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Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Héctor García & Francesc Miralles, takes a look at the UN-designated Blue Zones, especially Okinawa, and explores the “why” of people living longer and happier lives. 

There’s understandably been a lot of talk about purpose-driven brands. But what about purpose-driven people?

As important as it is to infuse your brand offering with a clear and unique purpose, it is equally important to have your people find and commit to their own purpose so you can share the most value from each other. You can then identify the shared purpose between your people and your brand for a winning strategy.

Where to start?

Offering good salaries and excellent benefits helps, but it’s not enough to attract, retain and keep the best people engaged and committed. Forbes recently took a look at the “Top 10 Companies Doing the Most to Make Their Employees Happier from” Before they dove into the list, here’s what they said:
“Fat paychecks, light workloads, and countless vacation days don’t necessarily produce happy employees. In fact, the happiest employees in the US credit their bliss to first-rate employee incentive programs, ample benefits, career advancement programs, and great work-life balance.”
That’s all the stuff of Ikigai. Aligning what people love and are good at with your company’s needs and what you’re willing to pay for them. You can achieve this by seeing your staff as complete human beings and taking a more holistic view of their lives. As an employee, feeling well thought about impacts your commitment to the cause and a willingness to sacrifice.

Five things that can help

Provide a company purpose.

Most people want something to believe in, especially when it comes to their daily work. Understanding “the why” of an employer helps them see how they fit in and what they’re contributing to. This is the stuff of fulfilling work lives.

Offer life tools.

Developing a career, whatever the twists and turns may be, isn’t just about training and certifications. Engage employees in the kind of questions that help them get better clarity on what they offer and what they can do develop it. There are lots of methodologies available that help uncover interests, tendencies and core competencies. Use them.

Appreciate them.

Letting people know what they’re doing well and that it’s both acknowledged and appreciated, goes a long way to making people feel wanted. It also motivates them to make the company’s cause their own cause.

Be truthful.

Reality isn’t always comfortable, but it is the only way to make career choices that are based on facts and not feelings. Being honest with your people builds a level of trust that fuels their commitment and willingness to go the extra mile.

Compensate them well.

This may not be the only thing that matters, but it does matter. Good people are worth investing in. Those who contribute to your cause offer stability and consistency to your offering. Making sure your best people are thriving in every way should be the goal. 

What’s next?

Have your managers and career team think about the best way to develop an employee’s individual purpose. Then find the most productive way to align it with your company’s purpose and needs. Be creative. Don’t be afraid to develop new positions or new teams if it makes sense. And don’t forget to follow the laws of Ikigai. It’s not what someone thinks they’d like to do or believes they’re supposed to be doing. And it’s not about a rigid slot that you need to fill. It’s about a winning equation that targets the intersection of:

What they love
What they’re good at
What your company needs
What you’re willing to pay for it.


By Len Jacobson

Len is a motivator of meaningful dialog for clients. A frequent speaker on the power of story, Len shares insights on making brand stories real—from daily connections between colleagues, and how they share their purpose and passion with the world around them, to the way individuals and brands connect, engage, and build thriving brand communities.

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