“The first question great organisations must answer is: What separates us from the competition in the marketplace? But the next question is: What holds us together as colleagues in the workplace?”

~ Bill Taylor, Co-Founder + Founding Editor Fast Company

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, we’d seen an obvious shift in what was driving employee motivation. Gone were the days of giving people ‘extra’ holiday, bonuses + health insurance + expecting loyalty + commitment as a result.

As I shared in my recent article, Culture Shift 101: A Guide for Ambitious CEOs, Betterup research showed that 9 in 10 people were willing to earn less money to do more meaningful work. The idea that this change in motivation shows the importance of organisational purpose was also seen in Glassdoor’s most recent Mission + Culture Survey, which showed that 77% of adults would consider a company’s purpose before applying for a job.

Pre COVID-19, today’s workforce was already craving a greater sense of fulfilment from their jobs + wanting to work with a company that offered them a strong + meaningful purpose. The COVID-19 crisis may well result in more employees having a heightened sense of the futility of the work of their organisations and asking themselves, “Why am I getting up every day and doing this, when other people are risking their lives?”

As leaders, while you try + adapt to the changing world, so that your organisation remains relevant, you must help your teams to find greater meaning in the contribution of the business as a whole. This search for meaning is key to both your employees’ recovery from this crisis + resulting trauma and your organisation’s relevance in our post-COVID-19 world. In fact, McKinsey + Company research has shown that providing identity + meaning through work leads to improved wellbeing + explains up to 25% of performance.

But how do you start to create meaning at work? Here are some ideas to get you going:

• Foster dialogue around what’s holding you together as a workplace, as colleagues, as people. Start the conversation with key questions around your wider contribution as an organisation. The answers to these questions will help shape the future of your organisation.
• Dig deep into your company Values and use these to talk about new paths to the future.
• Balance EQ (Emotional Intelligence or Emotional Quotient) + IQ (Intelligence Quotient) in your decision-making.

According to Mercer’s 2020 Global Talent Trends Survey + the resulting report, ‘Win with Empathy’, balancing EQ + IQ means combining left-brain understanding of commercial realities + their knock-on effects, with right brain skills such as intuition + creativity to find solutions.

The report also highlights that “Thriving (defined as prospering in terms of health, wealth + career) employees are twice as likely to work for an organisation that effectively balances EQ + IQ in decision-making.” But “Less than half of companies get this right today”.

Which side of the divide are you going to be on?