The Power of Purpose in Attracting and Retaining Employees

recruit-retain-dice-Theo-EtzelAttracting the right employees in today’s marketplace can be very challenging. Expectations have changed as new generations have come into the workforce. But even seasoned employees’ needs have changed over time. Money and standard benefits will only go so far to attracting people to your hiring door. While people may join a team, you, the employer, want the right people to remain on the team. That challenge takes more thought, not necessarily more money.

I’m talking about painting a big picture of the real purpose the employee is going to fill for the team. The employee needs to feel the greater-good purpose and assign meaning to it to internalize the reason he or she is serving the team and client. An understanding of the “why” we serve our clients is essential to developing a feeling of fulfillment within a position, no matter where that person sits in the hierarchy of the organization. All team members need to be invested in an emotional way. While a small minority will assign their own purpose-motivated reasons to their tasks, it is the job of the leaders of the organization to paint the big picture for people and continue to hold those ideals out there for all to see and understand.

Many businesses have a receptionist or a front desk person who either greets people or answers the phones, or both. The true role of this person is to provide the very first impression of the company and sets the tone for how the client expects to be treated. Often, this is an entry level position and not much thought is given to the expectations of the job. Many experience high turnover with this role. I would argue that this person is one of the most important people in the organization with a far greater purpose than to just answer the phone or announce someone is here to see somebody. Rather, they are really in the hospitality role for the company and the first face of the collective team, whether by voice or in person. These employees can create an angry customer where there was none or salvage an angry customer where there was one, all by their understanding the importance of “why” they are so needed in their role.

In my example, the person at the front desk has tools at their disposal – telephones, computers, a smile, their personality. If they are asked what they do all day and the response is “I answer the phone, announce people for meetings, and type on a keyboard,” then they have missed—I would contend that leadership has missed—the true purpose of their position: Make people feel welcomed and important and that the company can serve their needs. This understanding creates a twofold benefit: it improves the customer’s impression of the organization and becomes a very rewarding position for the person creating the smiles and good feelings. In our office we call this position the Director of First Impressions, in recognition of its importance.

Purpose is a huge motivator. The need to contribute in a meaningful way is a powerful reason that people will accept a position and then stay in it. What is your purpose for what you do? What’s your “why” factor? Now look around and see what greater purpose you can instill in others. The payoff is an elevated team that is engaged and wants to remain there. That equates to money in the bank.


Theo Etzel

Theo Etzel

W. Theodore “Theo” Etzel III became president and CEO of Conditioned Air in 1985 and grew the company from a $2.7 million operation to a $46 million, 330-person organization in 2015. He is the author of INVEST YOUR HEARTBEATS WISELY: Practical, Philosophical, And Principled Leadership Concepts For Business And Life (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2016).

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