By Dr. Denise Outlaw
Faculty Member, Management at American Public University
Individuals often proceed through their lives, pursuing career goals based on ideas developed during their upbringing. These career goals are developed in various ways, including education, other people’s perspectives and their own ideas.
The classes that individuals progress through easily are also an indicator of the higher education major that is best suited for that individual and their careers. With the selection of the right major, it is more likely that those individuals will be successful in their field of choice.
The benefits that organizations offer are also evaluated when someone attempts to establish a career path. Accomplishing organizational goals and receiving positive performance evaluations encourages people to feel that the career they’ve chosen is appropriate for them.
But there are two important questions for people in the workplace to consider: Are you performing meaningful work? Are you working according to your life’s purpose?
Fulfilling A Life’s Purpose from an Employee Perspective
While you need to maintain employment, consider whether or not you are working in your life’s purpose. Everyone requires employment; however, working in an environment that is consistent with your values and ideas is necessary (Mărăcine, 2012, p. 150).
Often, this self-evaluating life’s purpose question confirms that the work you perform fulfills the organization’s goals and suggests that your performance reviews will be better. It also reveals if you are in the position and organization according to your purpose or if your purpose is to influence organizations from a different perspective.
Entrepreneurs and consultants surface from this thought process. Individuals should think about whether their position within the organization allows them to function in their life’s purpose and opens doors for upward mobility.
A Leadership Perspective on Pursuing Your Life’s Purpose
Leaders within organizations should consider the same life purpose question to ensure that they are functioning in their purpose. As a leader in an organization, consider these questions: Are you in a leadership position because your purpose is to lead others? Are you fulfilled in your role?
Organizational leaders should offer educational opportunities for employees to assist with defining and working in their purpose. Along with a leader’s own evaluation process, they should be prepared for their employees to communicate that they are seeking other positions within the organization or with other organizations.
Some leaders view this communication as a retention concern. However, a leader’s perspective is to ensure that employees are working in their purpose. If employees are functioning well and using their gifts according to their purpose, everyone within the organization feels empowered, which is a winning situation for the organization.
Strategies for Helping Employees to Fulfill Their Life’s Purpose
- An organization should establish a culture of learning where their employees are able to define and work in the area of their purpose. This type of culture and thinking allows leaders to review retention percentages and performance evaluations differently. Often, leaders are evaluated based on the number of staff that remains employed under their leadership. In a learning culture, the focus of a leader’s evaluation could perhaps be focused on whom they were able to assist with identifying their purpose. Anticipate that some employees will decide to pursue their purpose with another organization. Employees that have challenges in specific areas of their positions can be indicators that the employee is seeking other employment or they recognize that they aren’t working according to their purpose. Leaders should recognize these indicators and initiate conversations with the employee. Froehlich, Segers and Bossche (as defined by Marsick and Watkins, 2003), view “organizational learning culture as opportunities for learning, dialogue, systems thinking, collaborative learning, knowledge management systems, empowerment and leadership.” This type of strategy allows for leaders and employees to continue to learn.
- Employees should participate in educational opportunities that can offer guidance regarding their life’s purpose. The guidance should assist the employees with identifying their natural abilities and the areas of work that motivate them. After an initial identification process, employees should continue to develop their knowledge and abilities. They should recognize their unique gifts and find fulfilling work. Employees should also communicate with leaders to discuss the direction of careers and request to participate in helpful educational opportunities.
- Leaders must identify or develop their purpose, which has a direct impact on the employees that they lead. Leadership abilities influence an organization’s attempt to create a culture of learning and working according to purpose. Leaders should empower themselves and the teams that they direct.
All Workplace Employees Should Be Empowered To Work According To Their Purpose
It is important for organizations to establish and transform into a culture of learning for leaders and employees to converse about their current position and purpose. Additional questions to consider include:
- What additional strategies can be used to transform organizations to ensure that all employees are working according to their purpose?
- What educational opportunities are available to provide direction to employees?
- What strategies can leaders use to ensure that everyone understands their purpose?
Froehlich, D., Segers, M., & Van den Bossche, P. (2014). Informal Workplace Learning in Austrian Banks: The Influence of Learning Approach, Leadership Style and Organizational Learning Culture on Managers’ Learning Outcomes. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 25(1), 29-57. doi:10.1002/hrdq.21173
Mărăcine, M. S. (2012). Organizational culture – Basic element of organization performance. Young Economists Journal / Revista Tinerilor Economisti, 9(18), 149-155.
About the Author
Denise Outlaw is an associate professor in the School of Business and a human resources/business consultant. She has a background in human resources, management, diversity, equal employment opportunity, organizational leadership and talent management. Denise has worked in a variety of industries including healthcare, higher education and the nonprofit sector. Denise holds a doctorate degree in organizational leadership and management.
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