Sense of Purpose: More than “Just a Job”

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A sense of purpose refers to experiencing fulfilment, meaning and progress at work. In a research study conducted by Great Place to Work® in partnership with Johns Hopkins University on How to Promote Employee Well-being in the Workplace: Global Study, sense of purpose was identified as one of the key aspects of employee well-being.

Organizations need to become workplaces where people want to work because they are driven by a sense of purpose.1 When employees can connect the dots between their day-to-day tasks at work with the organization’s mission and strategy, and understand how their individual contributions support progress toward its purpose, they are more likely to feel a sense of purpose at work. When the organization’s purpose coincides with making a positive impact on environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues, employees are more likely to resonate with it and feel more strongly about it2; this is especially so among Gen Z and Millennials who are driving a generational paradigm shift in workplaces today3.

Furthermore, a research study by McKinsey found that people who have a strong sense of purpose tend to be more resilient and exhibit better recovery from negative events; those who say they are “living their purpose” at work reported levels of well-being that are five times higher than those who say they aren’t, and those in the former group are four times more likely to report higher engagement levels4.

As companies in Singapore brace themselves for The Great Resignation or Great Reshuffling that is already happening globally, and grapple with engaging their employees in a remote/hybrid workplace, ensuring that employees feel a sense of purpose in their work has become more important than ever. Compared with the average company in Singapore (“SG Average”)5 almost 9 in 10 employees among the 2021 Singapore Best Workplaces™ (“SG Best”) feel that they make a difference and that their work has special meaning.

I feel I make a difference here.

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My work has special meaning: this is not "just a job".

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  • Insight Singapore aims to build meaningful connections to help businesses run smarter through its end-to-end technology solutions. To ensure understanding and alignment of its purpose, it rolled out its annual strategy kick-off event through a combination of videos, live presentations, as well as client and teammate stories, in small bites over the course of a week. Employees were also given the opportunity to hear directly from the senior leaders and ask questions. Subsequently, individual goals were set in line with organizational objectives and regular feedback was provided during quarterly 1-1 connection meetings, to review and update these goals and ensure on-going alignment.
  • Endowus’ mission is to help people invest better so that they can live easier today, and better tomorrow. Its leadership team emphasizes openness and transparency in all major business and strategic decisions, and no ideas are sacrosanct. Leaders constantly solicit views from every employee, and provide an anonymous platform where employees can ask any question without fear of reprisals. To ensure understanding and alignment, its strategic direction and goals are clearly and regularly communicated at team events. It also creates a culture of participation where employees are encouraged to question and challenge the strategic direction. These discussions refine and flesh out ideas, and even generate new ideas through brainstorming.
  • Ingram Micro aims to have the right people, in the right place, at the right time, doing the right things the right way, supporting its One Ingram Micro Mindset. It aligns HR action plans with overall business priorities and focuses on business leadership to aid the execution of its business priorities. It customizes programs for different levels of managers from Team Leads to Executives, to ensure that they are able to guide and support every employee, drive a common purpose and ensure their well-being.
  • Medtronic’s mission is to contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life. To enable employees to recognize and honor the impact that their work has on patients, it begins every holiday season with the Medtronic Employee Holiday Program. Patients from across APAC share their personal stories on how a Medtronic device or therapy has impacted their lives, and enables employees to see for themselves how their work has contributed to its mission. These patients are often joined alongside the Medtronic employees who supported them along their journeys, sharing the contributions of the broader teams working behind the scenes.

Together with other key aspects that contribute to holistic well-being at work (Mental and Emotional Support, Personal Support, Financial Health, and Meaningful Connections), a Sense of Purpose is critical to attract, retain and sustain great talent.

Technology and the internet have enabled greater cross-border collaboration and global connectivity; compounded with increased talent mobility and the ability to perform work remotely, the competition for talent has grown tremendously. SG Best companies are purpose-driven and adopt a people-first mindset—they have built a high-trust culture, engaged employees and maximized their potential to facilitate innovation. This differentiates them from their competitors and primes them to be powerful magnets for top talent.

Take your first step to becoming an SG Best Workplace today.  Click here to find out more.

1. The future of work is about thriving in unpredictability, The Business Times, 5 November 2021.

2. Beyond compliance: Consumers and employees want business to do more on ESG: How business can close the expectations gap, PwC, accessed on 21 January 2022.

3. Workforce Strategy: How ESG Can Help Companies Retain Younger Employees, Impactivate®, 23 December 2021.

4. Igniting individual purpose in times of crisis, McKinsey Quarterly, McKinsey & Company, 18 August 2020.Igniting individual purpose in times of crisis, McKinsey Quarterly, McKinsey & Company, 18 August 2020.

5. “SG Average” refers to responses of the average employee in Singapore who participated in a commissioned research study.

This article is the fifth in a series on Employee Well-Being. Read the other articles in this series:

Pamela Sng

Pamela is our Senior Consultant and Research Lead for Great Place to Work® ASEAN and ANZ. She has over two decades of consulting and policy experience helping organizations in their journey to become fair and progressive employers. She believes that every organization has the potential to be a great workplace, and works with data to distil insights and develop resources to help them. When she’s not burrowing down the rabbit hole of numbers and words, she’s probably immersed in a new K-drama or catching up with friends over a virtual drinks session.

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.