The way we feel at work impacts everything. And a lot of those feelings come from the twisty roads laid out by our company’s GPS system — the mighty mission (and meaning) that navigates us through all the highs and lows. In fact, Hired found that over four out of five employees say their happiness at work comes from knowing what they do matters.

Threading a purpose throughout the daily grind is one of the most obvious ways to ramp up performance, loyalty, and just a general feeling of goodness at work. A study from The Energy Project found that people who unearth meaning in what they do are three times more likely to stick with their current company, 1.4 times more engaged, and 1.7 times more satisfied with their jobs.

In this article, you’ll see how a few companies help their teams discover more meaning in their day to day — and how you can too.

Great things happen when you tie people’s duties to your mission

Pinpointing purpose all starts with a simple activity: making the connection between what people do to how it helps the company achieve something greater. “Yes, it’s not my job, but it doesn’t matter,” says Becca, the Director of Administration at Paws and Stripes, a nonprofit that pairs veterans with service animals. Even if something doesn’t lie squarely in her area of expertise, she and the team see it as an opportunity because it feeds into the broader mission. “I can afford to spend some time helping you with that. All of these things together keep the wheel rolling.”

Paws and Stripes appreciation wall

At Paws and Stripes, helping veterans and families heal fuels every moment of their jobs. Last year, this became obvious during their biggest annual fundraising event. The Director of Development left, so the team desperately needed help. On a mission to keep the organization alive, the whole team pitched in, even if it had nothing to do with what they specialized in. The end result? They raised more money than any other event in the history of the organization.

Activate it through everything

Things like work flexibility and benefits are just another translation of Kindful’s company mission. That’s why this Nashville-based software company gives employees four weeks of paid vacation that they can redeem from their start date onward. CEO Jeremy Bolls says, “I want my team to feel comfortable leaving during the day to go to their kids’ events, to celebrate family moments — if we’re going to be true about what our mission is here, we need our people to be able to do that.”

Use your mission to attract awesome candidates

At Bright Life Playschool in San Luis Obispo, the team spins together a few educational philosophies to create their own unique blend. All of these different philosophies result in a variety of worthwhile programs, allowing the kids to explore everything from cultural celebrations to yoga.

Because Bright Life’s mission is so ingrained in the school’s practice, the owner, Kim Love, makes sure to clearly communicate it to every candidate who crosses her path. Kim talks about their vision, along with what she’s looking for in a teacher to help animate those beliefs. “If it’s not a good fit, that’s fine! They have to believe in our mission and philosophy, so if they don’t believe children learn best through play, it’s very hard to teach and it isn’t possible to move further.” That bluntness allows Kim to sift through candidates quickly and hone in on the teachers who are in fact a fit for the Bright Life community.

Bright Life Playschool playground

At Subculture Corsets, customer love is as palpable as the magic their costumes hold. The specialty boutique sells steampunk, goth, and retro clothing — from twirly dresses to tightly laced corsets. Because the clothes are so customized, according to owner Ashley Hand, the sales associates are like personal shoppers. “It can be stressful to go shopping, especially if you’re buying something outside your comfort zone,” she says. That’s why it’s important to spot folks who understand that idea and identify with how Subculture wants to make people feel about their bodies.

“The way we sell things here puts people at ease. Everything we sell here in one way or another could be found somewhere else — you don’t have to buy from us. But people want to support our business because we care. We care if you buy it from us.”

How to come up with company values:

Pass around some notepads and ask your team to answer the following two questions:

  • What are some words that currently describe your company?
  • What words describe how you want your company to be?

Once you have both stacks of notes, group similar words together in a shared doc. Share it with your team and instruct people to pick their top five values from each group. Rinse and repeat until you’ve slimmed down the set.

Use it to edge out the competition

Pool & Spa Superstore in Mobile, Alabama uses the challenges they’ve faced to mold their mission — all while keeping the average employee tenure at nearly a decade. For example, the company goes out of their way to involve the local community in their business because they know firsthand how important it is to support local organizations — and their customers.

Pool & Spa Superstore team

In the past, larger companies have tried to buy out Pool & Spa, and ecommerce has trampled on some of their customer base, says CFO Jonathan Golden. The Mobile community has supported him throughout it all, so he spreads that support right back to people. The company contributes to local neighborhood causes that are “overshadowed by bigger organizations with national names,” including a foster home called Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes, and an athletic program called Team Focus, that matches up teenagers with male role models. “What we’ve learned is that they will still, and hopefully always, support our business because they can see that we contribute to their own community.”

The company also extends their community love directly to customers. The team’s calendars are packed with customers’ birthdays and anniversaries, and they also throw a yearly fish fry for the community. “I think that’s one of the main reasons people enjoy doing business with us, and have continued to over the years – we’ve done more than what was asked of us to show them we authentically care,” says Jonathan. “And that just makes work more enjoyable for us, as well.”

Kira Deutch Kira Deutch is a former Gusto editor. She has a background in publishing and content marketing for startups.
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