It’s bold of me to say your employees aren’t performing to their potential when I’ve never even met them, but it’s a matter of simple numbers. In the United States, 87.7 percent of employees are not working to their full potential. Chances are, at least some of your employees are included in that statistic.

This stat is almost unbelievable, but you don’t have to take my word for it. To get to that number, Deloitte conducted a comprehensive survey of 3,000 US workers from 15 different industries at job levels ranging from front-line personnel to senior managers.

Then again, maybe this stat isn’t a surprise to you at all. Maybe you already know most employees do not live up to their potential because you see it every day at your business.

But if your employees aren’t performing to their potential, it’s not their fault. It’s yours.

See, 87.7 percent of employees may not be performing to their full potential, but 12.3 percent are. If we understand what those high-performing employees have in common, we can figure out how you can provide it to your employees.

What’s Different About the 12.3 Percent?

The Problem Isn't Their Paycheck - Book Cover ImageIn the Deloitte survey, the employees who fell into that 12.3 percent had something important in common: They had a purpose at work. There was meaning in what they did, in showing up to the office and in the tasks they completed every day. They were trying to make the world a better place, and they felt like what they were doing made a big impact on people.

Purpose: This is the key to getting your employees to perform at their full potential.

Purpose is also a key cause of attrition. More than 50 percent of currently employed people are actively searching for or open to new jobs, in part because many of them feel like the work they’re doing lacks meaning. That means roughly half of your staff is, right now, on the lookout for another opportunity.

When employees don’t have a purpose, their work feels mundane. They go through the motions but don’t give it their all. They watch the clock instead of trying to solve problems and be of service. They become liabilities rather than assets. They don’t want to go to work, so they call in sick more often. Their only reason for coming into work is to get money, so they try to manipulate the system to get as much money for as little work as possible. And without meaning to what they do, that is all those employees get — money.

People want to do work that matters, and you can give that to them. If your employees are unable to attach meaning to what they’re doing, it’s because you have failed to establish and convey a unified purpose.

All of us want to make positive impacts on the people around us. A purpose is created when you can tie the service you provide or the product you sell — as well as all the other tasks, activities, and things you do as part of your business — to a positive impact. By defining and communicating your company’s purpose, you give meaning to your employees’ work. When their work matters, employees care more and work harder. In this way, they can rise to their full potential and become part of the 12.3 percent, able to accomplish incredible things.

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

The Power of the 12.3 Percent

When people see the number of customers we serve at Stewardship (my mortgage, insurance, and investment management company), they assume I have at least three times the number of employees I actually have on my team. That’s because my entire team is made up of people in the 12.3 percent.

My employees are able to accomplish in two or three months what it takes most people a year to do. My team blows the national averages out of the water — and they’re not working 80 hours a week to do it. They’re not chained to their desks. They go home, spend time with their families, and have time to volunteer for the causes that mean the most to them.

My employees are so productive because I’ve established a unified purpose: loving people through finances. Part of our business is providing home loans. Without our unified purpose, my employees would see these loans as numbers and legal language. With our unified purpose, their perspective changes. These loans give people the security of knowing they have a place to call home. Home is where they return after work, lay down their heads, dream, and make memories. Viewed through that lens, the work of providing loans becomes far more purposeful.

Unlock Your Employees’ Potential

If your employees are part of the 87.7 percent right now, imagine what will be possible for your business when they start performing to their full potential. When your team is part of the 12.3 percent, your business can scale to levels of growth that were impossible before, and you don’t even need to have a large team to do it.

If you want your employees to be part of the 12.3 percent, you need to take ownership of your company’s purpose. Figure out how your product or service makes the world better, and then connect your employees’ work to that purpose. Make the work matter, and you’ll unlock your employees’ potential.

Adapted from The Problem Isn’t Their Paycheck.

Grant Botma is the founder of Stewardship and the author of The Problem Isn’t Their PaycheckConnect with Grant on Instagram: @grantbotma.

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