningful and fulfilling? Only 20% of people can give a strong “yes”. (Well-Being 2.0)
  • One-quarter of workers will look for new jobs in next six months; motivation, work-life balance and optimism, along with compensation, continue to be key drivers (HR Reporter, October, 2010)
  • Organizations fear losing top talent
  • Ottawa was cited the “depression” capital of Canada in a recent Ottawa Citizen article
  • Absenteeism, depression and stress are at all-time highs, and productivity at all-time lows

For the most part, this is not new to us, but the challenge of conducting business under these stressors is.  When systems break down, let’s not fix them with the same minds – let’s aspire to do things with fresh perspective and insight, based on sound principals that work.

Let’s take a look at what could be the most important part of the recruitment equation: motivation and engagement, and building strategies that support it.

Compensation is cited as a big driver for leaving, but it can be argued that sense of belonging and connection override this.  This is something that Daniel Pink, a United States writer of several books about the changing world of work, noted in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

“In some cases, when you get beyond rudimentary skills, higher incentives lead to the worst performance,” he said of a recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology research study. “We need to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table.”

The research and the science indicate that organizations need to focus on autonomy to create a purpose beyond job duties.  Most importantly, treating people like people leads to increased engagement.

Ken Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, talks about living with purpose and passion and the importance of surrounding yourself with “your tribe” in order to maximize potential.  Seth Godin strengthens this view, and explains the importance of a tribe – to form better connections with others to best benefit the group.

Like attracts like, something I learned myself when I founded my business, Uplift! Consulting, and the peer mentoring group Women Inspire.  “I found Women Inspire so useful because it’s about getting together with a group of like-minded business women,” said Yvette Diepenbrock, a senior communications consultant and member of the group.

“It’s so critical that you’re working with the right people because today everybody has to be able to multitask. They need to be able to fit into whatever scenario you’re working in. Women Inspire is a great alternative to a traditional networking group.”

Both Uplift! and Women Inspire work to help you find your tribe and surround yourself with like-mindedness to support individual growth, making work-life seamless. It’s very much a holistic approach.

As past president of a Women’s Advisory Council at General Motors of Canada, I saw firsthand the power of connectedness that sparked growth and meaning.  As a result of the work within the council, we saw more women in the executive spotlight and landing jobs internally within the organization that were better aligned with skills – the forum was really quite brilliant.   But in a puzzling way, to say the least, for the last decade this level of support has gone by the wayside.  “With the shift to self-directed leadership, people need to be connected through mentoring and self-managed learning, and at the same time need to be supported and self-empowered,” says Cindy Newell, CTV, HR Manager.

We need to do things differently and aspire to connect with greater purpose, connectedness – building community, with a greater focus on the motivation piece of the recruitment equation, along with treating people like human beings.

Considerations to build sound “people” strategies that will aid in engaging and keeping your top talent:

  • Define the why and purpose of your business that resonate, get support from top leaders and ripple it through the organization. Create a culture that supports the “greater good” and the heart of change, with greater emphasis on human-beings as a whole. Change leader John Kotter talks about great strategies in his new book Buy-In.
  • Implement peer-mentoring programs, like Women Inspire
  • Holistic coaching support to find individuals greater purpose with the ability to tie it back to the greater good of the organization.
  • Team building and self-development – individually finding your fit to support growth through self assessment tools like The Birkman Method, Strengthsfinder and Wellbeing 2.0.
  • Well-being and self care programs

With that thinking, the attract and retain pieces of the equation will naturally flourish.

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