Entrepreneurs start companies because they see a way to fill a need in an industry. Aaron Hurst started his because he saw a way to help entrepreneurs.
Hurst—the co-founder and CEO of Imperative, the career-development platform, and founder of the Taproot Foundation, which helps nonprofits and social-change initiatives thrive—elaborated on these thoughts when he spoke about team-building during the “Team Awesome” session at WeWork’s Global Summit in Los Angeles in early January.
“There are three sources of fulfillment: relationships, impact, and growth,” Hurst says. “Freelancers struggle to find relationships with co-workers, and that’s why they work at WeWork. Impact is the perception that work matters to others beside ourselves. And if we stop growing, we start to atrophy.”
He explains that this sense of emptiness “is the main complaint from people in the workforce. What happens when someone who is unfulfilled at work goes home or back into society? It’s a ripple effect.”
Part of what brought us to this point, says Hurst, is that “a lot of the things we do to judge work are defined by this idea of engagement instead of this idea of fulfillment.” But, he argues, “there has never been a time when our society needs people who are awake and fulfilled more than right now.” To do that, we have to change our culture’s mindset toward employment.
Gone are the days of the information economy that made employees the source of value creation, says Hurst. Rather than looking at people based on the skills we bring to the table—and judging whether an employer is getting the most value for each position—we’ve entered the fulfillment economy. Employers need to ensure their staff members are fulfilled. “People who are fulfilled are strong ambassadors for your organization,” he explains. “People who are unfulfilled are detractors, people who are actively talking badly about your organization. You need everyone to be an ambassador.”
That said, fulfillment shouldn’t just come with your benefits package. “Take ownership of your own fulfillment,” Hurst advises, suggesting we all focus on self-awareness, peer coaching, and job hacking—aka making changes in your job to be more successful. Just like measuring yourself in order to lose weight, Hurst says, “you need to look at what’s working and what’s not working to achieve this.”
Hurst encourages water-cooler talk. “When people actively engage their colleagues in conversations about their career, there’s a 66 percent likelihood of being fulfilled,” he says, citing a study that showed “people said that they’re more likely to learn from their peers than their managers.”
This means not only looking to who you or your company is promoting—for what it’s worth, Hurst reports that “the countries that have the highest percentage of fulfillment are the ones that have women in leadership”—but the diversity of people you interact with when you’re there.
In other words, he says, “look to your peers just like you’re a kid in high school,” and share notes so that everyone gets passing grades. He says “what we care about now is people’s purpose. That drives adaptability and that sense of fulfillment.”
For Hurst, fulfillment came once he discovered that he finds “pro bono work more rewarding than my paycheck job.” In order to both grow and make a greater impact, he started Taproot with the mission of recruiting business professionals to help nonprofit organizations access marketing, tech, finance, human resources, and other services they normally can’t afford.
“It’s not enough just to volunteer. Most nonprofits have more volunteers than they know what to do with,” Hurst says. “What they needed help with is the core infrastructure of their business.”
In business and volunteer work, the best way to help is to listen to what others need.