We hear this word a lot but what does it mean? For me, purpose transcends P&L’s, balance sheets and EBITDA calculations. It allows us to accomplish something important that will positively affect many lives. Purpose takes collective effort: It cannot be achieved alone. It’s the reason why we spend so much time away from our families to do this thing called “work.” It’s the reason why we are late for soccer games, family dinners, birthday parties, parental visits, daycare pick-ups, vet appointments, and so on. Purpose is also the reason why we sometimes question our priorities and life choices.
While it’s challenging, pursuing our purpose is also the reason we feel alive, lucky, connected, fortunate, blessed and that we matter. It fills us with the magical, curative feeling of hope, like we might be able to actually do significant things in this lifetime that make both us, and those around us, better. Purpose allows us to feel comfortable when we look in the mirror and great when we look into the faces of others who appreciate our purpose.
On March 5th, 2019, Milton Moskowitz died at age 91. While you might not recognize his name, in 1984 he and Robert Levering wrote the best-selling book that became the Fortune magazine Best Companies list in 1998. It also accidentally created a business called Great Place to Work®.
These men spent their lives writing about social justice, non-violence, environmentalism and labor justice. Their purpose was not to develop surveys or lists. As Milt wrote in The Times in 1973, “The theory, which I subscribe to, is that companies blessed with socially-sensitive managements will over the long-term outperform their competitors. They will do so because they are more attuned to the needs of society.” He went on to develop the field of social responsibility, always with a focus on the bottom-line.
I met Milt when he was 89. He would take naps mid-sentence, but he assured me that it wasn’t because I was boring. When I told him about adding “FOR ALL” to Great Place to Work®’s mission statement, he enthusiastically said, “I love it…that is exactly what we were trying to do… I love it.” At that moment I didn’t feel like an innovator. Rather, I felt like a continuator.
From day one, the purpose of Great Place to Work® was not to build a survey or to produce lists, just like your purpose is not simply to clean hotel rooms, write code, sell products, or gain market share. At Great Place to Work®, our purpose is to make a difference by working with you to create Great Places to Work FOR ALL. That's why we walk around jet-lagged and why our kids sometimes wear mismatched socks to school. But the tradeoffs are worth it. We believe that we’re living in the “Trust Era” of business, and we each have a role to play to ensure that everyone works in a trusted enterprise where they, too, find purpose and meaning in their work.
Thanks to Robert and Milt, we have our purpose and we’re here to support you in pursuit of yours.
Michael C. Bush
Great Place to Work®