The Role of Purpose in Employee Engagement

What You Do Is Only Part of The Picture

How many times have you been asked, “What do you do for a living?” When the world seems to be defining you by your job title, it may be tempting to identify yourself as simply that. You may think of yourself as a manager, a lawyer, an office assistant, or a nurse—but that’s only your job function. Your title determines your day-to-day tasks, but it should not confine your concept of work.

Employees who identify themselves solely by their job function frequently see their work as “siloed” or as a monotonous routine, and they can begin to feel unsatisfied and disengaged. These employees are seeing their role through a microscope, and they need to see their jobs through a telescope as well. Employees who see a bigger picture will feel connected to a greater purpose within the organization, bring more passion to the workplace, and volunteer their best every day.

Emphasizing Purpose in Employee Engagement

In order for an organization to actively engage employees, the leadership needs to help staff see beyond function and connect with a greater purpose. At The Ritz-Carlton, employees know that their purpose is to provide unique, memorable, and personable customer service experiences. This greater purpose is communicated through our gold standards which includes our service values, employee promise, credo, and motto and all of these are reinforced at our daily line ups.

All employees of The Ritz-Carlton participate in a daily line up and are reminded of the greater purpose of their jobs. Diana Oreck, Former Vice President of The Leadership Center, equates the daily line up to tuning up before a concert. She says: “If you think of your organization as an orchestra, then you can understand how important it is to have everyone start from the same key. Before a concert, the oboe plays the “A” that determines the tone for the whole ensemble. At your organization, your strategic plan or service values can set the tone for your organization. A well-tuned orchestra produces the greatest harmony.

“I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been to a performance where the conductor announces, ‘we’re not going to tune-up today because we did that last quarter.’ You need to make sure your organization is in tune every day.”

Repetition and Practice

Company culture and purpose needs to be articulated repeatedly in order to elevate the day-to-day routine. Henry David Thoreau wrote, “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”

When your company’s culture includes a clear message of purpose, you give your employees the opportunity to transcend identifying themselves solely by function. Their day becomes bigger than a task list with check marks. They are part of a mission, part of a larger purpose, and that feeling of connectedness inspires greater teamwork and generates deeper satisfaction. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement, and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.