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The Psychology of Organizational Purpose

“Leaky Bucket” is a term that an executive used when the conversation moved to attrition. And a similar conversation with a senior leader who just moved on to new job gave another perspective “career inertia and stuck in a rut”.

Till recently, it was felt that people leave jobs because of their bosses. Now, it is increasingly felt that “people feel that they have been working hard but have not been given opportunities to advance professionally in their current company”, accordingly to new research from global staffing firm Robert Half in April 2021.

In other words, there seems to be a lack of connection between the aspirations of the organization and the employee.

This is primarily due to the misalignment between the vision (WHAT) and the purpose (WHY) of organizations

Vision is based on the rational thinking whereas Purpose is driven by beliefs and emotions

Companies typically focus on the “What’s” and “How’s” because that’s what their customers ask for, and rightly so. Most companies do a reasonably good job at articulating and measuring them.

But the key question is: “Is this big-picture focus, vision and charter articulated by the organization resonating with the employees?”

Now that’s a different story.

Most employees aren’t able to connect the organizational vision (or even a broad organizational purpose) with the work that they do every day.

Therein lies the misalignment!!!

This is the gap that causes the leaky bucket to be leakier and provides no stickiness of employees to the organization.

Purpose provides a strong anchor that motivates us, drives engagement, provides a strong sense of achievement and most importantly, provides a deep sense of belonging to the organization.

As Daniel Pink explains in his book Drive, purpose works at 2 levels: Capital “P” (purpose) and small “p” (purpose).

Extending the thought, Capital “P” is the overall purpose - the reason for being (how your work contributes to the overall organizational goals, how your own set of values align with the organizational values, etc.) and the Small “p” is all about smaller everyday things – the reason for doing (making a meaningful contribution towards own work, helping colleagues to make theirs, etc.)

The psychology of purpose goes beyond performance and into fulfilment.

Fulfilment provides meaning, helps foster healthy behavior and build better workplaces.

Employees engage with a company not just through work but also through a common aligned purpose.

This gives them a sense of belonging and provides a connection with the organization that goes beyond immediate opportunities and constraints.

Purpose and Performance need to be tagged together as two-in-a-box, right from strategy to design, from intent to implementation, from metrics to results and thereby success.

Creating a “Purposeful people-centric Organization” is the key to unlock and achieve “real” organizational success especially as we transform into the Digital age.


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