What purpose over profit means for the future of work

Words by Ian Chaplin, Talent Experience Manager, Xero

The legacy of 2020’s pandemic on the job market will be felt for years to come, as unemployment rates exceeded 5 per cent for the first time since 2016 this year. 

However, this period has also caused many to reassess what they want from their careers. Research has shown that more people are shifting their focus to a career that gives them more than just a salary – in fact, a PwC study found that millennials who have a strong connection to the purpose of the company they work for are 5.3 times more likely to stay. 

But outside of a complete career change, is it possible to align your passions with the work you’re trained and paid to do? 

The ‘Why of Work’

David Ulrich’s ‘Why of Work’ looks at the concept of ‘an abundant organisation’ as one that enables its employees to be completely fulfilled by finding meaning and purpose from their experience at work. 

But this benefit is no longer limited to third sector or charitable vocations. Companies in a whole range of sectors are beginning to understand the power of ‘purpose’. Purpose-driven companies grow three times faster than their competitors according to Deloitte, and many are now investing in skills-based volunteering, corporate foundations and company-wide climate change strategies as part of a more holistic social and environmental impact (SEI) approach. Businesses can now also become certified B Corporations, a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit – of which there are now over 3,500 in more than 70 countries. 

This new movement is changing what purpose means within work, making it more attainable than ever for employees to find a job that enables them to combine their passion and skills. 

Inspiring change from inside

When change is needed, it can often be driven by the employees themselves as long as the company has a culture that invests in learning and education for staff. An example of this is the launch of a public community appeal at Xero, which began as an idea from our employees. Led by Anne Wang Ascharsobi, Director of Social and Environment Impact at Xero – who previously worked in philanthropy at Google.org – the launch of this giving platform enabled teams to donate directly to a number of charities and for-purpose organisations following a request from our staff to be more involved in charity appeals.

If purpose at work appeals to you, take note of whether you feel empowered and respected enough to voice suggestions for change. After all, what power does a company have without the employees themselves? 

Tips for success 

  1. Define your passions. When looking for purpose at work, it’s important to examine what you care about most – and whether you want to keep these passion projects separate from work, or combine them. 
  2. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer if you feel a bigger purpose or an SEI approach is missing from the company you work for. A business that is serious about their purpose should have a clear mission and set of values behind their responsibilities as an impactful business – if not, think carefully about whether you feel able to drive the change yourself within the business, or whether another company would be better suited to your ambitions.
  3. Have a desire to learn. Familiarise yourself with the purposeful opportunities that businesses are now offering employees. Is there more that your employer could be doing that you have learned from the strategies of other businesses? Network (even if remotely) with like-minded individuals to learn about perspectives and strategies that have worked for them. And if you think you would like more responsibility in this area at work, develop a learning plan for yourself to help you get there. 

Organisations that authentically lead with a clear purpose are starting to change the landscape of work for good. If you’re ready to find more purpose at work, now is the time to network, develop a plan, and show true commitment to your cause.

Author: Editorial Team

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