Today’s Employees Want Purpose Beyond Profit

September 15, 2023


What's your purpose? If you’re like most people, you’ve pondered that question many times throughout your life. It can be fairly difficult to answer, but 100 percent worth the energy it takes to do so. Psychologists say people who feel their lives have meaning realize a whole host of positive health outcomes.  

For business leaders, there’s an equally strong motivation for resolving the question of purpose. Seven in ten Fortune 1000 CEOs say employee desire for purpose is impacting their company’s ability to recruit and retain top talent. Simply put, people want to work for companies that are about more than making money. They want to feel like a part of something greater than themselves, something that’s making their corner of the world a little bit better.  

Maybe it’s an Iowa thing, but it can be reasonably grasped that companies around the state have a purpose beyond profit. What is less certain is how intentional those companies are about sharing that story with their employees.  

It’s not a lack of meaningful work or commitment to social issues that keeps managers and C-suite leaders from talking about their company’s purpose. In fact, it’s usually opposite. Especially when leaders feel a strong sense of purpose, they may assume everyone on the team understands that purpose and finds ways to live it out every day. But, making that assumption effectively shadows the best parts about working for a purpose-driven company. Talk about an opportunity cost!  

It can be tricky to put purpose into words. Nailing down the words that define you is a double-edge sword that can be equal parts focusing and limiting. Tricky or not, it’s a must in today’s fast-paced, competitive environment. Attention spans are short, opportunities are plentiful. Focus and drive are essential, and an articulated purpose does a great deal to get a company (or an individual) closer to inspiring those qualities from within. Last year, through an annual employee engagement survey, Bank Iowa’s leadership learned that team members were not feeling as connected with the bank’s purpose as they had in prior years. Although they were living out great everyday moments with clients and one another, the “why” of their work hadn’t crystalized into an articulated purpose. HR and marketing rolled their sleeves up and got to work. Formalizing the bank’s purpose, as well as its vision and the culture values it holds dear, became a top priority, fully supported all the way up to Bank Iowa president and CEO Jim Plagge’s office and into the boardroom of the family-owned community bank.  

At the outset of 2020, Bank Iowa’s purpose, vision and values were rolled out. And, here they are:

·       Purpose: Empower people. Inspire success. Foster growth.

·       Vision: With an ongoing commitment to community banking, Bank Iowa aspires to be: The bank of choice for its clients; the career of choice for its team members; a center of influence in its communities’; a point of pride for its family owners.

·       Values: Be People-Centered. Bring Your Best. Enable Great Things. Think Big

Sharing the above statements with team members was an exciting first step, but it was just the beginning of a very long journey. It will be important to share the story of purpose intentionally, consistently and with everyone who will listen. You may have already heard some of this work in the bank’s external branding. The campaign, “Let’s Make it Happen” is a clear extension of the bank’s third value, “Enable Great Things.”  

As Jim Plagge said when he shared the bank’s formalized purpose, vision and values with our nearly 280 team members across the state, “Our purpose has always existed, whether it was articulated or not. The job now is to inspire greatness in our most important asset – our team members.”