Today, investing based on environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors has become a cultural and political battleground. But amidst all the hubbub, ideas that go hand-in-hand with corporate purpose continue to quietly resonate. The purpose of existence keeps a company aligned, engages its stakeholders, and is at the heart of any profitable business. If purpose is fully developed and articulated, it becomes an integral part of company culture.

The corporate and business media embraced the concept of goals more than a decade ago. Business students and younger employees have adapted. That’s what they’ve been looking for — goals and salary. Now, against the backdrop of a tight labor market and fierce competition for talent, discussions around goals are very important in job searches and interviews. Employers respond accordingly, and the cycle continues.

Of course, passion for a goal is not enough. Sean Cady, vice president of global sustainability, responsibility and trade at VF Corp, said young people often think that passion is the reward, not delivering results that provide business value. He said VF was “performance-driven and purpose-driven,” but added that there had to be a balance.

Likewise, I recall a pharmaceutical executive speaking to Georgetown MBA students about distributing antimalarial drugs in Africa. A young woman said, “I want to work for you and save the world.” He replied, “Saving the world is all well and good, but I need someone who understands the supply chain.”

Companies typically hire early, at the end of an intern’s freshman or sophomore year. They are looking for analytical thinking, business operational skills and problem-solving skills. A sense of purpose may not come to the fore right away.

Yet purpose is powerful, not just among younger employees, but among employees at all levels. According to Katya Andresen, chief digital and analytics officer at Cigna, in her experience, “Purpose is the number one driver of engagement in almost all groups and consistently appears as a key factor in employee surveys. Since burnout is a persistent problem, purpose can make We align with something greater than ourselves and restore our sense of meaning and resilience.”

After graduation, I kept in touch with students at Georgetown Business School. One of them told me, “I have student debt. I want to pay it off and live a good life. But I also want to stay engaged. I don’t want to lose my sense of purpose.”

He is not alone. Here are some examples of Georgetown Business School alumni (my former students) putting goals into work:

  • “I’m so lucky and grateful to have my dream job at my company and pay me to do what I’m good at while also changing the world…I recently had a son and I’ve been thinking How can I do this by showing him how to make a positive difference through my own actions to advance my goals.”
  • “I work with the global team to build our sustainable finance capabilities and support clients on their way to net zero emissions. It is the sense of purpose and impact on our bottom line that keeps us engaged and allows us to do good work.”
  • “What really resonated with me was the fact that the brand was rooted in writing and writing purpose. I was able to create a brand building marketing program (…) to help support literacy and writing education for kids. I’m excited about my work.”
  • “I work on a cross-functional supply chain team, including sustainability, diversity, governance, marketing and stakeholder engagement. In my role, I am able to…ensure these efforts are connected to our broader business goals at Together (…) I am excited to join an organization where career plans are discussed on a regular basis.”
  • “I focus on corporate reputation and community engagement. I think young people entering the workforce are increasingly seeking purpose differently. Impact-focused groups[hopefully]shape corporate culture and strategic priorities. They need to Goals at the heart of core job responsibilities and an understanding that this is a long-term mission.”

I admire these young Tigers and I’m excited for them to be the leaders of tomorrow. Purpose remains strong. Companies recognize this, and business schools recognize this. We are on the right track.

Bill Novelli is Professor Emeritus at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. He has served as CEO of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and global communications firm Porter Novelli.his latest book is Good Business: Ways to Change the World by Talking, Fighting, and Winning.

The opinions expressed in Fortune review articles are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views and beliefs of: wealth.

Subscribe to Well Adjusted, the newsletter from the Fortune Well team full of simple strategies to work smarter and live better. Sign up today.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *