Your Business Case For Building Employee Mental Wealth with Purpose

By Mark Griffin

At PurposeFused, we take a foundational approach to mental health, wellbeing, performance and impact. Together. Our approach, unsurprisingly, is grounded in purpose. Our definition of purpose is:

“An intentional approach to living where we align and apply our passions towards our desired impact.”

The simple formula for discovering and living your purpose is:

Passion + Impact + Application (more here).

  1. Passion includes things you care about, what you believe in, what you’re good at, things that energize you / you enjoy;
  2. Impact is the positive difference you want to leave on “Me, We, and the World” – ‘Me’ being you; ‘We’ being those closest to you (e.g. friends and family) and those you interact with the most (e.g. colleagues, teammates); ‘World’ being as big as you want it to be (e.g. from a local community / cause, to solving global warming).
  3. Application is how you bring you passion and impact to life, on a day-to-day basis. So, what are the things intersecting from above and how can you put them into practice?

Purpose & Mental Wealth:

We consider Mental Wealth to be:

“Our ability to manage our thoughts and emotions to adapt and react to challenges in a way that aligns with and advances our purpose and principles.”

This highlights the value in the “intentionality” component of purpose above. At the heart of the purpose model are three outcomes: inspiration (at minimum positive energy & excitement), fulfillment and happiness. The more intentional we are in seeking and experiencing these three outcomes regularly in life, the more likely we are to build our mental wealth!

Here’s some research from the National Journal of Medicine to back that up[1]:

  1. Health and Longevity: Purpose predicts better health and longevity.
  2. Resilience: Finding meaning builds resilience to life’s challenges.
  3. Stress Reframing: Purpose helps reframe stressful situations and past traumas.
  4. Coping Mechanism: Purpose buffers negative events and strengthens coping mechanisms.
  5. Aging: Purpose can slow aging and extend life.

As employers, we have a responsibility to our people to support each of these critical elements above. We are one of the main influencers as to whether or not people live healthy, happy, fulfilling lives. Incidentally, here’s an article and practical model for finding more happiness in life from our Partner Nell Derick Debevoise.

Build Mental Wealth, Increase Commercial Value:

Purpose is one of three core drivers of retention according to a recent survey by Great Place to Work (Jan 2024). The other two being “Pride” and “Fun.”

Working on individual purpose can promote all three. How?  Based upon our own client work, we have seen that having an individual sense of purpose increases people’s engagement, pride and commitment to their work. It significantly improves productivity (in a regenerative way) and increases peoples’ confidence in their career progression. Also, as they are more intentionally focusing the time and energy to their best-self contributions, it’s more fun!

Here’s a tangible case for the CFOs:

An effective individual purpose program can save over $3.75M annually for 250 employees. Consider they each repurpose 6.5 hours/week from low-impact activities to high-impact activities (which is the average for the hundreds of people we have done this with). Assume an average $100k salary—this translates to 75,000 hours repurposed annually, or $3.75M. So, we can either flush 10,275 dollar bills down the toilet every day for sub-optimal, negative / neutral energy contributions, or we can transform those contributions into best-self profit generating activities. Further, beyond the aforementioned savings, we have a profit multiplier through increased engagement, commitment, and empowerment.

Win for the CFO. Win for all your people. Win for your business, stakeholders and society.

What to focus on:

At PurposeFused, we always bring things back to their foundational elements. Often, we see leaders focused on solving the observable problems without understanding the root causes. As humans, everything comes down to one or more of the following fundamental human development needs. Most observable problems (if you ask why enough times) will boil down to these (this includes our Mental Wealth). The following all sit on top of a foundation of psychological (and physical) safety and security:

1. Connection & Belonging: Fostering a sense of community within the organization.

2. Value Contribution: Empowering individuals to take pride in their contributions as meaningful and impactful.

3. Meaning: Cultivating an awareness of outcomes and purpose resulting from daily activities.

4. Recognition: Acknowledging and appreciating individuals for their contributions.

5. Autonomy & Growth: Crafting a clear path forward with the support, challenges, and freedom they need to pursue their potential.

Discovering and living our purpose enables us to:

  1. identify and apply our own unique gifts and talents (which drive our contributions);
  2. have more meaningful conversations that are the driver for connection and belonging;
  3. guide us in articulating our best path forward by confidently communicating what autonomy and growth looks like; and finally;
  4. enrich our empathy for others and capacity for recognizing the difference they make.

Of course you can (and should) provide great benefits, gym membership credits, perhaps offer healthy food, ping pong, yoga, socials and I’m guessing now even, perhaps, pickleball at work. These are all great. But we consider these “7th floor benefits.” You first need the safety, security and 5 other elements organically integrated into your culture below, for the 7th floor to not collapse.

Three approaches for building Mental Wealth:

1. Invest in Self-awareness, Happiness, and Clarity of Purpose:

  • Self-reflection builds self-awareness, the first step to meaningful change.
  • Greater self-awareness increases motivation for change and ability to focus on happiness, meaning, and impact.

2. Align Strengths, Passions, and Energy Toward Team Goals:

  • Recognizing individual and team impact provides clarity and motivation.
  • Aligning passions with contributions optimizes performance and wellbeing.

3. Normalize Discussion, Accountability, and Metrics:

  • Work-life harmony, mastery, and a purposeful future have shown up consistently as common client goals.
  • Start with meaningful conversations, co-design goals, and measure what matters most.

This starts with meaningful conversations. Showing we care. Asking about what people care about, what growth looks like to them, what their ideal role would be? Helping co-design goals and milestones towards each of these things. Then, supporting them, while asking for feedback on how we’re doing. Measure what matters most (and that includes repurposing of hours).

Ask for recommendations or insights on how we could do it better together. It’s a partnership which works cohesively towards our desired organizational and individual objectives and outcomes.

Final thoughts:

The business case for building mental wealth starts with our responsibility to do the right thing for the people we employ, which in turn benefits society at large. It also makes great commercial sense for engagement, commitment, productivity, and retention. We need to get to the foundational elements and consider each authentically.

Start with the basics (normalizing meaningful conversation). Work towards happiness and fulfillment, through role re-design. You can invest in a number of short-term fixes, of course, but focusing on the steps mentioned above to unlock your people’s purpose will break even in a few months and set a flywheel of regenerative energy in motion that will build value and deliver impact for years after.

Additional Resources:

  1. What the Greeks can teach us about happiness
  2. If your Mental Health is Waning, Consider your Purpose (part 1)
  3. If your Mental Health is Waning, Consider your Purpose (part 2)

Sources:

[1] Purpose in Life Predicts Better Emotional Recovery from Negative Stimuli

Stacey M. Schaefer, 1 , 2 , 3 , * Jennifer Morozink Boylan, 4 Carien M. van Reekum, 6 Regina C. Lapate, 1 , 2 , 3 Catherine J. Norris, 7 Carol D. Ryff, 1 , 5 and Richard J. Davidson 1 , 2 , 3 Kevin Paterson, Editor