Business owners have routinely ignored data on what motivates potential employees for years. We always go back to salaries, benefits, bonus structures and the like. For years and years surveys have shown that potential employees value purpose, dynamic teamwork, mission, feedback, flexibility and freedom to innovate – all of these are more sought after than compensation. Why do we ignore this? Because writing a little bit larger check is easier than doing the hard work of defining your purpose or your mission. Writing a larger check is easier than building dynamic teams and giving lots of feedback.
Joel Kurtzman wrote a book called Common Purpose: How Great Leaders Get Organizations to Achieve the Extraordinary in which he made the statement “Study after study has shown that making the big bucks, which is important to a small set of individuals, is not usually at the top of the list for most people. What is at the top of the list? Being part of a winning team in a winning organization that has a mission.” We have experienced the truth of his statement in our own hiring and recruiting process.
Having done the hard work of discovering our purpose has actually become a recruiting tool in itself. A few months ago I found myself interviewing a high capacity leader who was working in a Fortune 500 company. The funny thing was, we weren’t looking for anyone at the moment but he came looking at us. He wasn’t drawn to us because of product leadership or market position. He wasn’t impressed by our financing or our market share. He was drawn to our mission. And he made it clear to me early on in the interview that he wasn’t concerned with what we could pay. Of course we needed to help him to be able to provide for his family, but what he wanted to be a part of was our mission.
And that meeting isn’t an anomaly. We’ve had a number of high capacity leaders from other more vibrant, better financed, larger companies come to us for the same reason. When people hear about our mission in orphan care and they realize that it is a real mission and not just a PR or marketing strategy they want to jump on board.
Now I’m not saying find a purpose and use it as a ploy to pay people less. Not at all. In fact, if your purpose isn’t genuine people will quickly see through that and be demotivated to work. However, doing the hard work of understanding what your company is meant to do (and it does not have to be directly related to your business by the way) will provide numerous benefits to your company including – employee buy-in, dynamic teamwork, higher commitment, finding significance and meaning in your work, giving meaning to mundane tasks and hiring and attracting top talent.