Corporate Purpose Engages Employees, and Tech Can Help

Amid this ‘great resignation’, workers are evaluating employers more critically, and searching for roles where they feel a deeper connection to purpose. The shift to purpose-driven work must start at the top.

With employers struggling to fill more than 10 million jobs currently in the U.S. alone and rising rates of employee burnout, it’s imperative now more than ever for organizations to keep their workforces engaged and connected to their company’s purpose. More than ever, employees are reflecting on their quality of life and often deciding not to return to the workforce.  Amid this ‘great resignation’ and the ongoing burnout epidemic in today’s workforce, workers are evaluating employers more critically, and increasingly searching for new roles where they feel a deeper connection to a company’s purpose.

In fact, according to recent research by McKinsey, nearly two-thirds of American workers say the pandemic has caused them to reflect on their purpose in life. And while 70 percent of the workforce defines their purpose largely through their work, only one-third currently believe their organization strongly connects action to purpose.

To help address this disparity, as well as the ongoing shift from shareholder to stakeholder capitalism, it’s important for organizations to take a fresh look at their purpose and how their people connect to it. It is critical for companies to ensure they’re implementing a connection to purpose in a way that helps drive concrete action, particularly as more and more companies shift to a fully- or partially-digital workplace.

Here are key steps companies can take to integrate purpose into execution:

Integrate purpose into strategy

As with all meaningful change, the shift to purpose-driven work must start at the top. Without leadership, employees will be unlikely to think differently. To truly integrate purpose into the fiber of their organization, leaders must integrate strategy and purpose. Purpose has often been treated as a side initiative – “soft stuff” – and historically, has been something that couldn’t be measured or managed. In order to attract and retain talent, and build an organization of the future, it is critical for companies to make purpose concrete and connect it to work, as opposed to theoretical. This becomes even more important with hybrid and global workforces delivering new challenges for leaders who must find new ways to engage their people.

Connect purpose to daily work

Given that purpose is an abstract concept, it’s important for organizations to find a more concrete application for purpose at work.  By leveraging new technology, organizations can engage people around purpose – quickly, continuously, and at scale. Given the significant difference technology can make, companies should consider implementing cutting edge digital solutions to facilitate and measure this connection – and ultimately, drive purpose-driven results more effectively.

I am co-founder of a company called Indiggo whose core purpose is to unleash purposeful leadership. We have an AI-driven platform that can help every manager across an organization identify what’s most meaningful to them about their organization’s purpose, and connect it to their daily work. The technology provides a framework for leaders to articulate what is most meaningful to them about their organization’s purpose and keeps this front and center as they work. It also methodically brings the organization’s purpose into the picture for them as they decide what priorities to focus on, connecting their work to purpose in a more concrete manner. Lastly, the platform provides leadership metrics that include a unique core purpose metric and related AI-driven nudges to give individuals and the organization ongoing insight and data that can be leveraged to improve connection to purpose.     

This is particularly important since this connection to purpose in daily work is one of the biggest drivers of motivation and job satisfaction. According to LinkedIn’s Purpose at Work Global Report, more than 7 in 10 professionals in the workforce who identify as purpose-driven are satisfied with their jobs.

Leveraging purpose will drive strong financial results

Organizations that integrate purpose into their business strategies not only foster a more engaged workforce, but they are also more likely to outperform on their financial goals. In fact, recent research has shown that companies’ progress toward achieving stakeholder capitalism often aligns with higher revenue and profit growth.

It’s clear that embracing the key values of stakeholder capitalism – including connection to purpose – can help organizations to better align their people and keep them engaged, connected and on track, all while driving strong financial results. And as we look for new ways to work with a largely digital workforce it is imperative for companies to leverage technology to ensure their strategies are purpose-driven and create meaningful and concrete results for all of their stakeholders.

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Best One in the Zoom: A Practical Guide

TV anchor and coach Jane Hanson told Techonomy members at a special zoom-skills workshop: wear color, elevate your energy, pause…and much more.

Techonomy and Worth recently hosted a private workshop for members with renowned journalist and coach Jane Hanson. Hanson is an Emmy-award-winning journalist who for over 30 years has worked with leaders to enhance their public presence and ensure they resonate with audiences. The workshop, called “How to Be the Best Communicator in the Room…and on the Screen” gave members feedback on their biggest challenges in presenting, speaking, and running meetings virtually. These days public speaking is almost all on Zoom or equivalents, so that’s what we focused on. Hanson addressed what you say, how you say it, and how your body language keeps it all in sync.

Here are key questions and recommendations from Hanson:

How Do I Look?

Dress for the moment. One basic recommendation, whether on zoom, television or in person, is to wear color. Avoid black. “It’s too somber,” said Hanson, “and we have enough somberness in this world today.” As a rule, avoid small patterns because they can cause screens to pixelate.

