The typical worker spends 13 years and two months of their life on the job, which is why most people expect to feel a sense of identity, purpose and fulfillment from their role in the workplace.
A 2018 PwC/CEP study gave evidence that present-day employees now expect purpose and fulfillment as part of their work life. The study found fulfillment and value alignment was more important to the average employee than most HR professionals often would expect. Some of its findings include:
- Ninety-six percent of employees agree that achieving fulfillment at work is possible.
- Seventy percent of employees would potentially leave their current position for a more fulfilling position.
- One out of three employees would accept a lower-paying position in order to achieve more fulfillment at work.
- One out of three employees felt poor leadership prevented fulfillment at work.
What is Fulfillment?
In order to understand why fulfillment is so important to a functional workplace (and why its absence can create such a desolate wasteland of meaningful talent) it’s first important to understand how it works.
Dr. Britt Andreatta, author of “Wired to Grow and Wired to Connect,” says that the three hallmarks of fulfillment in the workplace are:
- Relationships—a sense of community and interpersonal connection with others.
- Impact—a sense of importance around a goal that aligns with the employee’s values.
- Growth—personal development and improvement and the overcoming of personal obstacles.
On a biochemical level, fulfillment is created by a release of oxytocin and dopamine (which the brain releases as a reward for behaviors benefiting survival) and occurs when an employee’s work is in alignment with their personal values and objects of desire.
This is what is referred to as the “Virtuous Cycle of Fulfilment,” which takes place in four steps:
- Self Awareness—Step one is for the employee to become aware of their purpose and values, which then allows them to align their daily work objectives with those values.
- Focus on Relationships, Impact and Growth—In step two, the employee focuses on improvement and growth in areas that correlate with their values and develop better connections with individuals who share those values.
- Oxytocin and Dopamine Released—In step three, the new connectedness and sense of belonging associated with successful growth and improvement trigger the brain to release oxytocin and dopamine as a reward.
- Fulfillment—Finally, in step four, the oxytocin and dopamine successfully create the feeling in the brain we call fulfillment. This gives the employee motivation to focus on their purpose and begin the “virtuous cycle” anew.
Where Do Employees Feel Most Fulfilled?
To find where employees are most fulfilled, you need to look no further than the nonprofit sector, where a recent report showed that 84 percent of employees were both satisfied with their current roles in their organizations and felt that their visions for the future aligned with management.
Employees who were associated with fundraising were even more likely to be satisfied in their job positions (92 percent). This far outpaces the average for-profit sector employee satisfaction rate, in which 51 percent of employees reported they were satisfied with their jobs in 2018.
In fact, retention rates in the nonprofit sector are around 45.5 percent—well above the national average for the private sector, which floats around 17.8 percent.
But there are certain for-profit corporations that seem to have found a “fulfillment hack,” matching the retention and satisfaction rates of the nonprofit world.
How Can For-Profit Corporations Benefit from this Information?
Most companies already have some sort of philanthropic effort to begin with. Corporate giving in the United States increased by 5.4 percent in 2018 and reached a record-high $20.05 billion (or an increase of 2.9 percent when adjusted for inflation).
And while the dollar amount in corporate philanthropic giving is high, most of these corporations are missing a significant potential return on investment. If employees are allowed to have a say in directing a company’s philanthropic efforts toward causes they believe in, employee engagement is likely to be driven up.
This is the belief of Earth Share, an organization that works to promote corporate responsibility and foster mutually beneficial relationships between nonprofit organizations and corporations.
“While most companies today support philanthropic efforts, whether they align with core competencies and strengths is a different issue,” said Earth Share president and CEO Kal Stein in a 2010 blog on employee fulfillment. “That's where employee engagement becomes a crucial aspect.
“While the vast majority of these efforts are well-intentioned, employees who don't feel invested in the cause—or simply don't feel like their preferences are being heard—are much less likely to participate in such programs.”
Stein explained that by giving employees the chance to play an active role in choosing which nonprofits to support, they felt a direct investment in the work they were doing, and the corporations dollars went much further than simple “checkbook philanthropy.”
That’s exactly what the Mitten Brewing Company and the Mitten Foundation out of Grand Rapids, Mich., did.
How One Brewery Used Philanthropy to Empower Its Workforce
The Mitten Brewing Company listens to employee feedback about where it directs the funds in its philanthropy foundation and typically then targets hyperlocal issues such as school lunch debt based on employee recommendation.
Giving and philanthropy became the brewery's workplace culture.
“When employees began to opt in for voluntary payroll deductions, I knew we had accomplished something big,” Owner and founder Christopher Andrus said.
When these good works are lauded by the Associated Press, USA Today, NPR and even an award from Congress, the company’s employees are able to feel a sense of “impact” and “growth” in their accomplishments. They were responsible for the work.
As a result, employee retention rates at the Mitten Brewing Company are three times the national average for the private sector—around 52 percent. That’s higher than the nonprofit sector.
In one particularly moving blog about an after-hours attack on an employee that directed the team to raise funds for one of its own, owner Christopher Andrus notes that the giving culture at the Mitten Brewing Company has fostered not only “impact” and “growth” but also “relationship.” The team has become a family.
Any corporation can reap these benefits from dollars that are already being funneled toward philanthropy and nonprofits if only they put the power of choice into the hands of their employees.
“As a business, I believe we’ve gone a long way toward insulating our company against changing conventions and economic downturn,” Andrus said. “As a culture, we’ve turned a traditionally transient and transactional industry into a place where people stay for years and give us their best work.”
Forward-Thinking Human-Resource Solutions
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If you want to make the most of human resources and payroll in your company, schedule a demo fo our HR software.