CX Insight: What Is The Purpose Of My Work?


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What Is The Purpose Of My Work
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In this week’s CX Insight I reflect on an article I read recently in the New York Times Magazine, ‘The Future of Work’. The article explores a prevailing workplace sentiment – what is the purpose of my work? Published earlier this year, the piece provided an opportunity for reflection on the value of purpose; specifically for this CX Insight, customer-led purpose.

“I feel like I’m wasting my life,” he told me. “When I die, is anyone going to care that I earned an extra percentage point of return? My work feels totally meaningless.”

The author of the article points to a discussion with Professor of Management at the University of California, Berkeley, Barry Schwartz, who says, “Workers want to feel that their labors are meaningful. We want to feel that we’re making the world better, even if it’s as small a matter as helping a shopper find the right product in a grocery store.”

With decades of research available on how to make work better for employees and working with hundreds of organisations over the past 20 plus years, I have found that organisations for the most part are still reliant on archaic methods of employee engagement.

Vision statements that are too often about the business and not about delivering greater value for people, values that look good on paper but don’t inform culture and behaviours, an emphasis on serving shareholders and stakeholders rather than customers, siloed goals and incentives that remunerate on individual performance rather than collaboration of effort – the list goes on.

“You can be a salesperson, or a toll collector, but if you see your goal as solving people’s problems, then each day presents 100 opportunities to improve someone’s life, and your satisfaction increases dramatically,” Schwartz says.

In most cases my work with CEO’s and their leadership teams to connect customer and culture and empower customer-centric growth starts with deep customer understanding. Many executives and managers I talk with admit to having never spoken with a customer, others are so bogged down in running the day-to-day they tell me “that they just don’t have the time anymore.”

Customer connection is the foundation for exploring and developing customer purpose. Understanding a customer’s needs delivers meaning. In my experience, there is no greater purpose than making a difference in customers’ lives – that is, solving customers’ problems.

Purpose provides employees with a higher ideal. When weaved into the central fabric of a business’s culture it informs how employees think, act and communicate. It comes not from what they do, but ‘why’ they do it. Purpose builds authenticity and shapes culture, behaviour and rituals; positively impacting employee experiences.

The intent to make a difference in customers’ lives is the expression of customer purpose. Purpose is an organisation-wide commitment to a culture of customer centricity; putting their customer at the centre of their thinking, problem solving and decision making. When we give our day-to-day work meaning, and we are united and aligned in solving customer problems, it delivers greater satisfaction in our jobs.

New York Times Magazine, The Future of Work

Alex Allwood
My focus is connecting customer and culture to empower customer-centric growth; fostering a culture of customer centricity, building team capability and helping transform customer experiences. With a 20 year track record in leadership, operations and marketing, my strength is developing customer experience strategy: customer understanding and empathy, experience vision and guiding principles and the customer narrative. I am the principal of the CX consultancy, All Work Together; authored the books, Customer Empathy (2019) and Customer Experience is the Brand (2015).


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