Quick, picture today’s most innovative office. What do you envision? Does it include comfy floor cushions, a fully stocked break room, and the frantic bounce-tap of a heated ping-pong match?
Like you, I know how easy it is to caricature today’s workplace. Some of these changes seem ludicrous, especially given the sensitivity required in the funeral profession.
It’s easy to say, “That’s not for me.”
But what is the answer to satisfying tomorrow’s employees?
Millennials entered the workplace asking lots of questions. They wanted to know why their schedule wasn’t more flexible, why they couldn’t just text an exec, and why they weren’t being mentored already.
Even more important, they wanted to know why their work mattered.
“What’s the point?” they wondered.
By 2020, millennials will make up half of the workforce, occupying more than 20% of all management positions. Their disruption of the traditional workplace will only continue once they start overseeing Gen Z, who expect nothing less than a clearly communicated purpose.
We’ve probably all heard the same talks or read the same books about finding your purpose and your reason for being. Maybe you’ve already crafted a great purpose statement. Maybe you haven’t. Either way, you know why you provide funeral service.
Does everyone else? The words of a perfectly crafted purpose statement are obviously useless if none of your employees believe it—worse, if none of it rings true.
The truth is, a canyon exists between statement and action. Your purpose must be put into practice.
When your purpose is the cornerstone of your workplace, informing every role from groundskeeping to funeral service, you don’t even need to repeat it. Employees will sense it innately, and you’ll have a much more fulfilling culture.
Naturally, this inspires commitment. Employees who believe in your purpose are driven. They’re intrinsically motivated, happy to do the work, and they need much less management, freeing you up to focus on at-need families and your business.
Even better, these employees become brand ambassadors.
Now, getting to this point can be tricky. It takes forethought and careful attention to detail. But by following the next three steps, everyone will be ready to spread the word about your workplace.
Once started, a purpose-driven culture needs to keep going. Luckily, this is the fun part.
When we articulated the purpose of Precoa, it described our culture perfectly: “Enriching life through meaningful connection.”
But what does this actually mean? How can it be enacted?
A great example comes from our sales meetings. Prior to 2012, they were straightforward and boring. We covered everything that needed to be covered, i.e., performance, metrics, and planning, but there was very little connection. Was sitting in a room and watching slide after slide really the best tactic?
So we decided to radically change. The following year, we challenged each other and crafted immersive, sometimes vulnerable experiences like caving and, no joke, driving blindfolded. It was fun, and it didn’t always feel like “work,” but the connections we made generated focus and led to success. We still took plenty of time to scrutinize performance, but now this was charged with meaning.
Evaluating how our practices match our purpose led to other changes as well. We now examine even the smallest details to see how our purpose can be woven into day-to-day experiences. Doing this, we always circle back to one aim: enriching life through meaningful connection.
Your own culture is founded on a purpose you believe in. If, for example, your purpose is to meet the loss of life with guidance and love, then you should look for any opportunity where love or guidance might be practiced--a yearly review, a meeting, a promotion, something silly, something fun.
You can even incorporate your culture into how you hire.
Business, but especially the funeral profession, is all about people. When a candidate comes to you with a polished resume, you might be impressed. They clearly can do the job. Does that make them a good fit?
Skills, as you well know, can be taught. Values cannot. Imagine trying to teach kindness, compassion, curiosity, or any of the other values you hope for in an applicant. Where would you start?
The point is that your purpose should also drive hiring. Ask questions of potential candidates that connect to your purpose, then hire people who believe in what you do. They should understand from the outset how their role connects to something bigger.
Over 66% of employees today need to feel engaged, and they want their work to be interesting. Most of them also want to have a say in decision making and to receive regular feedback. Hiring based on a common purpose might mean meeting candidates halfway or giving them more initial training.
Yet this is worth it in the long run. What you’ll receive in return is enthusiasm, passion, and the desire to share the story of why your workplace is so fulfilling.
People who understand your purpose make better employees. Ask an administrative assistant at an ordinary workplace what they do, and they’ll use ordinary terms: “I answer the phones and route calls.”
If, however, you ask a purpose-driven employee at a purpose-driven workplace the very same question, you’ll receive a vastly different response: “I’m the first point of contact for people who need guidance, love, and support. What I do helps them through the first step of a very difficult time.”
Who would you rather work with?
Not only will they be more inspired in their role, they’ll even find meaning in seemingly meaningless tasks.
I’ll give you an example.
In 2015, my aunt was tragically killed in an accident. I was distraught. We all were. As I watched the admin print the memorial cards for the service, I remember thinking, “Some folks might be bored by this.”
And then I wondered, What if they knew that I would keep it? What if they knew that, four years later, this memorial card still rests on my nightstand? Would this knowledge cause them to go about the task differently?
It’s important to share stories like these. People connect to stories. They remember them. Whatever the frequence or cadence of your staff meetings, if you can devote even a five minute window to sharing stories related to your purpose, people will remember it.
People spend nearly 1/3 of their life working, so it makes sense that tomorrow’s workers want to make it count. They want work to mean something. Employees who derive meaning from their work report 2x as much job satisfaction, and they are 3x more likely to stay with your firm.
By clarifying your purpose, you will have an asset that anchors your entire organization. You will give people the perfect reason to work with you, and they will be eager to fuel your success.
Customers will notice too. Without purpose, culture seems intangible. With purpose, culture is felt by everyone.