What do you do? A simple question - but the answer can reveal much

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

When people meet for the first time, the conversation often touches on what they do for a living. Responses to the question "what do you do?" can vary widely, from detailed narratives of work tasks to a one-word job title.

Although a variety of factors, such as level of comfort with the questioner, can influence the amount of information shared, this simple question can give insights into the amount of buy-in employees have in the organisation's mission and vision. An individual who feels strongly about what the organisation has set out to achieve is likely to draw more links between his or her job and the organisation's goals.

Take the story of the three stonemasons - when questioned about what they were doing, the first said he was carving rock, the second said he was constructing a wall, and the third declared he was building a great cathedral. This anecdote shows how powerful purpose and vision can be in transforming what could be considered a mundane task into something personally meaningful.

The benefits of this have been corroborated by research. The Kenexa Best Workplaces 2012 survey data shows that employees who believe in the organisation's goals tend to be more engaged and have a higher sense of personal achievement.

Eunice Oh, a consultant from Kenexa, an IBM company says: "When employees are clear on what the organisation wants to accomplish and believe in it, they are more likely to go the extra mile when required to help the organisation achieve its objectives, because they are contributing towards a purpose that means something to them personally."

Kenexa believes one of the most important building blocks for creating a compelling purpose and vision involves leaders bringing these to life by taking every opportunity to reinforce the purpose and vision in everything the organisation does.

Once employees start to see the relevance of these to the work that they do, they too will start to believe and behave in a way that is aligned with the organisation's purpose.

As the futurist Alvin Toffler said, "You've got to think about big things while you're doing small things, so that all the small things go in the right direction."

The Kenexa Best Workplaces Survey is now closed for this year. Winners and finalists will be announced at the annual awards evening on October 31.


- Supplied by Kenexa

- NZ Herald

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