Turning the Office into a Great Place to Work

Top organizations help their employees connect what they do with a purpose, says best-selling author Daniel Goleman.

Daniel Goleman, author of the bestseller “Emotional Intelligence,” is a regular contributor to Korn Ferry. His latest book, "Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body," is available now.  

How do you inspire employees to feel that their work has meaning?

If you’re KPMG, you start a company-wide conversation. Through their "Higher Purpose Initiative,” this professional service firm inspired meaning by asking associates to submit stories illustrating how their work has helped them make a positive difference in the world. KPMG then shared these across the company to get everyone thinking more deeply about the work they do each day.

If you’re VMWare, you marry employee’s personal passions with their growth and opportunities to give back. Through a program called “Good Gigs,” this virtual software company sent cross-functional teams for three-month volunteer abroad stints to grow their leadership skills. Employees at VMWare have run educational programs at orphanages in Vietnam and taught at schools in South Africa.

These and other similar programs are aligned with what the Korn Ferry Institute found when they spoke to 30 founders, CEOs, and senior executives at consumer companies with “visible and authentic purposes, engaged employees, customer-oriented cultures, and strong financial results.” Of the four things purpose-driven companies report, one is that “People are the top priority. Companies invest in people to drive growth.”

This also gets at what major researchers in the field of organizational psychology have found -- that meaningful work is correlated with greater wellbeing and a more innovative, creative, and engaged workforce.

The KPMG and VMWare examples come from the Great Place to Work Institute (GPTW), the research consultancy behind an annual 100 Best Companies to Work For list. For more than two decades, this list has ranked U.S. companies based on the happiness of their employees, giving us the inside scoop on what it’s like to work inside of companies such as Salesforce, Google, Whole Foods, REI, Goldman Sachs, Four Seasons, The Container Store, Marriott, and Nordstrom (just to name a few).

To assemble this list, GPTW surveys more than 300,000 U.S. workers on questions regarding management's credibility, their overall job satisfaction, and elements of camaraderie in the workplace. They also ask companies for a mix of hard details on pay, benefits, and perks. Then the firms are asked open-ended questions about practice areas such as hiring, communication, training and development, recognition, community service, innovation and inclusion.

This question, “How do you inspire employees to feel that their work has meaning?” prompts a company not only to share their mission and values, but also show how they actually live them. Among the 2017 100 Best Companies, 85% of employees reported that their work has special meaning and it wasn’t “just a job.” Even more employees, 88% agreed that they “make a difference here,”and 91% said that “when I look at what we accomplish I feel a sense of pride.”

In GPTW’s words, “At organizations with great cultures, employees feel connected to a shared purpose when they come to work each day. Programs are in place that help foster pride and show employees the value of their work for customers and for society overall.” In a forecast for the future, they also see an increased focus on “a deeper sense of purpose for all employees.”

It’s no wonder these 100 Best Places to Work see a flood of applications the day they make the list.  For employees this list points them in the direction of better pay, better perks, but more importantly, it points them to organizations who make purpose a focal point.

The people have spoken: a great place to work is one where “work” means more than just a job. A great place to work is a place where people are able to make the link between what they do and why it matters. 

Click here to learn more about Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence Coaching Certification.