How do Ben & Jerry’s, Google and Facebook up the ante on employee engagement and happiness?

This answer doesn’t need to be given in the form of a question. It’s why.

When it comes to employee engagement and happiness, the secret weapon to how is why. And today, why is more important than ever.

Why? The tight-with-a-capital-T labor market has upped the ante on hiring — exponentially. It’s a hot buyer’s market for candidates who now have more choices than a kid with an overstuffed bag of Halloween candy. Wooing coveted top candidates to buy what you’re selling on the come-work-for-me market takes more than money, more than benefits and more than work-life balance perks. It takes purpose.

Making a Difference Is the Great Differentiator

Employees today want a job — and a company — that really swings their feet out of bed in the morning. Not because of personal profit or professional prestige. But because of the opportunity to contribute to the greater good. Making a difference is the great differentiator.

To attract the strongest swimmers in the talent pool, and retain the ones you already have, purpose is the power play. In fact, some might say purpose is the new black — more than a short-lived trend or a passing fad, it’s here to stay as a key indicator of success in 21st century business.

Let’s look at some numbers.

  • A whopping 90% of employees will sacrifice income for the opportunity to do purposeful work.
  • An overwhelming majority of people wants fulfilling work versus engaging work, with 64% raising their hands for fulfillment versus just 28 percent for engagement.
  • Despite this, 1 in 2 employees report their jobs lack purpose.
  • And, you’d better sit down for this one: Nearly half of all workers plan to look for a new job in the next year.

Considering it costs between 33% and as much as 213% of a year’s compensation to replace an employee, can you afford not to give your employees a sense of purpose?

The New Labor Contract for Harder-Working Employees

The terms of the American labor contract have changed, says mobile coaching pioneer BetterUp in its report “Meaning and Purpose at Work.” In exchange for workers’ time and talent, companies are now expected to make the workplace a source of personal growth, shared purpose and inspiration. The payoff, says BetterUp, is those who find meaningful work are happier, more productive and harder working.

Yes, harder working. Including longer hours and less time out.

Elon Musk knows well the drive of those striving to make a difference in the world. He tweeted of Tesla late last year: “There are way easier places to work, but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” He further noted: “But if you love what you do, it (mostly) doesn’t feel like work.”

It all comes down to purpose, and the why of business. Your employees want to change the world — even just a little piece of it.

“We have an inherent desire to be part of something that’s bigger than ourselves,” Elizabeth Lotardo, a vice president at leadership development consulting firm McLeod & More said in a recent Forbes article on purpose at work. “When you can see the impact that you have on another person, another community, on the world, that carries a lot of weight.”

The H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S. Factor

If you want to one-up the Joneses vying for your next hire, it’s all about purpose. Purpose is a key driver of happiness in the workplace. And happiness is the ultimate WHY, the most sustainable competitive advantage and the ultimate currency in business. Today’s most successful companies prioritize employee happiness to boost employee engagement and loyalty.

It’s the premise of Yellow Goldfish, in which co-author Rosaria Cirillo Louwman and I explored the nine ways to find and create H.A.P.P.I.N.E.S.S. in the workplace. We looked at how over 300 companies provide the little extras to contribute to the happiness of their customers, employees, and society.

In Yellow Goldfish, we looked at Ben & Jerry’s legendary founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, whose goal was to operate the company in a way that actively recognizes the central role that business plays in society. And they did it by initiating innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally. As proponents of the idea that business needs to protect the environment, they were pioneers in developing a socially conscious business. Oh, and they wanted to sell ice cream, too.

Tech giant Google is no stranger to purpose. Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin set the groundwork for building the company on thoughtful design, strong purpose and culture. 

Facebook also got its start with a change-the-world objective — the purpose-not-profit, kumbaya goal to bring people together. In a letter to investors ahead of the company’s initial public offering in 2012, founder Mark Zuckerberg wrote: “Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission — to make the world more open and connected.” The letter also expressed this idea: “We don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.”

To be successful in business today, it helps if you build a better mousetrap. But even better, to attract and retain more engaged, more satisfied and happier employees, build a purposeful one.


This article was written by Stan Phelps from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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