Giving work purpose

The Problem

While an emphasis on meaningful work has been growing for decades, the COVID-19 pandemic and other demographic trends have led to a widening "purpose" gap between what workers expect and what they believe their employers are delivering. According to a recent Gallup survey, Millennials and Gen Z workers are more likely than previous generations to emphasize the need for meaning in their work. The statistics and references below further demonstrate this shift:

  • 64% of US adults say that a company's primary purpose should be making the world a better place.

  • Based on a 2016 PWC survey, 84% of Millennials value meaning in day-to-day work (the top priority for respondents), but only 53% of business leaders agreed.

  • Nearly two in five Gen Z's and Millennials say that they have rejected a job or assignment because it did not align with their values.

  • 74% of jobseekers (and 83% of those in Gen Z) place a high value on finding work that delivers a sense of purpose, according to studies by Cone/Porter Novelli and LinkedIn.

Why This Matters

Finding purpose in work is fundamental to job satisfaction and quality. Regardless of role or industry, employees who find work meaningful are more productive, less likely to leave their job and up to ten times happier than those who do not.

The Japanese concept of ikigai* is fulfilled when one’s job is aligned with one's skills, passion and mission. Applying ikigai at the individual, organizational and community level can increase meaning at work.

Job = what they're paid for

Skills = what they're good at

Passion = what they love

Mission = what the world needs

*Pronounced “ee-kee-guy”; roughly translates to reason for being.

The Solution

Workforce and economic agencies can use multiple approaches to help foster ikigai, or purpose and meaning in the workplace. This section is focused on practices for workforce programs to help individuals define their ikigai and develop skills to help individuals move into jobs that align with their passions or reinforce the meaning/mission of jobs they already have.

Recommended actions can help workforce and economic development agencies advance strategies to finance their job quality strategy for the long term.