The New Competitive Advantage: Employee Fulfillment


December 13, 2018

What is holding back the growth of your business? Talent. You can’t hire fast enough and your teams are constantly being recruited to join other organizations. This challenge is not going to get easier – it is expected to get much harder. By 2030 the labor shortage will cost the economy $8.45 trillion a year (Korn Ferry).

Employee engagement framed the talent philosophy that emerged more than 20 years ago. It created a common language that enabled us to design work to increase productivity and enabled employers to stand out to top talent.

“Remembering what makes us human is how to show economic value in the age of smarter and smarter machines.” – Thomas Friedman, NYTimes

This is not the talent philosophy, however, that is going to work going forward. The businesses that will attract and retain the talent they need to grow will be those that embrace a new talent philosophy.

We are in a new era, where employees are looking for more from their work experience—one that is optimized for meaning and personal fulfillment, and encourages development and authentic relationships. A new report, a collaborative effort of CECP, Imperative, and PwC, explores the implications of these evolving expectations for business leaders and how a better understanding of neuroscience is evolving our thinking and pointing to fulfillment as the frame for the new economy.

How We Got Here

A talent philosophy based on fulfillment is part of a broader change in the workplace. It’s helpful to look at how we got here to appreciate the important changes that have taken place as we evolve from one era to the next.

The Origins of Work

Thousands of years ago, there was no such thing as an employee or employer. People were nomadic and worked as families and small tribes to survive. With the rise of the agrarian economy, we saw the emergence of the workplace and the idea of a job. With that came the start of a conversation about the relationship between employees and employers, as well as the “ideal” employer and employee. For most, work was about survival and employers valued people based on their strength, stamina, and compliance.

Work in the Industrial Age – Satisfaction

As we moved into the industrial economy, the conversation about work changed again with the rise of factories and cities. Toward the end of this era, assembly lines and efficient operations emerged as the focus of innovation. Companies sought to remove all inefficiencies from the workforce, including friction between employee personalities and the impact of unsatisfied workers who were affecting the productivity of the workforce. This gave rise to talent assessments and employee surveys.

Silicon Valley and the Engaged Workforce

The information economy that followed changed things yet again. For the first time, people were the source of wealth creation. Innovation now came from knowledge, and the priority was to tap the talents of employees and keep them engaged to maximize their output. Employee engagement became the talent philosophy for this new world of work as we looked to maximize the value of our “human resources”.

The New Talent Philosophy – Fulfillment

Today, we are in the early days of a new era, the Purpose Economy, where a higher sense of meaning and purpose in work are sources of innovation and the core narrative of the workplace. This shift is marked by an influx of research and focus on “humanizing” work in the digital age, psychological safety in the workplace, corporate well-being programs, the concept of bringing one’s “whole self” to work, and diversity and inclusion, to name a few. It’s is a recognition that for business to flourish, their people must flourish.The development of neuroscience and positive psychology have advanced this change, and artificial intelligence and automation promise to accelerate it. In this new world of work, it is fulfillment—the ability to feel a personal sense of purpose and meaning—that is the new standard for work.

Have you adopted the talent philosophy that will attract and retain people in the new economy?

Download: Building A Meaningful Employee Experience

More than ever, people want to know they’re more valuable than machines and are seeking out uniquely human elements of their work experience. If we want to tap into what helps people find meaning at work, how do we do it? When we explored this question, we uncovered scientific support, employee perspective, and bright spots to show how to move the needle in building a more fulfilling employee experience.


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