Recruiting in the Purpose Economy

Oct 10, 2014

Psychology TodayPurpose.

It’s what employees and job candidates, particularly the millennial generation, want in their work. And it’s what companies need in their teams to produce the goods and services millennials and others want to buy.

Employers are starting to find clues to help them attract people with purpose.

At the core of these innovations is seminal research by Yale’s Amy Wrzesniewski and her colleagues, who found that people tend to identify with one of three work orientations, and maintain that orientation throughout their entire careers, regardless of job type.

Some people see work as a vehicle for material reward, but not fulfilling in and of itself. They are the TGIF crowd, enduring the work week in order to financially support interests outside their jobs.

The second group defines work as a means toward social status, achievement, and prestige. They work to fuel a positive sense of identity and are likely the first to sign up to attend high-school reunions so they can report on their success to their peers.

The final group finds the act of work inherently meaningful and rich in purpose. For them, work is the manifestation of their passions and, often, a force for good in the world.

Wrzesniewski and her colleagues found that this third group has higher job and life satisfaction than people with other work orientations have. They also tend to be more successful and higher performers, in large part because they are more loyal and better collaborators.

Marketing and Screening “Calling” Candidates

Employers are now developing new recruitment and talent marketing strategies that help them be attractive to these “calling-oriented” professionals while at the same time screening them to make sure they are separating them from job and career candidates.

To market themselves as employers-of-choice for “calling” candidates, employers are developing an employee value proposition that is purpose-centric. More specifically, they define how they can deliver the three drivers of purpose in our work: deep relationships, the ability to do something greater than ourselves, and personal growth. They then create stories of employees who have found rich purpose in their organization and equip the team interacting with candidates to tell their own stories about how they generate purpose in their work.

In the interview process they then explore the career decisions candidates have made, to unpack their motivations and work orientation. Were they making decisions primarily for economic gains, gaining more recognition, or to boost their sense of purpose and impact in the world?  No one example is enough to classify someone, but a trend can emerge in how a candidate describes their journey and major career decisions.

It is also possible to explore work orientations of candidates and look for indicators of a calling-oriented professional. They will tend to:

  • have high pride in their work

  • take their work home with them and on vacation

  • have the majority of their friends from work

  • define their work in terms of impact and helping others

  • join work associations and seek outside learning opportunities

  • not express excitement about retirement

While no one of these is proof that a candidate sees work as a calling, the more of these indicators they report the greater the likelihood.

The organizations that are able to build calling-oriented teams and cultures are likely to thrive in the new economy where the millennial generation is demanding purpose in their work as well as in their decisions as consumers. Building the ability to attract and screen for these candidates will become vital to successful recruiters as they work to effectively build the talent pool for the organization of the future.

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