Give Them Purpose by Giving Them a Fight Club

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Feb 19, 2018

Many of today’s organizations find themselves in a death-spiral, speeding towards mediocrity. Worse, many a

re already on the slippery slope to irrelevance.

The free fall is fueled by the inability to attract, develop and retain the best talent of the younger generations. In most cases, HR professionals are stumped. They don’t understand why they can’t retain this new breed of talent. They adopted “blue jean Fridays.” They offer a monthly happy hour with the boss. They’ve swapped out offices and cubes for “collaboration spaces.” They’ve even created a Facebook page!

Isn’t that what these KIDS want? #outoftouch

Not at all.

Actually, to be fair, those things are nice additions, but they don’t reach critical mass when it comes to attracting and retaining young talent (and they’re not really what the younger generation wants). Instead, the principle that hiring managers have to grasp in today’s chaotic, four-generation workplace is this: a primary motivator for the younger generation is a sense of purpose.

Fight Club gave them meaning

Take the example of the character Tyler Durden in the movie, Fight Club, as an example of what today’s younger employees search for in the workplace and in life.

He was happy.

He belonged. He was part of something. For the first time in his life, he knew he could do whatever he wanted — be whatever he wanted. He felt a sense of meaning and purpose — it drove him to levels he had only imagined in his boring, plain, pathetic excuse of a life. He couldn’t wait for what was next.

 As he put his shirt back on he made a half-hearted attempt to make the blood stop but was interrupted when it happened, his favorite part. The Leader stepped into the middle of the room. The raucous gathering was reduced to a church-like silence, leaning in, urging the thick, humid air to loosen its grip on the moment.

 The Leader was fiercely passionate. As he circled the room, his eyes darted from one person to the next, drawing each one of them in even further, making every person feel as if he was the only one in the room. At long last the Leader, with the command of a general and the swagger of an outlaw, spoke:

 “The first rule of Fight Club is . . . you do not talk about Fight Club!”

 For its participants, Fight Club defined motivation. It was the meaning they searched for in life.

The reality is that most people never find meaning — or purpose — at work. It’s seemingly one of the most discussed topics in social media, as one guru after another implores employees to pursue their dreams, to do what they love, to not settle for a boring existence.

Just imagine what it would feel like at work to experience real purpose and boundless motivation. The kind of motivation that wakes you up early and keeps your motor running late at night. The feeling that comes from autonomy and ownership and passion as you work towards something truly special.

But, hey, it’s only a movie.

So, let’s turn to Daniel Pink’s best-selling book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us — a book that reveals the real dominant motivators of human behavior. What are those motivators? As Pink points out, research reveals that — wait for it — purpose is one of the three fundamental ingredients of human motivation:

“When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system — which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators — doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements:

1) Autonomy: the desire to direct our own lives;

2) Mastery: the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and

3) Purpose: the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.”

The real question is: how do you create purpose in your workplace?

Identifying your purpose

Purpose is the yearning to do your job in service of something bigger than yourself.

What is that purpose, you ask? For some, it’s impacting the community. For others, it’s achieving a level of excellence in a class by itself. It might be making a difference or leaving a legacy or creating something entirely new. We don’t know what your company’s purpose should be. But we’re pretty sure you could discover it in a thoughtful conversation with your people. Unfortunately, the typical organization creates a mission statement and some generic values, has a party, hangs posters and never talks about them again. #epicfail

To retain top talent, you must make an intentional effort to connect purpose to individuals.

Here’s how you can start:

1. Create — The first step is to collaborate at the leadership level with key influencers throughout the organization to establish the driving purpose of the organization. We’re not talking about the results you want to create, or some lame mission statement, but the purpose that unites the team. Is it to serve the community? To give back in some way? To fund a cause? To foster innovation and creativity?

2. Curate — Think about the experience individual employees have with the organization’s purpose — the role they play and the level of interaction they have with internal and external stakeholders — and think about how to make it more fulfilling. To do this well, we often facilitate an activity with our clients that focuses on the perception of the company from individual roles, allowing a better understanding of the why at each level.

3. Connect — This critical step is a one-on-one conversation with each individual on your team in which you clearly connect the individual to the company’s purpose. This step is important because it drives engagement and directly impacts the top and bottom line!

If you want to keep the very best talent from among the younger generation’s employee pool, let Fight Club be your guide. Create purpose in your organization and watch your company transform itself.