How Leaders can Help Frontline Employees Connect To Purpose

TED KITTERMAN AND DAPHNE LEE

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When employees are connected to purpose, they give more effort and are less likely to leave the company. 

When employees are connected to purpose, the business receives all kinds of benefits. 

When employees say their work is meaningful, they are less likely to quit and more likely to give extra effort on the job. When employees feel valued and celebrated, they are more likely to participate in innovation and adapt quickly to new ideas. And when employees connect with purpose, companies reap financial rewards. 

What having purpose looks like

Purpose can be a difficult term to wrap arms around. Is it the company’s mission? Or an individual’s sense of having an impact? “At a very high level, a sense of purpose is really tied into pride,” says Julian Lute, senior strategic advisor with Great Place To Work®. Do people feel their contribution is meaningful to the organization or the wider world? 

Purpose is also about alignment.

“When people feel like they’re not aligned with the purpose, the mission, and that excitement, they feel excluded from innovation,” Lute says. He gives the example of a hospital system, which might do a great job of celebrating doctors and nurses with appreciation days and storytelling campaigns, but neglects the administrative staff and medical billing professionals. What kind of message does it send to an employee when they work in the basement and are never celebrated for their contributions? 

“You can have people who are central to an organization, whose work is on display and whose work executives are talking about, but they just aren’t getting that shine,” Lute says.  

When an employee says their job isn’t meaningful, that doesn’t necessarily mean the work they do isn’t incredibly important. Without medical billing staff, hospitals can’t bring in money from insurers, but these workers often don’t feel their work is respected. 

Making connections

Purpose starts with leaders, but employees can also be influenced by their fellow employees. If colleagues from other departments don’t connect your work with the overall mission of the organization, some workers can feel undervalued or overlooked. Imagine a manufacturing plant where the corporate staff is always at odds with the production floor workers, Lute says. How can you help these two groups connect the dots between their work and the work of their colleagues? 

When an employee says their job isn’t meaningful, that doesn’t necessarily mean the work they do isn’t incredibly important.

At DHL Express Singapore, investing time to train their team leaders, frontline managers and supervisors is what makes a big difference. “We invest tremendous amounts of time, effort and energy to equip them. Three times a year, I would actually spend three days to equip these new team leaders with what we call our Certified International Manager training. And it isn’t just me, but my senior management colleagues come together to impart some skills to teach them how to manage themselves, and more importantly impart values. To me, that is the most critical,” explains Christopher Ong, Managing Director, DHL Express Singapore on the Great Place To Work ASEAN and ANZ podcast.  

Bringing purpose to frontline employees

Who are the employees most likely to struggle to connect with purpose? “It’s the likely suspects,” Lute says, identifying three groups: 

1. Frontline workers, including frontline managers

The reason? These employees are generally focused on execution of a specific business task. They’re customer-facing, dealing with issues in the moment. They don’t have the space to step back and see the big picture. It’s crucial for frontline employees to be empowered to think on their feet and adapt to meet the needs of the customer. Lute gives the example of Wegmans, where frontline employees are given the authority to “serve the customer as they need to be served in that moment.” 

If a customer needs help finding a product in another department, employees have the authority to leave their station and serve the customer. The magic comes from how leaders manage employees who take the initiative, which Lute describes as “not being in bean-counting mode.” 

“What you really hear is, ‘I know what corporate says I’m supposed to do, but in this moment, I have to do it like this,’” Lute says. Leaders should recognize when these deviations from protocol are attempts to live up to a higher mission, such as providing excellent customer service. 

2. Contract and temporary workers

These employees are often treated differently than other employees and feel less ownership over their contributions They might not attend company meeting or receive important company messages, even when they are doing something really important for your brand. 

3. Hourly workers

“When you’re hourly, you’re focused on the schedule,” Lute says. “You’re focused on just getting hours, earning money, and everything counts.” 

What managers can do

In practical terms, how can leaders take action to help employees find greater meaning and purpose in their roles? Here’s what Lute suggests: 

1. Make time for sharing stories

“You have to become an expert storyteller,” Lute says. Leaders have to explain how the work of the individual employee contributes to the overall business. 

