What Makes a Top Employee?

The Answers May Surprise You

Take a moment to imagine someone who works with Purpose. What profession comes to mind? Is it a doctor? Teacher? Maybe a social worker?

When asked to imagine someone who works with Purpose, it is natural and easy to think of someone within a service-oriented field. Yet, most of us realize that the true Purpose-oriented worker doesn’t fit this standard ideological imagery. Instead, those of us who are driven by Purpose should be a little more broadly defined.

That is exactly what the social enterprise startup Imperative, in partnership with NYU, discovered when they conducted the first ever study on the state of Purpose across the U.S. workforce.

This study, which has since become known as the Purpose Workforce Index, was designed to identify Purpose-oriented workers and then compare their performance and job satisfaction against their non-Purpose-oriented peers.

What the study uncovered is that Purpose-oriented workers account for 28% of the total workforce (or more specifically, 48 million U.S workers), and those workers come from all walks of life, working and thriving in every industry — from the accountants at professional service firms to metal workers building America to the farmers growing our food, Purpose-oriented workers can be found everywhere.

Perhaps, most notably, there was no connection between Purpose and a fancy job title or service profession. Instead, those individuals who reported as receiving a sense of fulfillment from their job were the ones who felt like their actions made impact – regardless of whether this was for a client, peer, company or community.

Building Off Employee Engagement

Gallup introduced the concept of employee engagement – a critical measurement for identifying if employees are enthusiastic and committed to their work.

The concept of a Purpose driven workforce takes this measurement a step further. Instead of drawing a direct connection between the employee and their workplace, the research suggests that Purpose is an inherent trait, not a state that is affected by the environment. According to Imperative’s Purpose Workforce Index Report, “if a person begins their career Purpose-oriented, they will likely remain so through retirement.”

The Value of a Purpose-Oriented Workforce

In the simplest of terms, this confirms what most of us have always know: the people who embody the company culture, live by the mission, and drive performance are not doing it for just a paycheck. Instead, to them their work is a path to personal fulfillment.

The proof of this value of can be found in the numbers. During the Purpose Workforce Index Study, Purpose-oriented workers outperformed their peers on just about every metric. They were:

  • 20% longer expected tenure
  • 50% more likely to be in leadership
  • 47% more likely to be promoters of their employers
  • 64% more likely to find fulfillment in their job

Of course, those numbers only tell a fragment of the story. To get the broader perspective on the value of Purpose at work, we invite you to visit imperative.com/index to download the complete report.


The Purpose at Work Journal provides business leaders with actionable insights and transformative tools to help their organizations do good to do well. This concept, that strengthening the community and the bottom line are not mutually exclusive, is a developing trend in the business world.

The Purpose at Work Journal is powered by BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence who strengthens the leadership and expands the capacity of hundreds of nonprofits in Northeast Ohio, while enabling businesses and employers to build strategic, powerful and enduring relationships with the community.

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