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Employee Motivation

How To Guide Employees Towards Meaning and Purpose [Webinar Recap]

2020 continues to impact our state of wellbeing - from concerns about the pandemic to the ongoing social and racial justice movement. As a result, your employees are being heavily affected by what’s happening in the world and at risk of burning out personally and professionally.

To mitigate some of the negative effects of burnout, we hosted a webinar with Emplify to discuss people programs that can guide employees towards meaning and purpose during these challenging times. Our awesome panelists included:

  • Shannon Ferguson, our own Head of People at Blueboard
  • Adam Weber, Co-Founder and Chief People Officer at Emplify
  • Morgan Chaney, our own Senior Director of Marketing and Employer Branding Lead at Blueboard

Our panelists shared their favorite recognition and learning & development programs for employees, as well as tips and tools for monitoring employee engagement, in the recap below.


For more HR webinars, continue to stay in touch via our Resources page, and continue showing those who’ve gone above and beyond that their hard work is valued with Lift Up, our free recognition note builder.

Why meaning and purpose are more important than ever

When COVID-19 first hit, Emplify put out a well-being assessment to measure how the pandemic is impacting the workforce. So far, they’ve had well over 1,500 companies and 20,000 employees participate. What they’ve learned is that the number one issue people are dealing with today is burnout. But surprisingly, the burnout isn’t from the transition to working from home. The challenge has been the life part of work-life balance.

It’s trying to do work in the midst of having kids, caring for family members, the stress of a global pandemic, and the mental impact of losing social relationships that have led to fatigue. In fact, only 17% of the employees feel like their daily life hasn’t been significantly disrupted. 

So what can employers do about this? Emplify has identified 17 different drivers that create an engaged workforce. Of these drivers, there are two that can help give a lift to your people: 

  1. Purpose, which is when employees understand the “why” behind the business. 
  2. Meaning, which is when employees have a sense of value when they immerse themselves in their roles.


Program ideas to guide employees toward meaning and purpose

Our panelists shared their favorite people program ideas to guide employees towards these two drivers of meaning and purpose.

1. Refresh your vision through Vision Casting exercises

Now may be the perfect time for Vision Casting. This is a vivid narrative that’s written in the present tense and looks into the future to answer the ‘why’ and ‘where’ of the organization. At Emplify, they created a five-year vision but adopted goals to move toward that vision in two-weeks sprints. That way, they can celebrate the small wins while also motivating employees to focus on a more hopeful, positive future.  

Best practices: 

  1. Create a narrative of your idealized future where your purpose is lived out.   
  2. Intentionally reinforce the future. 
  3. Name the significant “milestones’ (especially the next one) toward accomplishing the vision.
  4. Tie your short-term strategy to the vision. 
  5. Create 2-week goals and celebrate the small wins and successes along the way.

2. Reactivate your core company values

Values are more important than ever before. Not only do they form a solid foundation for your employees to stand on, but they also create a shared language for the entire organization. But it’s not enough to simply have values. They have to be visible and followed by everyone at the organization. Use this challenging time as an opportunity to activate the DNA of your company. 

Best practices:

  1. Build a forum for employees to share stories of others living out your values.
  2. Create icons for each value and make Slack badges (remote) or stickers (in office) to used when values are lived out (you can see our Value Glojis for Blueboard here on our Careers page).
  3. Build a recognition program that is tied to your values.
  4. Integrate into performance management (not just what you do, it’s how you do it).

3. Expand employee job scopes and skillsets

At Blueboard, we’ve focused on being flexible in revising our employees’ job scopes to adapt to changing conditions. Due to COVID, some roles that were demanding before have become less so and other opportunities have popped up across the business. To encourage our employees to find meaning in their roles in new ways, we’ve been thoughtful about spotting ways to open doors for exploration, experimentation, and growth (such as building a Social Media Squad for those interested in learning more about social media marketing).

Best practices:

  1. Increase the cadence for L&D - explore new employee-led programming like book clubs, DEI training and career/passion planning. 
  2. Normalize learning during the workday (i.e. it’s okay to take an hour to read or to take an online course a few times a week).
  3. Align each role to the purpose of the business. It’s important to talk about why certain tasks are valuable and what outcomes they can achieve.
  4. Identify side projects that employees can explore and learn through - whether on their home team or through cross-functional partnerships.

4. Invest in recognition, large and small 

Recognition can make people feel that something that they’re passionate about and have worked hard on matters - which makes it the perfect combination of meaning and purpose. Our panelists recommended celebrating the intangibles as much as the tangibles - especially now when everyone’s definition of “success” might look a bit different than it did pre-COVID-19.

We practice what we preach at Blueboard by celebrating the success of our employees through shoutouts in meetings as well as more formal experiential recognition programs. The key is to tie together the efforts that your employees are making with why those efforts are valuable and meaningful on a higher level. 


Best practices: 

  1. Establish spot recognition programs tied to demonstration of company values, or the intangibles most connected to your company’s success. You can learn from our client Medidata in this free Spot Recognition Planning Guide, that walks through their planning, budgeting, and launch for their company-wide spot recognition program.
  2. Create opportunities to share stories and resources as employees learn new things or get inspired (i.e. #books, #podcasts or #articles channels on Slack).

How to measure employee engagement 

When it comes to measuring the impact of your people programs, surveys will likely tell the most holistic story of employee engagement. At Emplify, they use the following framework to guide their surveying process:

  1. Gather feedback from employees. The first step is to put out a survey (or multiple) that gathers as much feedback from your workforce as possible. 
  2. Discover people insights. This feedback, in turn, should reveal specific gaps and provide clarity on what exactly is causing disengagement at your organization. 
  3. Align your executive team. In order to move the culture, your executive team needs to be on the same page. So make sure to provide them with clarity around the data and next steps.
  4. Equip managers to act. Finally, managers need to be looped into the conversation as well so they know exactly what to do at the team-wide level.

Best practices: 

  • Measure the right thing
  • Ensure confidentiality
  • Segment your employee population data to discover department, gender, etc.-specific insights
  • Create a cadence for survey delivery
  • Optimize delivery method to make it easy for everyone to participate

Even though times are challenging right now for your employees, there are things HR leaders can still do to mitigate burnout. Help them remember that their roles are still filled with meaning and purpose with the people programs we recommended, and you’re likely to see higher engagement as a result. 

Seeing and valuing the hard work of your employees through recognition programs is a critical tool for showing that their work is making an impact. If you’re interested in introducing a personalized recognition program to your company, we’d love to connect 1:1 with you (just request a meeting online here). 

Stay tuned for more valuable webinars and upcoming events here on our Resources page - stay well, and we can’t wait to see you again online.

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