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September 3, 2021

Purpose and the Great Realignment

4 min read
By Maryam Mohamedali

How can people leaders create meaning?

41% of workers globally are considering leaving their current employer this year. Another study done in the UK and Ireland found that 38% of employees are looking to change roles in the next 6 to 12 months. And in the US, more than 4 million people (2.7% of US workers) quit their jobs in April – a record going back to 2000.

Whichever way you look at it, more people are either thinking about leaving or are actually leaving their jobs.

Why might people be quitting en masse? Reasons include:

  • Dissatisfaction with work – people who remained in their roles throughout the pandemic are now less willing to stay
  • Re-evaluating career paths after an “unprecedented” year
  • Looking for a better work-life balance
  • Retiring early after cashing in on a surging stock market and rising home values
  • Feeling they’re being treated unfairly at work

But there’s an overarching trend that’s particularly got our attention and that, on some level, feeds into all the above points. It’s what we’re calling ‘The Great Realignment’.

The last year gave us all more time to reflect, and through this reflection, many of us have been thinking about what we truly want, and even need, from life right now. In the midst of realigning – both with ourselves and with our work – we are questioning whether we are satisfied with our jobs:

“Is it worth it”?
“Should I be doing something else”?
“Am I having the impact I want to have”?

In a nutshell, more of us are now questioning and reflecting on our purpose. And for some, this has left them searching for the meaning in their work.

So how can companies meaningfully support their people who might be searching for purpose during this time? And how can people individually find the meaning in their work they might be looking for?

1. Redesign for win-win

Individuals should identify what it is they love about their current role, and companies should consequently provide more opportunities for employees to do more of what they enjoy and are good at. This could mean facilitating flexible working if an employee wants to take courses while they work, or it might mean creating room an employee to do what they love within their role.

Allowing people to step outside of the repetition of their current day-to-day, usually means they come back revitalised with better energy, ideas, and motivation. And that means they’re more engaged. Win-win.

2. Prioritise portable skills

Companies should provide clear opportunities for people to fortify themselves with portable skills. The employment landscape is changing, and people are exercising the flexibility to grow across several companies and industries.

People must be supported to take ownership over articulating and clarifying how it is they want to grow, outside of their job spec – it’s what they want, and it will increase retention when so many people are considering leaving their employers.

3. Articulate your purpose clearly and consistently

Companies need to reacquaint themselves and their people with their ultimate purpose. As an organisation, why do you do what you do? After the turbulence of the last year, a strong purpose can act as a north star and help people to clarify what matters to them.

4. Invite your people to uniquely connect with your purpose

In addition to clarifying your purpose, provide spaces and opportunities for your people to authentically connect with your purpose in their own way. If individuals feel connected to the work the business is doing, they will feel they’re contributing to work they believe in. Consider how you might create experiences around this that are grounded in storytelling from folks within the business.

5. Facilitate the connection with your company’s purpose

Work with people to determine how they can live their purpose within their role. By outlining a clear organisational purpose, facilitating that connection will allow your people to align their personal purpose with your company’s purpose in a way that is meaningful for them.


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