There is no question that team members experiencing meaning in their work is a huge factor in organizational success.
To stretch beyond the measurable impact of an increased sense of purpose contributing to success at work, there are measurable positive effects on the brain that result from this connection to purpose. This discovery offers deeper insight into why companies who invest in their people from executives to frontline team members experience boosted bottom-lines.
First things first, who says that increased purpose in work impacts team members satisfaction, engagement and retention?
In the aptly title McKinsey article (1) “Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave” from 2021, they found a few notable results:
The results-backed article goes on to say “People who live their purpose at work are more productive than people who don’t. They are also healthier, more resilient, and more likely to stay
at the company. Moreover, when employees feel that their purpose is aligned with the organization’s purpose, the benefits increase to include stronger employee engagement, heightened loyalty, and a greater willingness to recommend the company to others.
In experiments detailed in Lisa Miller’s The Awakened Brain (2), fMRI scans are utilized to monitor brain activity, three scenarios were compared: one of stress, one of spirituality, and one of relaxation.
Spirituality was defined in this context as “connecting to something bigger,” as distinct from religion, which was controlled for and no correlation was found.
In the examination in this article, this state of being connected to something bigger is applied to being part of a mission-driven organization that evokes a unified purpose.
There were three significant effects to the brain’s response to having a spiritual experience, also illustrated in Table 1:
|The Impacts of the Brain when “Connecting to Something Bigger”|
|Default mode network power down||Rumination, negative thought-spiral||Present moment awareness|
|Shift from dorsal attention network to ventral attention network||Filter that inhibits anything outside of predetermined narrative||Sudden breakthroughs, flashes of clarity and insight|
|The frontotemporal network comes online||Stress, worry, fear, loneliness||Sense of being embraced, safety, love and bliss|
|Increased activation in the posterior cingulate cortex and reduced activation in the inferior parietal lobe||Separation, being alone||Expanded sense of self, feeling of being part of something bigger, oneness|
There are so many more details to share regarding these studies and the incredibly positive impacts on the brain and protection against depression that leads to increased wellness and resiliency.
With brain impacts such as these, it is no surprise that employees who experience increased meaning in their work and a sense of being part of something bigger have such a huge impact on organizational success!
Purpose Baked into Culture is a Recipe for Success
An organization is able to increase each’s experience of purpose by incorporating it’s role and contribution to society and creating ways for employees to see how their contributions impact the company’s efforts while they are also lifted, experience belonging and proud to be part of the mission. This connection to purpose supports connection to self and a mission that is greater than any individual.
In order for an organization to be effective at aligning their behaviors with their north star, their culture must be a unifying force that makes clear what their mission is and how to contribute to mission success. This may be achieved through incorporating conversations and reflections that evoke teammates’ individual purpose and how it nestles into the greater mission, what fulfillment looks like, and what support they need to get there.
This emphasis on connection to purpose and creating deeper meaning in the workplace is one of the foundations of how Enliven Leadership helps transform organizations to have cultures that are worth writing home about.