Purpose is a higher-level feeling that what you do matters. Work without purpose is just a paycheck. People just showing up to earn a paycheck experience no true joy, no real engagement, and no desire to take risks in the name of improvement. They certainly are not loyal to you or the organization.
Where does purpose come from? For 10% of employees, it comes from fit. Fit is when employees have alignment with personality, skills, and job. Employees with fit tend to like their job enough to appreciate it. The also feel pride and purpose.
Finding fit is difficult as business needs continuously change. As a leader, you can still guide employees closer to experiencing purpose. One way is by creating and maintaining positive relationships at work. Great teams have strong standards, accountability and comradery. Great teams are supportive with helping behaviors and have a lot of fun and social rapport.
The leader is the primary manager of positive emotions and relationships. In other words, "no jerks allowed." Positive emotions often come from recognition and rewards.
A leader can provide recognition beyond a smile or a "thank you." While employees need to earn the recognition they receive, use any opportunity to show appreciation. Appreciation can be an award, catered lunch or group celebration. In each instance, be sure the team knows their appreciation is because their efforts produce positive outcomes.
It takes a certain amount of creativity to articulate the ultimate outcomes employees support. Most roles have a narrow focus within the organization. You have to help employees see their role within the big picture. This usually involves discussing customer success. For example, "customers using our API have been 16% more profitable." If a customer can stop by and give this testimonial, even better!
This is how employees will understand the outcomes that happen as a result of their work. With this understanding, they can they feel a genuine sense of purpose.