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Shaping the future of work with purpose: Insights from Adam Grant and Alexi Robichaux

January 23, 2024 - 6 min read
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    BetterUp CEO and co-founder Alexi Robichaux sat down with organizational psychologist, author, and BetterUp Science Board Member Adam Grant to discuss the role that purpose plays in building a future-ready workplace. 

    Here are the top 5 insights from their conversation: 

    Leaders need to help employees connect their roles to impact

    Leaders often try to create purpose through meaningful mission statements, but most people struggle to connect their jobs and daily actions to them. When it comes to purpose, leaders need to help link individual roles to their impact on stakeholders and teammates. A key responsibility for managers is to work with their direct reports to determine how their role connects to broader organizational goals.

    “Look at all of the jobs your employees do and ask if each of those jobs didn't exist, who would be worse off? The people that you come up with, their stories, their faces, their names, need to be known and shared in the organization. That's where a lot of purpose comes from.”

     Adam Grant

    The best managers are future-minded coaches

    Frontline managers impact employee performance and well-being to a much greater degree than any other organizational factor. They now need to provide clarity and direction more frequently and adapt to rapidly changing priorities, challenges, and complexities in the workplace. 

    Two of the most vital behaviors? Listening and asking questions. Managers who practice active and empathetic listening, coupled with asking thoughtful and clarifying questions, empower team members to solve problems and innovate. By embracing the role of a future-minded coach, managers help their team members navigate the uncertainty of today’s workplace.

    Employees should be architects of their roles

    “People already have a sense of purpose around strengths they want to develop and deploy. But they're often given a job that wasn't customized to them so they don't know where to begin."

     Adam Grant

    Tailoring roles can significantly impact engagement and organizational success. By aligning roles with strengths and potential, employees develop a more profound sense of ownership and commitment. Instead of accepting a generic job description, they become personally and professionally engaged in a role that fits their strengths, values, and interests. 

    In doing so, they become active architects of how their work supports the business. Amy Wrzesniewski, Jane Dutton, and Justin Berg developed a job crafting tool to help reimagine your job as a flexible set of building blocks designed to support your values, strengths, and passions. When people see their roles as a reflection of their personal purpose, they perform better. This personalized approach also benefits the organization by leveraging unique talents and perspectives.

    The value of character skills is increasing

    “Business is the only endeavor we perform without practice.”

     Alexi Robichaux

    Character skills, often called “soft skills,” are often more predictive of long-term success than cognitive skills. One effective way to cultivate character skills is through coaching. A study involving 1,500 entrepreneurs demonstrated this. Those coached on character skills saw a 30% increase in business profits over two years, which was nearly triple the benefit of traditional business training. Proactivity, discipline, and determination are not just values but skills that can be developed throughout life.

    Now, more than ever, these character skills are becoming crucial in the AI era of the modern workplace. As Grant pointed out — "character skills are harder to automate." This transition marks a significant shift in what is valued in the workforce, with a growing focus on skills that technology cannot easily replicate.

    Leveraging AI as an accelerant to finding purpose

    What do we say to workforces fearful that a technological revolution will displace their jobs? Many people fear that technology will disrupt their sense of purpose.

    However, new research suggests that identifying tasks beyond AI's capabilities might enhance employees' sense of meaning and purpose at work. In the state of today's workforce, employees and leaders alike should recognize and lean into the challenges and capabilities that AI can unlock. It's through a braiding of human and artificial intelligence that the intersection of supercharged performance lies. Understanding the human side of AI allows us to pinpoint our unique contributions (like complex problem-solving, emotional intelligence, ethical judgment, and more) while propelling our businesses forward in intelligent and efficient ways. Leaders, and BetterUp Coaches, play a crucial role in helping individuals find their distinctive value in areas where technology cannot replicate human skills. Identifying where you have unique value to add and where you're replaceable is where the strongest sense of purpose emerges.

    “Humans quickly start to figure out what robots suck at — and then excel in those tasks.”

     Adam Grant

    As we navigate the future of work, it's clear that purpose-driven, human-centric approaches are more important than ever. Anchoring our efforts in purpose amidst heightened levels of change and uncertainty not only enhances performance but also ensures that our work remains deeply human.

    Uplift 2024


    Transform your life

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    Transform your life

    Make meaningful changes and become the best version of yourself. BetterUp's professional Coaches are here to support your personal growth journey.

    Published January 23, 2024

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