Purpose at work: it matters for employees, it should matter to you

By James Hallahan, Director of Hays Technology, UK and Ireland

After a year that’s had people re-evaluating life priorities, employees are more likely to ask themselves how to find meaning in a job than ever before. Company values that align with an employee’s sense of individual purpose are crucial for businesses and organisations who want to stay relevant and attract talent, especially tech talent.

For talent in a competitive tech market, purpose is a matter of fact

Purpose is a crucial factor for candidates when choosing a company and, once in a job, whether to stay. According to McKinsey, 70% of employees stated that their sense of purpose is defined by their work. Given the severe skills shortages in some areas of tech, such as cloud computing, cyber security, data analytics, UX/UI, machine learning, web and software development, Agile methodologies and project and change management, defining a clear purpose for the company must remain top of the list. Tech talent are looking for employers who value them and match their expectations – purpose included.

A diverse and purpose-driven workforce expects more than just words

This isn’t new, but Covid-19 has pushed it higher up the agenda than ever before. Six years ago, 92% of the 250 largest companies in the world reported on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. The pandemic has driven people to question their purpose in life, what they want and how they can achieve it.

Workforces are increasingly diverse, made up predominantly of Millennials, with Gen Z representation on the rise – a demographic for whom individual purpose consists of achieving something meaningful in all areas of life. They search for acceptance and a sense of self-worth, feeling fulfilled at work when they understand their value and how they can contribute to a goal. Practically speaking, managers contribute to an employee’s sense of purpose at work by helping them understand the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. Organisations contribute with the ‘why’: the company’s purpose. When employees’ values and identity align with the company’s purpose they are more productive, more engaged, and more likely to stay and recommend the company as an employer and business.

The start-up work culture and what you can learn from it

For tech professionals, it is also about work culture. Transparency and collaboration are embedded in the way tech professionals work. They often come from start-up and innovation environments where flat hierarchies and an open-source mindset are common. It is also where most of the best tech talent start and build their careers.

If the start-up world can serve as another clue, most European employers surveyed by Atomico, a venture capital firm, have seen their employees place more emphasis on company missions in the last 12 months. However, many employees in the not-for-profit, healthcare and education industries continue to feel more inspired than those in tech – these are industries where the ‘why’ is the organisation itself.

While companies must find a real purpose, act on CSR, employee wellbeing, and diversity and inclusion if they are to remain relevant and attract and retain talent, there are also other ways to commit to causes that matter for today’s professionals. We recently launched the Super Connect for Good 2021 competition to recognise emerging start-ups and scale-ups in the UK, Ireland and Europe and help them create a positive social impact through technology. We have selected eight meaningful innovation streams: AI for Good, EdTech, HealthTech, MedTech, FinTech for Good and CleanTech; and two challenges: a pre-seed challenge and an industry challenge in mobility and transport infrastructure. If your company is not a start-up, you could consider attending one of our Super Connect events or getting involved in other initiatives aligned with your purpose.

As an organisation, purpose begins with your values and how they translate into actions for a better world that meet your employees' need for a sense of fulfilment. If your company is looking for ways to attract and retain talent and skills in 2021 and beyond, take purpose seriously.

  • The Super Connect for Good competition recognises the tech start-ups and scale-ups that are enhancing people’s lives through technology. Applications close at 6pm on 16th July, 2021. Find out how Super Connect for Good works and how you can enter.

  • For more insights and advice, or to find out how we can support your career or your organisation in the new era of work, speak to one of our expert consultants today.


James Hallahan
Director, Hays Technology, UK & Ireland

James Hallahan, Director of Hays Technology and James Harvard, our professional services business, has over 20 years’ experience in technology and digital recruitment, and solutions that deliver outcomes for customer success. James is responsible for delivering strategic growth across both the private and public sectors, through scaling existing products and services and innovating with new solutions to both existing and new markets within which we operate.


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