SMITH BRAIN TRUST — Millennials aren’t special when it comes to their need for higher purpose at work. “Everybody wants purpose in their role,” says Shannon Schuyler, keynote speaker at the ninth annual Social Enterprise Symposium presented March 3, 2017, at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “It happens to just be that millennials use social media better to express their needs than the rest of us.”
Schuyler, chief purpose officer and corporate responsibility leader at PwC, bases her conclusion on results from PwC’s 2017 CEO Survey. “Across the board, when we did our survey, it was not different based upon geography or age,” she says.
The human desire to contribute to something meaningful often makes CEOs nervous, Schuyler says, because they worry that employees will grow restless when they discover that their personal purpose does not align with organizational purpose. “Employees want purpose because it drives meaning in their work,” she says. “It gives their 8, 10, 12 hours a day — however long they’re there — a meaning.” Schuyler shares three ways that leaders can turn the potential vulnerability into an organizational strength.
1. Discover the overlap
A paramedic who saves lives or a teacher who awakens the minds of children might find significant overlap between personal and organizational purpose. But what about somebody who sits in an office and answers phones or analyzes data?
Personal and organizational purpose won’t totally overlap, Schuyler says. But leaders can help people find that segment in the center of the Venn diagram that gets at both of them. She says PwC addresses the challenge by enrolling employees in a specialized course. “We take them to a class called Discover and let them discover their purpose for a week,” she says. “Then we measure impact.”
2. Celebrate the mix
Schuyler says the goal is to help employees see how their skills connect to the organization, a collection of individuals with different passions and skillsets. “Companies represent a universe of individuals who have their own purposes,” Schuyler says.
When managed effectively, a group enterprise can function like a machine with different parts — allowing individuals to do what they love while contributing to something bigger than themselves. Marketers, analysts, accountants, designers and sales professionals can’t do much alone, but working together they can tackle the world’s biggest problems.
“It’s more than a transaction and more than checking a box on the test,” Schuyler says. “You can bring your personal stories and connect them to the business story.”
3. Choose your path
Organizations can’t do everything, so leaders need to figure out what matters most. “Purpose is your north star,” Schuyler says. “It’s the motivating force that drives who you are and why you’re different than somebody else.”
Having a clear purpose can give an organization direction, but can also invite opposition. Schuyler says leaders should accept the reality that not everyone will share their vision. “We live in a divided country,” she says. “Whatever you say, there’s going to be a whole heck of a lot of people who don’t like it, and you’ll have other people who do.”
Her comments fit within the symposium’s broader theme, “Markets Make Change.” The event, organized by the Smith School’s Center for Social Value Creation, drew hundreds of participants from across the University of Maryland and beyond. Goodwill Industries and EarthColor joined PwC as sponsors.
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