3 examples of how to tap into employees' purpose in 2020

ENSafrica's Lebitso Mokgatle, Cell C's Juliet Mhango and Unilever's Mechell Chetty on how to make that connection.

Aligning employees’ individual purpose with that of the organisation is they key to mastering your role as an HR executive. But there are different ways to achieve that. Some of which are more effective than others. ENSafrica HR executive  Lebitso Mokgatle says that the sweet spot for all HR professionals is to understand what motivates people to give everything they have to add value in their role and to come back to work every day with that same energy - employee engagement. What makes HR so complex, however,  is that the answer is different for every person.

“You need to be able to tap into what makes sense for that individual. Because, when you are able to connect with people on a human level and genuinely get a sense for what their aspirations are, it is easier to motivate them by showing how the organisation can help them achieve those goals. That is why it is always better (but not always possible) to do that than to have a conversation that is only about what is expected of them as an employee,” she says.

At Unilever, purpose is at the centre of everything. While not every Unilever employee is able to fully articulate their purpose, the goal is to help them get as close to that point as possible. 

We don’t see our business as separate from our communities. Whether you are in HR, marketing, or operations, everyone in the organisation is committed to our collective purpose as a business, which is to make sustainable living in Africa commonplace,” says Mechell Chetty, Unilever Africa’s HR Vice President.

“Purpose is everything, not just in business, but in life. It is bigger than KPIs, targets and goals because without it, you’ll never unlock your true potential,” says Mechell

But helping someone find their purpose is much easier said than done. Sometimes it’s a fruitless endeavour but, for Mechell, it is one that the company will relentlessly pursue.  When asked how Unilever goes about helping employees answer one of life’s most difficult questions, Mechell says they run regular workshops with a slot reserved for storytelling, where people get to share their personal stories. She has found that, by allowing people to openly talk about themselves in a safe space, where they can reflect on their successes, failures and the moments in their lives that have shaped them, you may pick up on something about them that even they may not have been conscious of.

The best approach, according to Cell C Chief Human Capital Development and Transformation Officer Juliet Mhango, is to simply ask your employees what they feel about their environment. Because, ultimately, employee engagement is about identifying solutions specific to your workplace. It’s about figuring out the loopholes in work processes and ironing out grievances that only your employees can tell you about. Just like your customers are the best people to provide feedback about your product or service, your employees are the best people to provide feedback about the workplace.

"Most of the time, you find that the negative feedback points to an issue that can be corrected without too much of a hassle. A lot of our HR initiatives have come from those kinds of conversations where employees have said that they are unhappy with the lack of variety at the canteen, for example," says Juliet.  

"Some of the tougher questions are around people who are unhappy in their roles and want to find opportunities that are more challenging. Those are the things that we also have to deal with but might require more discussion with business unit heads and line managers."