In 1961 while John F Kennedy was visiting NASA, he came across an employee in the hallway. Making small talk, JFK casually asked what the man did at NASA. He replied: ‘I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr President.’ [1]

After noticing the broom in the employee’s hand, JFK asked a little more about his role and the man explained that he was the janitor.

A company where the cleaner feels just as connected to its purpose as the CEO. Imagine that.

Whether it’s starting a new business, making your way up the career ladder or trying out a new hobby—having a sense of purpose in anything you do is essential. With purpose comes motivation, engagement, and loyalty—an asset in employees.

At 3R Strategy, we refer to our purpose as the ‘why’.

The science behind our why

When we talk about our purpose, or why we believe in something, it triggers communication with the limbic brain. This is part of the brain that controls behaviour, decision making, and helps build trust.

Talking about what we do communicates with the neocortex brain. That is the bit that deals with rational thought. The analytical, thinking part of the brain.

So, when we start with our why, we’re communicating with the part of the brain that influences behaviour and builds trust. This is so much more powerful than communicating through facts, figures and rationality.

So, let’s start with why

If you don’t already know, our mission at 3R Strategy is to help organisations build a culture of trust through pay transparency. When tackling anything to do with pay transparency, it’s important that we start with why.

We need to communicate effectively and honestly with people so that we start by building trust.

sense of purpose in the workplace

The truth is that leaders of companies often get nervous about the prospect of transparency. This is because they’re thinking about the numbers, details and pay ranges. They’re overanalysing things with that neocortex brain.

But if we start with why, it allows us to enter conversations with a greater understanding. It’s time to think about:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Why do we pay people the way we do?
  • Why should pay progress in our company?
  • Why do we have pay transparency?

Employees are not as interested in the actual numbers as they are in knowing that they’re being treated fairly. The whole journey starts with why and should end with equal pay for equal work.

We’re becoming more transparent because we want people to understand where they fit into the organisation and how they can progress their pay if they stay with us. All of this helps to build trust with our loyal employees.

Now what?

It’s only once we’ve gone through the whys and we’ve built this trust that we should then think about what we’re actually doing. Now we can start implementing and sharing pay ranges and budgets.

Having a well-defined pay philosophy that aligns with your organisation’s purpose (your why) is also a crucial step in this journey. This can guide you towards what those pay practices should look like, fosters accountability, helps create a positive organisational culture, and builds trust through pay transparency.

Looking for purpose

When we don’t find a sense of purpose or a why in the workplace, people often go and look for it elsewhere. Some achieve this through volunteering, whereas others begin to wonder whether finding a new job is the answer.

Having a sense of purpose in the workplace comes from working for an organisation with a vision you identify with. Younger generations are even valuing a sense of purpose over pay for the first time. In fact, a study from the Society for Human Resource Management tells us that 94% of Millennials want to use their skills to benefit a cause. [2]

People are now willing to sacrifice pay to work in an environment where they have a sense of purpose.

However, we shouldn’t have to compromise on pay to find our why at work. The two should go together.

As a result, starting with why when looking into pay transparency can significantly improve your organisation’s ability to attract and retain loyal, skilled employees.

In conclusion

By being transparent about the factors that influence pay, organisations can build trust with their employees and foster a more positive work environment. Especially as younger generations begin to dominate the workforce, we should be matching their priorities and starting with why.

Pay transparency can also help organisations identify and correct pay disparities. Achieving equal pay for equal work and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion often make up the why of an organisation’s pay decisions.

[1] Simon Sinek, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action

[2] Gurchiek, K, Millennial’s desire to do good defines workplace culture