Characteristics of Purpose-Oriented Employees

Instructor: Nathan Hurwitz

Dr. Nathan Hurwitz is a tenured Associate Professor in Theatre and has three books in print, two textbooks and a coffee table book.

This lesson examines the characteristics of purpose-oriented employees. After defining the term and discussing the three types of workers, we'll see why purpose-driven employees are important and will examine how to identify them.

What Are Purpose-Oriented Employees?

Imagine stopping at your favorite coffee shop on your way into the office. There are three baristas; the first puts in his time and picks up his check, the second has her eyes on a position as a store manager or regional manager, while Taylor, the third, derives her pleasure from making the best mocha no-foam latte possible and sending you out with a smile to face your day.

Which barista do you want to make your order? More importantly, which barista is going to be the most productive, profitable and happily engaged employee? If you guessed the third barista, you're right.

At its root, purpose-driven employees are those who view their job as a calling, deriving fulfillment from the work itself.

Three Types of Workers

In 1997, university researchers published a paper titled ''Jobs, Careers, and Callings: People's Relations To Their Work'' in the Journal of Research and Personality. In their model there are three types of workers that reflect our coffee shop example:

  1. Those who see their work as a job; these workers' fulfillment derives from the financial reward they earn.
  2. Those who view their work as a career; the sense of fulfillment of these workers comes from personal advancement.
  3. Those who view their work as a calling; these workers derive their fulfillment from the work itself, from performing work they consider socially useful. This describes Taylor, our mocha no-foam latte-making barista, who is our purpose-driven employee.

It is Taylor's sense of purpose that keeps her focused on excellence in the workplace, on pleasing the customer, on trying to make every day (and every latte) a little better than the one before. This attitude makes her an excellent team player, and a natural leader. These are the qualities behind her sense of fulfillment - and in this environment, fulfillment and success feed on each other.

Purpose-driven baristas deriving fulfillment from the work itself
purpose-driven

The Importance of Purpose-Driven Employees

Almost all studies have found that those whose work is personally fulfilling tend to perform at higher levels, excel to a greater degree, and ultimately prove substantially more profitable than other workers.

Purpose-driven workers can be found in all jobs, industries, and levels of the workforce from fast food workers to CEOs. A purpose-driven workforce is likely to boost the overall economy as well as to improve lives by increasing job satisfaction.

In 2016 it was found that 73% of purpose-oriented people are satisfied in their jobs, as opposed to 64% who are not purpose-driven. These findings were found to be consistent globally and across a broad spectrum of industries.

The same index found that 40% of employees in the United States in 2016 were purpose-driven, as opposed to over 50% in Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands and as low as 23% in Saudi Arabia. The percentage of purpose-driven workers in the United States has risen each of the last several years.

Hiring purpose-driven employees and creating purpose-driven workplaces is healthy for business and individuals. Life satisfaction is one immediate and obvious result for the purpose-driven worker, but purpose-driven companies report higher profits, greater productivity, and greater optimism for both the personal and the corporate future.

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