Being young and engaged in a world without rules
Bea Boccalandro, an expert in social purpose, recently published Do Good at Work: How Simple Acts of Social Purpose Drive Success and Wellbeing. This book is a particularly inspiring and riveting read for anyone interested in social impact. As founder and president of the global purpose advisory firm, VeraWorks, Bea has two decades of experience helping businesses including Disney, FedEx, HP, PwC, TOMS Shoes, and Toyota. I last worked with Bea several years ago, so it was a pleasure to catch up with her to talk about this book and her most recent work.
Allison: Why did you write Do Good at Work?
Bea: Do Good at Work is meant to catalyze an impact entrepreneurship revolution within the corporate workforce. I want to get a broad swath of workers to read this magazine, to urge their bosses to manage more sustainably, to start a mentoring program for underrepresented minorities, and to otherwise do good from work.
Allison: In Do Good at Work, you introduce the concept of job purposing. What is it?
Author Bea Boccalandro defines “Job Purposing”
Bea: Job purposing is any meaningful contribution to others or to a societal cause done as part of the work experience. Put another way, job purposing is the application of the advice I give in speeches: If your job doesn’t improve the world, improve your job.
Job purposing is any meaningful contribution to others or to a societal cause done as part of the work experience.
Allison: What makes you think it’s possible to get a “broad swath of workers” to job purpose?
Bea: While advising teams and executives charged with their company’s impact entrepreneurship, or ESG (environment social governance), I noticed that some employees well outside this function performed it powerfully. Across all levels and departments, inventive workers quietly job purposed. Julio, a mechanic at a resort, asked the kitchen staff for their used cooking oil because he was refitting engines to run off it. Julio was reducing the property’s carbon footprint. Liz, a middle manager, started every meeting with a team member sharing something about their racial or ethnic background. Liz was building a more inclusive workplace culture. As part of his route, a mail carrier named Frederick rang the doorbell of an elderly individual living alone as though he had a package to deliver. Frederick’s deliverable, however, was a five-minute conversation with a gentleman who might otherwise not talk to anybody face-to-face for weeks at a time.
A rarefied group of people has long job purposed. The main contribution of Do Good at Work is to illuminate the path these workplace purpose pioneers have cleared so that others can follow.
Allison: Why does job purposing matter?
Author Bea Boccalandro discusses Passion vs. Purpose in professional life
Bea: Job purposing is the Swiss Army knife of workplace practices. For anybody who considers widespread impact entrepreneurship necessary to overcome the frightening suite of grave societal issues that plagues us, job purposing is a way to get there sooner. It multiplies the positive impact business has on societal causes by enrolling the entire workforce in doing good.
Yet, job purposing is also an effective tool for any manager, whether they see the need for impact entrepreneurship or not. Research shows that when employees job purpose as Julio, Liz and Frederick do, they boost their employee engagement, productivity, and retention. Furthermore, companies in which job purposing is routine outperform the market in terms of sales, profitability, and stock performance.
Furthermore, companies in which job purposing is routine outperform the market in terms of sales, profitability, and stock performance.
Finally, job purposing serves those performing it. My research and that of others finds that even a few minutes of job purposing a week ignites a sense of meaning in employees that increases their work satisfaction, professional success, health, and happiness.
Job purposing drives societal good, business success, and personal wellness. After looking at the full complement of evidence, not job purposing seems downright irrational.
Allison: I’ve worked with a lot of companies on the business impacts of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, and I see a lot of parallels between the business impacts of CSR and the business impacts of job purposing.
Bea: Yes! CSR that engages employees is a form of job purposing and, thus, triggers the above benefits and has the same business case.
Allison: How is job purposing different from social intrapreneurship?
Bea: While I’m an advocate for social intrapreneurship, it’s a bit too formal to resonate with those outside our field. A generally accepted definition of social intrapreneurship is a “discretionary and informal employee-led process of identification and exploitation of entrepreneurial opportunities that address social or environmental challenges while contributing to the objectives of established organizations”1.
I doubt I would enroll anybody by saying “Look! Julio is identifying and exploiting entrepreneurial opportunities that address social or environmental challenges while contributing to the company’s objectives. Want to try it?” On the other hand, a colloquial appeal might work, “Julio meaningfully contributes to others and to societal causes. You can too!”
For anybody who considers widespread impact entrepreneurship necessary to overcome the frightening suite of grave societal issues that plagues us, job purposing is a way to get there sooner.
In other words, job purposing can be considered social intrapreneurship’s laid-back cousin. Job purposing doesn’t need to support a formal social or environmental challenge. It can just help customers feel less alone in the world. It doesn’t have to contribute to business objectives. As long as it doesn’t get you fired, it works. You get the idea. Job purposing is a version of social intrapreneurship that has low barriers to entry. It’s meant to start people on a purpose-directed workplace journey. It’s the starting point to more sophisticated ways of doing good at work.
Allison: Is it working? Is Do Good at Work catalyzing an ‘impact entrepreneurship revolution’ from within the corporate workforce?
Bea: It’s too early to tell, but there are some hopeful signs that Do Good at Work is adding to the many forces that nudge people toward impact entrepreneurship. I recently received a note from a construction manager, Mark, saying that he and his deputy listened to the book during the many hours they spend driving between construction sites. Midway through the book they came up with the idea of picking up illegally dumped items on the side of roads they traveled as part of work. He ended the note with “There’s now a streamside 12-mile stretch of road in my hometown that, for the first time in my life, is pristine!” Stories like this fill me with hope.
1 (Source: Elisa Alt and Thijs Geradts, “Social Intrapreneurship: Unique Challenges and Opportunities for Future Research,” Academy of Management Proceedings, 2019.)
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