Tina Olson, Instructor of Management
Photo taken by Kaci Smart/Public Relations

By Dr. Tina Olson

*Editor’s Note: CC Biz Buzz is a new monthly column series that will feature insightful commentary from a member of the Columbia College Robert W. Plaster School of Business faculty.

I love Millennials. Yes, I’m serious. I love millennials and Gen Z. They are “flipping the script” about work, especially their need for purposeful work. I’m dating myself when I think of Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life.” Today we may hear, “what’s my purpose?” Many of us have the mindset of living to work while millennials have the mindset of working to live. Let me ask: Don’t most of us want purpose?

Bates College partnered with Gallup to explore the topic of purposeful work. Gallup conducted a survey in 2018 of 2,205 college graduates. One key finding was 80 percent said that it is very important or extremely important to derive a sense of purpose from their work, yet less than half have succeeded in finding it. Purposeful work for millennials means they want to see how the work they do aligns with the mission and values of an organization. In another study, Gallup discovered 98 percent of those surveyed have a deep-seated need to experience work as meaningful. A purpose-driven culture, not surprisingly, leads to more loyalty, higher productivity and lower turnover.

This semester I witnessed purpose in action. Two of my Human Resources colleagues graciously agreed to join my Introduction to HR Management class throughout the semester. I had the opportunity to spend time with Andrea Seeley, HR Manager for Columbia Safety and Supply, and Jared Griffin, HR Specialist–Recruiting and Onboarding for Midway USA. They both invested significantly in the lives of our business students at Columbia College through classroom time and offering tours of their companies to our students. When you ask Andrea about Columbia Safety, she’ll tell you “we bring loved ones home safely every night” versus “we sell safety supplies.” Midway USA includes a purpose statement in addition to their mission, vision and values statements. While touring both companies recently, I could feel and see the purpose of each role in the company. Andrea and Jared demonstrated passion for the purpose of their company. If you ask me about what I do, I’ll tell you I develop future organizational and community leaders through teaching.

In October, my colleague, Dr. Diane Suhler, wrote about the history of capitalism. She discussed the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of America’s leading companies, that formed in August. There were 181 CEOs that signed a statement, “Purpose of a Corporation” focusing on a return to responsible capitalism. These CEOs made a commitment to all stakeholders, the community, the environment and sustainability. Companies recognize “a change is gonna come” to quote my colleague, Michael Cross, with a focus on purpose.

As you prepare for 2020, consider these questions:

    • What’s your company’s purpose?
    • How do you align the work of your employees with your mission and vision?
    • How are you branding your business to your current and future employees?
    • What impact does your business have on our community?

With a “war on talent” and unemployment hovering around two percent in Boone County, focusing on purpose may create a new pipeline of talent and energize your employees.

Tina R. Olson, Ed.D, M.B.A., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an instructor of management at Columbia College.