Employees today aren’t just looking for a paycheck and a prestigious job title – they’re looking for work that fits with their personal goals and sense of purpose, both on and off the job. As employers and recruiters shift to meet these changing demands from talent, they’ll need to spend some time figuring out how best to highlight the most meaningful aspects of roles in order to attract top talent.


What Does Purpose Mean?

According to psychologist Anthony Burrow, a Cornell professor and head of the Purpose and Identity Processes lab, we can view purpose as “a self-organizing life aim. It is a view ahead—something you’re looking forward to and working toward. We think of it as a gaze that remains in front of you even as you’re moving forward. It’s not an accomplishment that has a terminal outcome. It’s bigger than that; it helps you organize your goals and know what to pursue next.”

Purpose, then, is not “just” a straightforward goal; rather it is better described as the motivating forces and overarching themes driving those specific goals. It’s more of a source of ongoing meaning and development, which is then expressed through more specific actions and choices. Whereas goals tend to be results-driven and finite, purpose is more about values and ideas, and it is more likely to stretch over a longer time and even evolve.

When you have a sense of purpose, you also may be better equipped to face challenging times, whether “you” are an individual or a whole organization. Burrow’s research suggests that one particular benefit of having a sense of purpose is experiencing a sense of “psychological homeostasis,” even when things around us are uncertain. A sense of purpose can help us feel like we’re still on solid ground, whatever the world throws at us. People who say they feel more of a sense of purpose in their lives are able to feel less shaken when they encounter changes or uncomfortable moments, which can help them adapt and improve as needed.


Purpose and Healthcare Recruiting

Today’s healthcare professionals are growing ever more discerning than ever when considering where they want to work. While a sense of passion and purpose tends to drive the decision to even enter these professions, workers are looking specifically for organizations that will support them in that purpose and view them as individuals. The best matches happen when case managers and organizations align on expectations of purpose, culture, and overall values.

The experts at Strategy + Business and PwC have noted that “more clients’ hiring discussions and decisions take into account a candidate’s life goals and desired experiences, and how the organization – and its purpose – can help the individual achieve them.” When case managers join a healthcare organization, they’re often driven by both personal ambitions to advance in their careers and a desire to advocate for patients. Both factors can play into can relate to a sense of purpose, and it’s important for recruiters to find ways to convey the most attractive aspects of the job while also managing concerns over caseload and burnout.

The idea of staying with one organization for a long time is less common today, too. Rather than viewing a career as climbing the ladder progressively at one organization, today’s professionals are more likely to explore outside moves in order to address their own shifting needs and overall purpose.

Just as core values relate to purpose, they also can determine whether or not a candidate accepts a role or stays long-term. One LinkedIn study found several indicators of just how important values alignment is:

  • 71% of employees would take a pay cut if it meant working for a company whose mission and values they share.
  • 39% of employees would leave their current jobs if asked or required to do something that conflicted with their values.
  • 47% of employees feel proudest when they work for companies that foster a culture where they truly can be themselves, and 46% say they are proudest to work at companies that have a positive impact on society.

Case management is a particularly purpose-driven field, with employees leaning on their passion for the role even when things get challenging. By the same token, however, organizations that are successful at recruiting and retaining top talent are the ones that have a clear sense of their own purpose – and how it fits into employees’ personal journeys – and find ways to convey that to candidates from the very beginning.


Purpose Throughout Life

The idea of staying with one or two companies (or even careers) is no longer the norm for today’s healthcare professionals. Instead, they’re pursuing roles that align with their broader sense of purpose, which naturally changes throughout the course of their lives. A career is more about the ongoing learning that happens over the course of a lifetime, with individuals pursuing personal meaning and satisfaction through the lens of their work.

Case management itself may be part of those individual decisions, as it is often a career move for those in nursing and similar professions who are looking for new challenges and new meaning in their work. In general, today’s organizations should be re-evaluating the very concept of career and mobility. Some people may still want the traditional, straight-up career ladder, but others may prefer to move around within and across different segments of an organization, or even leave for a different company altogether. Offering new and creative career paths that allow individuals more autonomy in pursuing personal purpose – while still aligning with the organization’s overall mission – could be the key to retaining top talent.

The very idea of purpose, and what drives it, is likely to change as a person learns, grows, and ages. In that regard, organizations, careers, and individuals are not so different. By building purpose into career pathing and recruiting from the start, organizations are more likely to come out ahead in the race for talent, and individuals are more likely to view their work as truly meaningful in the long term.

By Tom Zeleny, NHA