Purpose economy: how do define and implement it? A panel discussion at Transferwise.

On the 16th of June, Transferwise invited more than 50 people to have morning coffee with them and to discuss the topic of purpose economy – concept that got more attention after Aaron Hurst wrote a book with the same title in 2013. Even though only few people from the audience had actually read the book, the panel discussion between Kairi Pauskar (Transferwise), Allan Teder (Uber), Enn Metsar (Uber) and Kristjan Vanaselja (GoWorkaBit) and lead by the moderator Aavo Kokk was filled with enlightening examples.

The first question of the panel focused on the meaning of the topic – what exactly is purpose economy and how would the panelists define it based on their own experiences and understanding?

Kairi: “The thing with work is that it’s not just a job anymore – nowadays people are looking for a more profound reasons to do a certain job. I see it happening on three levels. Firstly, if I do something I love, I feel like I get something in return – I can develop myself and that gives my job an even greater meaning. The second thing is the social aspect of the work culture – we are social beings, we want to belong somewhere. When we asked employees at Transferwise, why they want to come to work in the mornings and the most important factor they named was that the people are so great here. You can learn and grow with your team. The third side of the working culture is a bit abstract but I see that when you do something that is bigger than you, it means a lot. We change the rules of the financial world and we do it through our values that are not just words on the wall – we have built our company culture through people and we tell our stories through our people.

”The term on its own is a bit immeasurable, even a bit idealistic but why we do what we do with GoWorkaBit is all because I feel that I really want to make things better. Every single person should have that feeling inside. It can’t be added artificially – it is or it isn’t and you must constantly want to improve yourself.

Allan: ” It wasn't until the 70s and 80s when people started to think about their enterprises’ role in the economy. Today we have reached the point where everybody can come up with ideas that could change the world. Today we are free to do things that we feel passion about. We have so many options that everybody should find the best one for them. In Uber, we also want to make the world a better place and have many solutions that help to solve social problems across countries. For example, when handicapped people want to use a car, in Estonia they have to book it 24 hours in advance. There are around 5000 people in Estonia that could be the potential users of this service and it can definitely be provided faster than it is now. Of course we can’t solve this issue alone so we need partners and I think that Uber is making the world a better place by making partnerships with people and companies who also want to improve things –whether it’s another company or it can also be one of our drivers. We had one guy who really liked to introduce Estonia to tourists so from time to time he just stopped the taximeter and showed people around in Tallinn just because he wanted to not for the money. “

People want to make an impact and they like to socialise. The discussion was continued with even more specific examples from Transferwise, Uber and GoWorkaBit.

Kairi: “In our case, we know where we want to go...but how to get there – it’s up to the employees of Transferwise. This kind of approach makes them feel as if they were all entrepreneurs inside of an enterprise, kind of like many startups. It also gives people a lot motivation.”

: “One of the problems actually that CEOs have to deal with is that people might be even too motivated and that leads to burnout and we would not want to see that."

Allan: “Stress is really one way to verify whether you work in the right place or not. The other thing to notice is the team – it defines whether the company will be successful or not. One principle we have in Uber is that if you have a problem, then the whole team is there to help.”

A voice from the audience brought out that leaders are also the ones who influence their employees in many levels. What is the leader's view of the situation?

Kairi: “It’s true that Millennials have totally different expectations and as a team leader you have to take that into account.“

Kristjan: “I think even trickier is the case when you have people who like things as they are – they come to work, work for 8 hours and leave and they do not look for any specific purpose in it. The challenge lies in leading different generations.”

One way to keep a hand on the pulse is to talk to your people. How often and how are these type of talks held at Transferwise, Uber and GoWorkaBit?

Kairi: ”We talk about self-development and what makes people happy and what doesn't. We talk about achievements and what could be done better in the future. These kind of talks are held basically every week or in every two weeks – so we won’t have any negative surprises about long time periods."

Kristjan: "One thing to bare in mind – always take care of your team! The most important thing we measure is the Fun Factor. Every person has to evaluate on the scale of 1 - 10 how fun it is to work at GoWorkaBit? If the number is not high anymore, we have to change something.”

Allan: "In Uber, the most important thing is that whatever the problem – there must be a solution to it. We also measure the results and one thing we might be doing a bit differently is that we ask other team members to give feedback to each other.”

Thank you Transferwise for hosting the event, we hope to see more eye-opening discussions where real life experiences are shared by our wonderful members of the Estonian startup ecosystem!

Photo credit: Marek Unt

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