Mapping a New Marketplace On-Purpose

05/12/2015 01:56 pm ET | Updated May 12, 2016

The 80 million millennials now inhabiting the U.S. are the largest generation in history. According to Forbes contributor Micah Solomon, this group is estimated to spend $200 billion in 2017 and $10 trillion over their lifetimes in the US alone.

Their preferences and choices are redefining the marketplace. Millennials are less interested in owning a house or a car than they are in living, working and consuming according to their values. This group is shaping not only the possibilities for what we do at work, but more importantly how we work.

Take Kristen's story as an example. She told me: "I started at that company because their products help the environment. Still, I was bored, so I quit. I need to find a job that speaks to me."

At The Conscious Business Network in Chicago last week, I talked with Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy, about Kristen's attitude toward her job. He said that what is most important to millennials is finding personal purpose and working in a way that aligns with it.

In his presentation, Hurst outlined the common myths about purpose, among which were that: only some people have a purpose; we discover our purpose when it hits us like lightning one day; or that purpose has to do with believing in a cause.

In fact, Hurst's research shows that people like Kristen demonstrate that even cause-driven companies may not speak to the individual purpose of its workers. Hurst encourages each individual to identify his purpose and then see how or if the business supports him in realizing it.

It struck me as interesting that, in the last few decades of working with companies in large-scale change, my company and many others have been supporting the same alignment that Hurst advocates, only we did it through collaborative strategy planning that integrated purpose from the top down.

At an organizational level, the most important way to connect the dots from personal purpose to strategic purpose is to authentically care about each opinion and demonstrate through collaborative processes that each contribution matters.

In our process, that meant including all relevant decision makers and then the whole organization in creating a vision worth coming to work for and a mission clear enough to distinguish its uniqueness. Then its gets even more personal: making values come alive for all people and parts of the organization.

Values are the glue of the culture. They are the reason we feel on-purpose and in alignment or not. They promote an environment of safety that fuels innovation, intuition and the creative process or they don't.

Fred Hartman, CEO of Integrity Wall Panel, told me that his company almost went bankrupt several years ago because he refused to work with partners, clients or suppliers that were dishonest or untrue to their word. Now that's putting your money where your values are!

Conscious business cultures are co-created through values-processes that include everyone from janitors to the CEO, discovering together which values help the company move toward its vision and help it achieve its mission. In addition, people in every department explore how the values specifically apply to their most significant decisions.

When recruiting systems align with a company's values, each new candidate hears about the vision, mission, and values. Final selection of candidates considers both job qualifications as well as the candidate's enthusiasm and potential contribution and engagement in the intentionally designed culture.

So does collaborative strategy planning align individual purpose with organizational purpose?

Millennials will let us know. In the meantime, at his website Imperative.com, Hurst offers a free assessment for determining personal purpose.

Perhaps the new marketplace that is being shaped by this values-driven generation invites us to consciously architect companies that reflect a powerful purpose and supporting culture as well as to include the examination of personal purpose for each potential employee. One thing is clear: we have most certainly entered The Purpose Economy.

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