Finding Purpose and Engagement at Work

Most of us will spend about a third of our lives at work. (That’s literally thousands of Monday mornings.) So being engaged and passionate about what we do can really impact our quality of life. 

Your ideal job should give you a feeling of purpose and allow you to engage in interesting work with people you like (or can at least tolerate) and bosses that respect you and treat you well. If one or more of those factors aren’t hitting the mark, you could be at risk for disengagement.

The employee experience

According to Gallup, the employee experience is the journey you take with an organization and how you experience your workplace. There are three main stages that capture the day-to-day experiences of employees:

  1. Employee engagement
  2. Performance
  3. Development

All the interactions you have with your employer, from the day you’re hired to the day you leave are part of your experience as an employee. This includes tangible things like the tools or technologies you use, and the intangible, like how you feel about the company’s purpose or the relationship between you and your manager. All of these things impact your engagement, how well you perform at your job, and your professional development.

Employee engagement 

We know it’s one of the three main factors that make up the employee experience, but what does it mean to be an engaged employee? How do you know if you’re engaged?

Quantum Workplace defines employee engagement as “the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward the work they do, their teams, and their organization” — it’s essentially how an employee feels about their work and their organization. Engaged employees are more productive, stay at their companies longer, and motivate the people around them. 

Gallup says, “an engaged employee shows up physically, emotionally, and cognitively. They are enthusiastic about what they have to do, and they naturally find ways to improve performance and excel. In short, engaged employees generate most of the creativity, innovation, and excellence in your organization.”


Employee engagement’s cousin-that’s-almost-like-a-sibling is performance, another key ingredient to employee experience. Quantum workplace found that 92% of business execs believe engaged employees perform better and create better outcomes for their businesses.

Think of performance as a key metric for engagement — the more engaged you are, the better your job performance will be. It’s what you’re judged on and what your employer will evaluate as they consider you for promotions or raises. 

But while most people want to perform at their best, it’s not just up to the employee to magically become a high performer. Employers need to provide the resources, environment, and motivation that enable people to do their best work.


One of the main factors involved in motivating and equipping individuals to perform at a high level is professional development. Learning and growing is an important piece of the employee engagement puzzle. Most (but not all) people desire some level of personal or professional development in their careers. 

Even if you’re not interested in climbing the corporate ladder or pursuing a new career path, you probably still want to grow as a person and learn new skills or flex different cognitive muscles at work. Some of these opportunities you’ll have to seek out on your own, but an organization with leaders who care about their employees’ professional development will help you find those opportunities and give you the freedom to try new things — even if that means you’ll eventually outgrow your current job responsibilities.

Mission & purpose

Countless studies have concluded that there are some things that matter more to employees than just making money. One of those factors — particularly for millennials, today’s largest segment of employees — is a company’s mission and values. 

Many of us want to work for an organization that has a clear mission that aligns with our own personal values. We want to be inspired to do our best work, and know we’re contributing to a cause greater than ourselves.

According to Gallup, these feelings directly affect employee engagement, retention, performance, and development. Their research shows that one-third of employees strongly agree that the mission and purpose of their organization makes them feel that their job is important. They also found that companies with an increased focus on mission and purpose have seen a 51% reduction in absenteeism, a 64% drop in safety incidents, and a 29% improvement in quality of work.

Take control of your engagement 

If you’re feeling a lack of motivation or interest in your work, you might be disengaged. Sometimes these feelings come and go, but sometimes, they can be indicators of something more serious, like employee burnout

Career expert Mary Ellen Slayter shared some tips with for pulling yourself out of a disengagement slump:

See the bigger picture. Connect yourself and your job to the larger organization. Think about how the work you’re doing fits into the greater mission of the company and refocus yourself around what matters.

Take a break. Disengagement can be your body’s way of telling you it’s time for a break. Take a vacation or even one day off to recharge your batteries.

Change up your routine. This is a big one, especially coming out of the pandemic. Your disengagement could be rooted in boredom, so learn a new skill or raise your hand for a different type of project that gets your creative juices flowing. 

Consider mentoring. Get reinvigorated in your work by sharing your knowledge and skills with others. (Or, find a mentor for yourself to help inspire you.) Read our checklist for finding or becoming a great mentor.

Speak up. When something’s bothering you at work, address it head on rather than letting it stew. Not addressing problems and giving candid feedback to others when needed can lead to resentment, and eventually, disengagement.  

Look elsewhere. If you’ve tried all these tactics and still feel disengaged at work, it might be time to think about a change. If your needs aren’t being met where you’re at, you might find a better, more engaging employee experience somewhere else.

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