The Future of Work: Creating Purpose-Driven Organizations

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The Future of Work: Creating Purpose-Driven Organizations

It’s time to change the way we work. I don’t mean a revolutionary time management system, or a productivity breakthrough. I’m talking about integrating purpose into the workplace.

While “finding your purpose” may sound like a nebulous buzzword, it’s actually a viable way to revolutionize organizations and the workforce that powers them.

What Does “Finding Purpose at Work” Mean?

Finding purpose at work doesn’t mean you have to work in the rainforests of the Amazon protecting endangered wildlife. Purpose can be found in any position, because it has to do with how you approach a job, not the specific nature of the job.

To learn more about this new approach to work, let’s look at Imperative, an organization started by Aaron Hurst that is committed to changing the nature of work by deeply interlacing purpose with work. Imperative believes purpose at work can be found in three categories:

  1. Creating a positive impact
    – Make concrete near and long term impact on the world
  2. Connecting with other people by building meaningful relationships
    – Work with and help others who appreciate you
  3. Achieving continued personal growth
    – Get support toward exploring your personal interest and goalsNew Value Proposition

If leaders focus on creating an organizational culture that fosters these three things, the employees, the organization, and the leaders all benefit. So where could you start?

How Can Leaders Start to Integrate Purpose Into Their Organizations?

On a basic level, leaders can first define their personal values, then, move on to clarifying the values and purpose of their organization, and finally look at the organization as a whole through this lens of attracting, hiring and retaining their talent. Leaders must make purpose a fundamental piece of each step of their own, and their team’s, talent life cycle.

Imperative Manifesto

But what can leaders do beyond the basics? I had the opportunity to take a more in-depth look last fall, when Imperative hosted a summit at Steelcase’s NYC WorkLife center with 50 researchers and leaders. The objective was to design work that better serves people, organizations and society.



Here is a fun two-minute introduction to the goals of the summit, and how the outcome could influence your organization.

I was honored to be one of the 50 summit attendees. To continue exploring how leaders can create a purpose-driven organization, all attendees of the summit were broken into groups to tackle the question. My group came up with the following four ideas.

Four Ways to Create a Purpose Driven Organization

  • Create a “purpose review” in addition to a performance review, to help the organization know if the employee still feels purposeful at work.
  • Find ways to increase organizational trust and transparency, where mistakes are applauded and difficult conversations are rewarded.
  • Attract, hire and retain prospective employees and freelancers by emphasizing the importance of their growth, impact and peer relationships.
  • Redefine the organizational chart and office space, so it reflects purpose driven conversations, instead of just departmental conversations.

I think these four ideas can really transform an organization. And we were just one of several groups working collaboratively to think up ways that purpose can help people thrive. Many more ideas came out of the summit.

In fact, after the summit, Imperative released a valuable report, *Purpose at Work: 50 Leaders Creating a New Vision For Work. I recommend the report to every leader who embarks on transforming the lives of those they lead.

The summit may be over, but our work is not done. Luckily, there are some incredible people helping transform the workplace. Thank you Deneen Bennett of Michael Kors, Rhonda Schaller at Pratt Institute, Nathaniel Koloc of ReWork, Adam Day at Nike, Allison Hyers of West Elm, Amanda Cole of Kenneth Cole Productions, Eleanor Morgan at IDEO, and Cindy Pace of MetLife for your ideas and inspiration.

What about you? Do you find a sense of purpose in your career? If not, what steps will you take to find purpose in your work? I’m excited to continue the conversation, so please leave a comment below, send me an email, or find me on Twitter.


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  1. This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg
    January 13, 2015

    […] Anne Loehr reflected about “The Future of Work: Creating Purpose-Driven Organizations.” […]

  2. Kurt Kutay
    March 17, 2015

    I appreciate your insights especially as we employ more young people over the course of 30 years operating Wildland Adventures. I’ve learned much from this process, strive to find a balance between a good work ethic and environment, compatible with the growing flexible and variable work habits of the young. I even allow ear-buds and Facebook time at work now! (Not so long ago I was fighting it!) It helps that I have a 25 year old son.

    I just wanted to bring an organization in my world to your attention: Running Buffalo Journeys [RBJ] is an amazing company that uses the power of adventure travel and the inspiration and beauty of the natural and cultural environments of our planet to nurture heart-centered truth, intimacy and compassion between each other and ourselves. I traveled with them in December and the intention-based trips they conduct are all about knowing the truth and beauty of who you really are.

    Your most recent enews about knowing one’s purpose in life and at work reminded me of RBJ. They just ran a three week trip through Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica that included many young people two of whom I knew from my son’s high school who had good jobs but were unhappy so they quit and went on a RBJ to find something new in their lives. They are mid-twenties and in spite of the stable jobs they left, and the fact that their families didn’t approve, they knew in their hearts this is the time in life that they needed to set out and seek a higher purpose. That can happen to any of us at any time in life!

    Just in case you come across others seeking a higher purpose perhaps an RBJ adventure could be a path for some.

    • Anne Loehr
      March 23, 2015

      Hi Kurt! I love hearing that you are striving for balance and it sounds like you are doing so wonderfully.

      Thank you so much for sharing the Running Buffalo Journeys– that sounds like an incredible opportunity for people to learn and practice how to live a purpose-driven life. I read an article about several Millennials who had decided to leave their high paying banking jobs and start their own socially responsible businesses. It’s brave to break the mold, and I agree, it can happen to any of us at any time!


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