Here’s how Mr Ong tells that story about frontline employees at DHL Express Singapore: 

“In early 2020, Malaysia announced the MCO with literally 24 hours before the borders closed. The fact was that we had over 200 colleagues who cross the border to Singapore daily to work at our hub here. They help to sort out the packages and prepare the shipments when they arrive etc. We had to ask them if they could remain in Singapore, before the borders closed, and we acknowledged the big sacrifice they took and assured that we will take care of them by providing a roof over their heads and a stipend for their stay in Singapore. They were extremely appreciative of what the company did to support them,” shares Mr Ong.  

2. Create safe space for feedback

Lute acknowledges how hard this task can be for middle managers who face enormous pressure to meet their numbers. But it’s crucial that employees feel safe to ask questions and share what’s really happening in their daily routines. His advice: “Acknowledge the failure.” Employees can feel disconnected when goals and priorities change and a new initiative makes their previous work less relevant. 

“Most people work really hard every single day, and they want recognition for their hard work,” Lute says. Make sure that when you pivot, you continue to acknowledge the team’s work and sacrifice. 

3. Be an advocate

Middle managers must understand their responsibility as someone who can remove barriers and solve problems for their frontline workers, Lute says. He gives an example of a company where factory floor workers are asking for new shoes because the long hours on their feet are painful. When the frontline managers response is, “There’s nothing I can do about that,” workers don’t feel cared for by their organization. 

“That’s when people start questioning whether or not your mission and your values actually make sense,” Lute says. Workers are asking for support, not because they want free stuff, but because they care about their job. It’s a manager’s job to empower them to do their best work. 

Become a purpose leader 

Find out how Purpose can play a huge role in building your organization’s workplace culture. Tune in to the Great Place To Work ASEAN and ANZ Podcast here: https://rss.com/podcasts/gptwaseananz.

Keep an eye on the best companies in your region or industry and meet employees’ needs and expectations with ouremployee experience survey and benchmarking.

 

TED KITTERMAN AND DAPHNE LEE

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Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work® Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces™ in Healthcare & Biopharma List. This list recognizes exemplary companies in the healthcare & biopharma industry.

Recognized as a global hub for medical technology and research, Singapore has attracted top healthcare and biopharma talents and companies from around the world. It has become the center for essential healthcare services and innovations with its world-class research institutes, academic medical centers, and industry clusters.

In turn, the healthcare and biopharma sectors play a critical role in the country’s economic competitiveness, sustainability, and innovation. These industries have significantly helped in the overall improvement of public health and well-being of the people of Singapore and its neighboring countries.

The inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma List puts the spotlight on the organizations that are dedicated to providing employee satisfaction and engagement, and their commitment to excellence in the industry.

The companies in our Great Place To Work Certified™ community have the premier distinction that helps attract the best talent, build your employer brand, and secure a competitive advantage. To achieve this, they built a working environment that is purpose-driven and people-first. These companies have demonstrated that showing authentic care, prioritizing employee’s holistic well-being, and building a culture of trust go hand in hand with growth and success.

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma, Great Place to Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place to Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced.To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place to Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place to Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work™ Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Technology List. This List recognizes exemplary companies in the information and communication technologies industry in four categories:

  • Micro category (10–29 employees)
  • Small (30-99 employees)
  • Medium (100-999 employees)
  • Large (> 1000 employees)

With Singapore’s ambition to be recognized as a regional technology hub, the influx of technology firms (around 80 of the world’s top 100 technology firms have a presence here) and global rankings that place us a leading technology hub outside of San Francisco, the establishment of a Singapore Best Workplaces List in Technology is indeed a timely and needed one. Technology firms in Singapore are characterized by hyper-growth and ambitious expansion plans. This means a continuous war for talent in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving industry.

To maintain our lead as a technology and innovation hub, the ability to attract, retain and sustain skilled talent is critical. We are proud that companies in our Great Place To Work®-Certified community List have built a high-trust culture, engaged employees and maximized their potential to facilitate innovation. They are purpose-driven and adopt a people-first mindset. These are companies that have shown that authentic care and employee well-being need not be compromised for ambitious growth, and that it is possible for businesses to scale up quickly and responsibly. Their culture and core values are embodied in every individual—from senior leadership to rank-and-file employees—and differentiate them from their competitors, priming them to be powerful magnets for top talent.

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category

 

Methodology

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces™️, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing close to 70,000 employees across different industries in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. 85% of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do.

Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical in their industry. The remaining 15% of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Companies with 10-29 people were considered for the Micro category; those with 30 to 99 people for the Small category; companies with 100 to 999 employees were considered for the Medium category; and those with 1,000 or more for the Large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category