There are countless studies that connect happiness at work with increased productivity. Consequently, there are companies offering free snacks and enticing trips as a way to boost happiness on the job—but is that the path to happiness and productivity? There’s growing research that purpose is really the missing ingredient. 

Happy team members are usually connected to a deep purpose, and companies that are able to connect purpose to their work have some of the happiest and most dedicated staff members.

Robert E. Quinn, in his book The Economics of Higher Purpose, says employees who are fully connected to a higher purpose at work give freely of their time, talents, insights, and abilities. As a result, the individual and the company benefit. Purpose isn’t a lofty goal, it’s a sound business strategy that helps retain employees and attract new people eager to work for a purpose-driven organization.

In her book, Dare to Serve, Cheryl Bachelder shares the story of a successful and dedicated fast food worker. This employee found deep purpose and meaning in her work. She wasn’t focused on her daily tasks—selling food—but on the greater mission in her work, which was about helping young people get their first jobs and learn life skills. That purpose brought her joy and created a positive working environment for her co-workers and staff, and greater productivity.

Everyone isn’t able to connect to purpose at work as easily as the woman Cheryl met. That’s where leaders come in.

Having company values is a great way to connect the tasks to a greater purpose, but it’s more than hanging a plaque on the wall or posting values on the company website. It’s about living those values every day and connecting the dots between those values and the greater purpose of the work.

There are terrific resources available to help leaders make purpose a part of work, but the first step is to talk about it. Purpose isn’t going to just happen. As leaders, it is our responsibility to talk openly about the company values and purpose with our teams. This doesn’t mean having a task force work on a company mission statement. It means getting input from the entire team about the deeper purpose of the work, and finding a way to communicate the purpose meaningfully and talking about purpose every single day.

What are you doing to create a purpose-driven organization?