Give yourself a break. Beyond practicalities of dress and background, on Zoom it’s easy to be distracted by your own appearance. Many of us become self-conscious and preoccupied with how we look. One member even recounted a dermatologist telling her demand for botox, fillers and other cosmetic procedures has boomed in the pandemic. Hanson added that the same is true for Invisalign teeth straighteners. Many said they find Zoom’s digital enhancement feature helpful. “We’re just really self-critical,” said Hanson “And we’re not used to seeing ourselves like that. You’ve got to give yourself a break.”

Remember gender dynamics are at play.  “I don’t like looking at myself,” said one member. She’s found that she’s more effective if her camera is off entirely. “I’m in the biotech business, with a lot of men, and I tend to get sidetracked with how I am presenting myself on camera. I feel much better when I turn the camera off.” Hanson was encouraging. “Women do tend to be a little bit more reticent about interrupting and talking,” she said, “but you need to own your space and say what you want to say and get it out there. Because, trust me, that’s what [the men] are doing.”

Where Do I look?

Maintain eye contact. Several members agreed that the transition to virtual conversations and presentations feels unnatural and that they notice their eyes floating all over the screen. “I find that I don’t look forward. I’m looking up and over and around and down,” said one member. “I don’t have anyone to look at.”

 “Good eye contact is really essential,” said Hanson. “Look directly into the camera when speaking. I put a Post-it right above the camera with a little smiley face on it. It reminds me to look at the camera because it’s really hard to do.” Keep the camera at eye level. Even an Amazon box does the trick in a pinch.

Notes are okay. If you need notes for a presentation, put cheat sheets on top of your keyboard or around the screen. “I just glance down a little bit and I can see a bullet point that will remind me of where I’m going,” explained Hanson. “Nobody can see what’s really in front of you. So you can load up all kinds of things around your screen. Just don’t stare at them too often.”

How Can I Increase Engagement and Authenticity?

Elevate your energy. Several members said they find themselves speaking in a monotone voice on Zoom. Hanson said that’s common. In her opinion, she said, the camera drains about 30% of your energy. “This means you really need to amplify it. And that is something people don’t seem to understand. It’s about having that energy because it keeps things going.”

Tell a story. When presenting, it’s important to have an anecdote ready to illustrate your point. “Stories are really crucial. Data might be retained, but stories will be retold,” said Hanson. In telling your story, be sure to keep it simple. “Set the scene, pinpoint the problem, sell the solution.” Obviously this applies equally in offline presentations.

Ditch the script if you can. “My problem with scripts,” notes Hanson, “is that you frequently sound like you’re talking by rote.” To avoid sounding boring, use bullet points instead. If you’re prepared and familiar with the material, bullet points will keep you on track and allow for the flexibility and authenticity you’re after.

If you can’t ditch the script, mark it up. “If there’s a place where you should be smiling, put a little smiley face. If there’s a place where you should convey an emotion that’s sad or very deep, put that kind of a face on there.” This strategy will ensure you’ll have cues to project the correct interpretation in the moment.

Scan for reactions. It’s challenging to gauge reactions over Zoom. And with the constant distractions, we’re all faced with, it’s difficult to hold people’s attention and ensure everyone is participating. Hanson suggests scanning for confused or glazed facial expressions and asking them direct questions. “I love being able to call on people around the room if I see somebody that might look disinterested, or if they have a questioning look on their face.”

I Can’t Stop Rambling.

Pause. Many members said rambling is a concern for them, and several expressed discomfort with silence on Zoom. “It takes bravery to actually take a pause and allow there to be some dead air,” said Hanson. “But…a pause is the most underutilized tool we have in our arsenal of communication tools. It makes people sit up and pay attention. It makes people absorb what you’ve just said. And it really emphasizes what you’re saying.”

Breathe. “If you’re anxious, do a little breathing exercise before starting the Zoom. Breathe in for three counts, hold it for three counts, breathe out for three counts, and do it three times.” Hanson says this will take the breath to your diaphragm and make your voice deeper and more credible.

How Do I Keep the Conversation on Track?

Time management is crucial. When conducting a meeting with clients, be as brief and to the point as possible, and provide enough time for the person on the other end to really share. Hanson also suggests having a timetable in mind and starting the meeting with a quick agenda.

Listen carefully. Our own founder David Kirkpatrick commented on the unique challenges a virtual environment poses to moderating panel discussions.  “It’s really about listening,” Hanson said. “Listening is one of the biggest things we can all do a little bit better. When you’re really listening it’s easier to find a great place where you can interject and keep things lively.”

How Can I Set the Right Tone?

How you say something is as important as what you say. Make sure your facial expressions and gestures are in sync with what you’re saying. Don’t overuse your hands. But small, intentional gestures, says Hanson, improve engagement, help you think better, and make you more likable and credible.

The right gestures and tone of voice make your content seem more authoritative and compelling. “We had no spoken language until 160,000 years ago,” said Hanson. “Before that, everything we did was through what we did with our bodies. And we still do, it’s innate. We just don’t realize it.”


Learn more about Jane Hanson at janehanson.com

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