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Kevin Dean
by Kevin Dean
on June 19, 2018

Purpose. It's such a simple little word, and yet we don't often see it explicitly listed on company 'About Us' pages. Sure, the mission statement is there, but this is typically a well-worded short sentence that leaves future employees wondering about the "who, what, where, when, why, and how." How is the mission statement achieved? Why is the mission statement the purpose of the company? When will the mission be achieved? What will the mission actually do for the global (or local) society, and does the purpose actually need to be tied into a societal contribution? Who will be a part of achieving the mission statement? These are the bigger questions that a company's purpose inspires within future employees and the millennial generation.

Understanding The Largest Workforce: Millennials 

It's no secret that the majority of today's rising workforce consists of the millennial generation. However, what many employers often fail to realize is that attracting millennia talent means more than simply offering a great salary. In fact, a 2016 Deloitte survey succinctly describes the situation, "Millennials feel that most businesses have no ambition beyond profit." Changing this perception is imperative to economic (and individual company) health if the high millennial turnover rates are going to decrease.


According to Gallup, millennials are not afraid to quit their jobs when the work situation is not ideal. The generation's high turnover rates cost the U.S. economy an estimated $30.5 billion on an annual basis. However, appealing to millennials means more than simply selling them a metaphorical golden ticket. Instead, companies must actively speak to the following areas.

  • 1. Fair salaries that take into account local economic factors.
  • 2. Creating a great work environment that doesn't inspire the Monday morning feeling of dread, the Hump Day sensation of counting down, or the Friday Braveheart call for freedom.
  • 3. The opportunity to improve skills with in-house training, additional educational opportunities, and attending industry conferences.
  • 4. An environment of sustainable job creation and promotions.
  • 5. An explicitly defined purpose that clearly answers how an employee will be a part of achieving the company's larger goals, that may or may not have an explicit societal benefit.

What Is Most Attractive To Employees? 

In appealing to the aforementioned list, employers need to take care that they meet the individual expectations of the top applicants. Generally speaking, millennials expect to have a great work/life balance. They expect that they will be challenged in their job, but not overwhelmed every single day of the week. They expect to have some type of job security; although, ironically they will easily jump ship without a backup plan if the purpose of the company doesn't outweigh other negative factors. Finally, they expect that their job will be filled with meaningful goals that may or may not benefit the local area, serve the greater good, or positively contribute to the global society. This last point is vital for understanding just how important a company's purpose is to its future employees. 

Take, for example, Google. When asked to describe the ideal place to work, many people will promptly state "Google" (with Facebook taking a close second). The irony of the latter choices is that both companies have come under increased criticism for their treatment of private data and customer information. However, in the eyes of future employees, both companies are still ideal places to work. Why? They have clearly stated their purpose since day one. Sure, Google has switched from "do no evil" to becoming the world's largest repository for knowledge; but, in this switch, Google fulfills its purpose on a daily basis. 

There-in lies the secret to understanding what is most attractive to employees. No matter what their age, employees want the freedom needed to accomplish their tasks. However, they also want to be able to collaborate and feel as if they are a part of a team. Company culture is key to showing how employees will work together to achieve meaningful goals. Google and Facebook have set the bar incredibly high when it comes to showcasing their unique company cultures. It is about much more than the cool perks, prestige, or salary that comes with working for either company. Rather, it is that from the first interview, to the first day at one of the campuses and every day that follows, employees know exactly how they are contributing to the company's mission statement aka: purpose.

How Can A Company Portray "Purpose" To A Potential Employee? 

Telling future employees about your company's purpose is about more than simply listing a mission statement on your 'About Us' page. Instead, it is important to adapt the adage of "show, don't tell." To do this:

  1. •Build relationships with your future employees from day one. Engage with them, understand their personalities, and create a collaborative company culture that is actually focused on achieving its purpose.
  2. Make the mission statement something that is meaningful and achievable.
  3. Create a lifestyle that is about more than a paycheck.
  4. Recognize that connections begin within your company and then extend outwards. If employees aren't connected to your company, then they won't stick around.
  5. Don't confuse company purpose with social purpose. A company can still do good in the world, but if its true purpose is to create great products and services, then that needs to be clearly stated. If its purpose is to create great products and services that happen to "do good for the world," then that is great too. 
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At the end of the day, a company's purpose is incredibly important to employees. However, don't make the same mistakes as Google by trying to say that you strive to "do no evil," unless of course that is truly the reason why your company was created. Instead, recognize the important lesson that Google has taught all of us about staying true to your actual purpose (in their case, becoming a go-to repository for knowledge). Your company's purpose doesn't have to be to change the world; it can and probably should be self-contained. In other words, before you arbitrarily change your mission statement in an attempt to attract the millennial workforce, take some time to think about what purpose your company actually strives to achieve on a daily basis. Then, and only then, should you begin to bring that purpose to life within your brand and recruitment efforts. If you stay true to who you are, why your company exists, and what meaningful goals your employees can strive to achieve on a daily basis, then you will not only show your purpose to potential employees, but you will attract the right types of candidates to your company.


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