Purpose, Not Ping Pong (What Employees Really Want)

In Culture, Organization & Strengths, Purpose, Mission & Values

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The rise of the tech industry over the last few decades has seen the arrival of new paradigms for the workplace, and of revised employment branding as a result. Flexible working hours, creative compensation and progressive benefits are now the norm, not the exception.

But breathless mentions of successful companies’ hottest new perks – Free vacations! Chef-prepared lunches! Bring your pets! Play on our ping pong table! – are often quickly adopted by other companies hoping to craft an employment brand that attracts the best talent … and this dangerously misses the point.

Mirroring someone else’s employment brand is as bad an idea as adopting another company’s business strategy. Or wearing someone else’s suit. Employment brands must come from within and reflect the company’s DNA. They must also be built on something bigger than ping pong and perks.

Breaking news: employees want purpose.

Millennials now make up the majority of the workforce, and they overwhelmingly put purpose ahead of perks. In NetImpact’s 2012 Talent Report, 59 percent of millennials and 72 percent of millennial students reported that having a job where they can make an impact on causes they care about is important to their happiness. In fact, both groups rated it more important than their own financial success. Oh, and those millennial students of 2012? They’re in the workforce now.

Companies should do the digging to discover their authentic singular purpose – what is that particular need in the world that the company is uniquely positioned to meet through their products and/or service? – and forge their story about it first. Then, and only then, use that clearly defined purpose to determine how it will come to life in the workplace.

Are you in the hospitality business, with a purpose to make all feel welcome? Then consider how you achieve that for your employees. Are you a fashion brand in the business of empowering women? How can you empower the women who work for and with you and in your community? Talk with your employees about your purpose, and ask for their ideas about what changes they’d make in their area of the business with your purpose as a filter for their thinking.

By making genuine choices about how to bring your purpose to life in the workplace, you’ll make the right decisions. And hey, it just might be ping pong.*

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HaleyHaley Boehning is the co-founder of Storyforge, a brand strategy company helping ambitious companies change the world by discovering their singular purpose, forging their story, and aligning their positioning, people, products and profits with it. Haley leverages 20+ years of brand and strategic communications experience, including 16 years as L Brands Vice President of Internal Communications, to create relevant, consistent and emotionally compelling messages that help brand and culture triumph in times of great change.

*Haley is also pleased to report that one of Storyforge’s favorite clients does have a ping pong table, and it perfectly reflects the company’s purpose and culture.