Jan 24, 2023

The Greater Good: The hard truth about finding common purpose

Three ways to build the greater good.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Perhaps quoting Charles Dickens to discuss remote work may seem a bit dramatic. Then again, it does seem appropriate.

Because the truth about working remote, hybrid, and returning to the office is this: employees are torn. On one hand, they love not spending their time commuting or their money on gas. They enjoy the extra flexibility of working from home and the increased personal enrichment that comes with it.

On the other hand, many employees feel disoriented, disconnected, and lost in their connection to their daily work – and to their company’s larger goals and missions. The sense of personal connection to both comes from experiences that, whether we like it or not, happen in person.

During our Living Lab experiment and while working with our clients, we’ve learned that people seek belief systems to help shape their actions and decision making. HOWEVER, even a strong alignment to an organizational mission won’t always result in the right behaviors.

So, what gives?

Well, often people don’t see the connection between the work they do every day and the company’s mission. For many, this lack of connection is a big part of what keeps them from coming back to the office.

Three ideas for connecting hybrid employees:

Drawing a clear line between big mission and daily work activates a shared sense of purpose. Here are a few ways to make it happen.

Create a Story-Sharing Culture
Establish rituals and encourage employees to casually and frequently discuss moments where their work furthers the organization’s mission. This brings purpose from the lofty world of the abstract into the realm of tangible, daily practice.

Increase Visibility
Employees need a clear understanding of how day-to-day tasks ladder up to the organization’s mission. Consider using the company intranet, newsletters, weekly emails or all hands to highlight the different ways getting work done is turning vision into reality.

Use Public Recognition
Unsung heroes are hidden across your entire organization. These are people whose daily work and behaviors are always mission-aligned. Find ways to recognize both them and their work. We guarantee you they’re craving it. We also guarantee they’ll appreciate it.

Connect them, and they will come.

Serving the greater good with a big mission and vision is an aspirational goal. It’s the job of leaders to make it actionable. And while we can’t guarantee making the connection actionable will have employees immediately abandoning their mid-morning yoga routine to rush back to the office, over time understanding why their work matters will foster more innovation, shared values, and a greater desire to come into the office when and where it matters.

For more insights from our Living Lab, follow One Workplace on LinkedIn and see the research overview here.