Employee perspectives

Why is purpose becoming increasingly important for the modern employee?

Ask yourself this. How would you define a company which makes you feel less like just an employee, and more like a fan. What characterises a company that has less of a “workforce,” and more of a community which works collectively towards something bigger?

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An answer to this question, which is resounding throughout many industries all across the globe, is “purpose.” In recent years, purpose and meaning in the day-to-day workspace has become more and more of a demand amongst modern employees. But what is causing this a surge in demand? And what value does it bestow on employees to work in a business that cultivates their wellbeing?

One might argue that finding purpose and meaning in your overall day-to-day living goes a long way towards contributing to your overall happiness. We think it’s safe to say that everyone would enjoy a job where they feel like their contribution is appreciated and moves themselves, their colleagues and their companies towards reaching specific milestones. 

Consequently, there is a rising trend of academic study and reporting at the business level, which is influencing companies to respond and invest in clarifying their goals and developing purpose-driving workspaces. Much of the research points to real value, which goes beyond economics, in working with a sense of community, meaning and purpose.

Purpose in our day-to-day lives

In a recent US report from PwC, it concluded from a study of 1500 full and part-time employees, and 502 business leaders across 39 industries, that 83% of people asked ranked "meaning in their day-to-day work" as the highest priority. Second and third behind that was a "strong sense of community" and a "belief in the company's overall impact." 

In mentioning these statistics during a meeting with Marjolein Lips-Wiersma, New Zealand business ethics academic and premiere author on the subject of meaningfulness at work, she wasn’t surprised by these findings. In fact, they mirrored some of her own work.  

“In my research, you can see that there is a movement towards meaningful work, purpose-driven if you like. And there are a number of factors that contribute to this. One of them is due to the fact that so much of our identity is our work identity. Another, is that more people around the world are getting into middle-class jobs, where they thought they would always be, however, are experiencing less meaning that they thought they would be in those positions.”

“What I found when researching and developing my Framework of Meaningful Work , is that ‘unity with others’ and ‘serving others’ are two of the four fundamental pillars for finding purpose and meaning in work. I think this is what we are seeing people gravitate towards.”

Marjolein Lips-Wiersma work is not isolated in its findings. Finding purpose and meaning in work seems to be a trend that is repeating itself all across the globe.

The emotional connection to our work

On a commercial level, we have been establishing emotional connections with businesses and brands for decades. From the clothes we wear to the foods we eat, if a brand's sense of purpose aligns with our own, then we are more likely to become a regular consumer of that brand's products.

What is a more recent development, is the growing demand for our working environments also to spark some of those same emotional connections that are driven by a sense of purpose and shared values.

We sat down with our own Monique Carter, our Executive Vice President of People & Organization, to get her thoughts on how important it is that companies express and share a sense of purpose and values with their employees.

"I think it is critically important for companies to align their purpose to reflect those of their employees—this is particularly important for us at Novo Nordisk. We have recognised that our reason to be, as a company, is genuinely purpose-driven. We are in a unique position as a company, in so much as we don't need to look for something to establish the company as socially responsible. You could say that one of our purposes is to do good in the world.

That being said, I would say that it is essential that any company listens to their employees. Purpose at work is more than engagement. It's the loyalty, the commitment, the pride, and the overall emotional connection an employee gets when they recognise their own values in the company they work for."

Undoubtedly, most everyone understands the feeling of satisfaction one can feel for being recognized for their work and contribution to a larger set of goals. According to a global survey conducted by Workhuman, when employees are recognized, culture metrics improve. 92% of employees reported feeling more appreciated, 86% reported feeling happier at work, and 85% reported feeling satisfied in their jobs.

The Big Take-Away

Purpose is no longer a luxury for a select few that were able to find themselves in their "dream job." According to the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Survey which was used to fuel the research behind the PwC report mentioned above, “To be fully engaged, employees need to find meaning in their daily work.” In other words, purpose has become a fundamental factor that drives the decision-making processes for both companies and prospective employees.

At Novo Nordisk, We are a proud life-science company and ultimately, life is why we’re all here – to insure that people can lead a life independent of chronic disease. This purpose is grounded in our values, history, and heritage and is shared and exchanged openly between individuals and the overall organisation itself. We make our purpose clear to everyone that works here, while embracing and empowering employees to manifest that same purpose in their own projects—for the overall betterment of the company, our community, and the patients we serve around he world.