Rekindle Your Staff’s Sense of Purpose
Associations can leverage the mission-driven nature of their work to help employees find meaning at a time when many are struggling to rediscover their passion for their work.
National trends indicate that at least some of your team is suffering from burnout. Some of the issues that drive burnout are a part of today’s work life: a stressful public health environment, questions around remote work, and isolation.
But there’s one factor behind burnout that associations are uniquely positioned to combat: a loss of purpose. After all, associations are built on a mission.
“The work that we do is mission-driven, purpose-driven, serving certain industries and communities,” said Mariama Boney, president and CEO of Achieve More LLC. “Recognizing the impact we make in the world is absolutely critical.”
How can associations help their employees revitalize their sense of purpose? Consider these tips from Boney.
Connect Employees With the Community They Serve
Associations often do work on behalf of a particular community or group, but employees may not always be able to see that impact firsthand. Organizations can revitalize employees’ sense of purpose by sharing member stories that demonstrate that impact. Have you received correspondence from a community member lauding the work that your organization does? Pass that on to the entire staff to give employees a chance to connect to the community in a way that doesn’t add to burnout by placing additional demands on their time.
“[Connecting with the community] is helpful so long as it’s not giving employees one more thing to do. That’s where we get to burnout, because people already feel like they have enough stuff to do,” Boney said.
Dan Cable, author of Alive at Work, presented a real-world example of this in Harvard Business Review: A leader at pharmaceutical company F. Hoffmann-La Roche AG shared a story of the profound impact a new technology had on a patient with diabetes, which made those who developed the technology “feel more purpose” for months afterward.
Let Employee Voices Be Heard
If workers feel their concerns and suggestions aren’t being heard, they may start to believe that their hard work and long hours are for nothing, further disconnecting them from your organizational sense of purpose. Show employees that their input matters by providing plenty of opportunities for them to voice their thoughts: town halls, all-hands meetings, one-on-ones with direct reports, surveys. From there, show the impact employees have by working to implement their ideas.
“Pulling people together, asking them for their ideas, allowing them to utilize their expertise, and taking some of their ideas creates a sense of connection, belonging, purpose, confidence, and pride,” Boney said.
Provide Opportunities for Continual Growth
One of the hallmark signs of burnout is a feeling of cynicism or hopelessness toward one’s career, which could arise if someone doesn’t think there’s any possibility for growth or advancement. Organizations can keep this feeling at bay by consistently giving employees opportunities to learn new things, pick up new skills, and develop relationships with senior leadership.
“People want to continue to grow,” Boney said. “They want training and learning around what they do every day.”
Professional development can take many forms—training courses, webinars, workshops, certifications—but Boney emphasized coaching, where managers and senior leaders mentor younger employees and guide them to the next stages of their careers.
Humanize Your Organizational Culture
Because the pandemic has brought on challenges that may erode one’s connection with others, organizations should focus on humanizing their cultures so that employees can develop genuine connections with each other, which will help reinvigorate their sense of purpose. And the job starts with leadership, who should be checking in frequently to get a pulse for how employees are feeling, what they’re struggling with, and what they need right now.
“It’s key that we have inclusive and compassionate leadership, because of the way in which the world of work is changing and the trauma we’ve seen on a number of different levels,” Boney said.
It’s also about finding ways for your staff to come together, such as planning staff retreats or events outside the workplace.
This is the last article in our three-part series on burnout today. Learn the difference between burnout, mental health conditions, and bad days in part 1, and read up on the role of workplace culture in combating burnout in part 2.
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