Get to Know Your Employees With This Purpose-Generating Tool

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With every new hire, you hope that it will be a good match — and a lasting one. One way to ensure that happens is to get to know your employees as whole people.

In my work for AARP, I helped create an innovative tool that allows your workforce to develop individualized purpose statements. These weren’t simplistic statements like “My purpose is to be happy.” Rather, we relied on the work of life coach Richard Leider, who sees a purpose as a combination of one’s gifts, passions, impact, and values (GPIV).

What we realized, when working with pen and paper prototypes, was that people weren’t quite sure how to define their GPIV when starting from scratch. So, we started providing them with options to choose from, turning the writing of purpose statements from a stressful activity into a tool for discovery.

What is so powerful about the GPIV formula is that it allows employees to share details about themselves in a way that is both appropriate and safe. No one is prying into the details of their personal lives. The GPIV formula also offers employers a better way to understand and meet their employees’ needs. Does everyone have a passion for volunteering and value making a contribution? Provide a stipend for volunteer days.

Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Purpose Statement

Want to deploy this tool within your own organization? Let’s start by going through the process step by step:

1. Gifts: How would you describe your talents or natural abilities? What do others appreciate about you? Choose 3-5 attributes.

Possible responses: clever, funny, direct, clear, inventive, artistic, punctual, warm, good with numbers, expressive, trustworthy, agreeable, caring, handy, kind, resolute, analytical

2. Passions: What are you passionate about? Think of things that excite or motivate you. Choose 3-5.

Possible responses: learning, well-being, conversation, bringing people together, building something with your hands, spending time with family, cooking, baking, exploring new territory, travel, design, swimming

3. Impact: Who or what would you like to impact with your efforts? Choose 3-5.

Possible responses: Children, young adults, seniors, your neighborhood, your community, your city, your state, your country, the world at large, animals, people without a home, teenagers in at-risk communities

4. Values: What values are really important to you? Choose 3-5 that feel most urgent.

Possible responses: choice, dignity, authenticity, self-expression, spontaneity, friendship, empathy, love, care, respect, inclusion, mutuality, support, trust, contribution, ease, peace of mind, comfort, shelter, understanding

5. Feel: Though there is no “F” in “GPIV,” the final step in writing your purpose statement is to consider how you would feel. As in, “This would help me to feel … [choose 3-5].”

Possible responses: compassionate, absorbed, curious, involved, open, amazed, energetic, enthusiastic, vibrant, radiant, overjoyed, thrilled, moved, thankful, elated, joyful, confident, centered, serene, recharged, calm, engaged

To show what it looks like when you put it all together, I’ll share my purpose statement:

I want to use my gifts for innovation, teamwork, and leadership and my passions for well-being, learning, and building new things to create an impact on seniors, entrepreneurs, and women because I value integrity, inclusion, and dignity. This will help me feel invigorated, renewed, and eager.

As you can see, this process goes way beyond “My purpose is to be happy.” What is great about the GPIV formula is that you can’t fake it. What you end up with is unique to the individual, because what makes each employee happy is as unique as each person on the planet.

Instead of operating on autopilot and assuming everyone has gathered together at your organization for a single aim (make profit? get paid?), you are giving everyone the gift of reflection, allowing them to think about who they are and how they want to use their assets. Only about a third of all employees are engaged, and disengagement costs the US economy between $450 and $550 billion every year, according to Gallup. Offering your employees a chance to reflect can help ensure your organization’s workforce is more engaged than the average.

If you’re worried your employees will do this exercise only begrudgingly, know this: When we ran a test panel of almost 200 adults aged 40-60 on the AlphaHQ platform, two-thirds of respondents said an exercise helping them to define their gifts, passions, impact, and values would be “somewhat” to “very” helpful.

Interestingly, respondents were most keen to publicize their health and fitness (58 percent) or career goals (51 percent), which supports the idea that your employees may be open to sharing their purposes in the workplace. At AARP, we put our purpose statements on our office doors, which was a great way to get to know each other.

As has become common knowledge, connecting to a sense of purpose leads to improved health and increased longevity. Not only could better engaging your workforce support your bottom line, but it could also support your employees’ well-being both while they’re with you and long after they retire.

Jeannette McClennan is founder and president of The McClennan Group.

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