Do you matter?

We are driven by purpose. People become committed to organizations when they feel there is a reason worth their time and energy. Dan Pink, who writes about work, management, and behavioral science talks about how there are two kinds of purpose that we need to be aware of. There’s capital “P” purpose and there’s little “p” purpose. When purpose is discussed in business, discussion usually focuses on capital “P” purpose. This is whether the organization and the people who work for it are doing something transcendent – something bigger than themselves. This is the grand vision and mission of the organization.

Pink says that while this is important to engagement, it isn’t available to employees all the time. It is not possible for people to constantly be in touch with capital “P” purpose.

What we usually neglect – and what has an even bigger impact on engagement – is little “p” purpose. This is when people feel like the work they are doing on a day-to-day basis matters now. People want to know that they are important to their workplace; that their absence would be noticed.

When researching one of his books, Pink said the question that led most people to leave their jobs was not “Am I making a difference?” but rather, “Am I making a contribution?” Will the hours, energy, skills, and stress that I invest each day in this job be noticed tomorrow if I’m not here? If the answer is “no”, it makes it difficult for people to justify their own value. And people don’t like feeling that they are not important.

If you want committed people who are engaged with their work, one another, and the organization, don’t neglect little “p” purpose. It’s the fuel that gets people up and out of bed in the morning instead of hitting the snooze button.