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Which Is Better: Employees Who Have Purpose or Are Engaged

Published: Nov 11, 2016
Which Is Better: Employees Who Have Purpose or Are Engaged

I would say employees with a sense of purpose are most productive. Is this the same as engagement (therefore the employee is motivated)?

It’s a great question that really made me think. So I wanted to see if I could logically work through this. We have a tendency to toss these words around interchangeably at times. My first step was to search for definitions. I found a really good post over at Pick the Brain on the difference between passion and purpose. Passion is what excites a person. Purpose is your reason for being. Our ultimate goal should be to live out our purpose while following our passion.

When it comes to what makes us our most productive, it seems to me that we need both passion and purpose. For example, I can have a strong purpose but I need passion to make it a reality. And I can have tremendous passion, but if I haven’t clearly defined my purpose, I could struggle. It seems logical that if you’re doing work that doesn’t align with your passion and purpose, you probably won’t be super productive at it.

However, I can also see how an employee could have passion and purpose but not be doing the work they want to do…and therefore, not be very productive. So in order to be productive, an employee needs passion and purpose. But having passion and purpose doesn’t automatically make someone productive.

Which leads to the second part of the question. If employees have passion and purpose, are they automatically engaged? Now before we get too far into the discussion, I must say that I believe employee motivation and employee engagement are different.

Employee motivation is defined as the level of energy, commitment, and creativity that a person brings to their job.

Employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, committed to the organization, and put discretionary effort into their work.

I feel motivation is necessary for employees to be engaged. I can see how it takes passion and purpose to be motivated. And being motivated creates engagement. But I wonder if that middle step is necessary – meaning that motivation is passion and purpose applied to our jobs. How do we show others that we have passion and purpose? By being motivated, right?

I’m sure you can see that the challenge with this question is that these concepts are difficult to define. Even when we look up their definitions in the dictionary, it is a challenge to understand how all the parts fit together. And if we can’t create a universally recognized model, how can we expect organizations and managers to be able to hire employees who have a passion and purpose that align with the company’s?


Organizations should spend some dedicated time understanding what these terms mean to them. And how they work in their organizational culture. Make sure that everyone knows what they mean. Because at the point everyone can define them, then they can create strategies to address them.