Turning Purpose and Vision into Value | Is Purpose Working Podcast Episode 10

March 3rd, 2021


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Tal Goldhamer, EY's Chief Learning Officer & Jeff Stier, EY's Lead of Purpose & Realize


In 2013, Big Four consulting firm Ernst & Young, a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and consulting services, rebranded as ‘EY.’  Part of that rebrand made an explicit Purpose statement front and center: ‘building a better working world.’

This was actually a hugely important internal cultural shift and pivot for the company:

“By everyone knowing our purpose statement, it creates a golden thread—so no matter where you are in the world, what culture you have, whether you’re a new employee or a tenured employee, what service line you’re in and what work you do you come to work to do every day, we are all connected by the fact that we are all building a better working world.”

Join us for a deep-dive into why this global service leader adopted purpose and how it’s helping, as well as the critical role it sees L&D in that pivot, framed as a key role in helping people become performers, colleagues, leaders—and people. Helping us understand are two excellent speakers, Tal Goldhamer, Partner and Chief Learning Officer – Americas, EY, and his colleague Jeff Stier, EY Americas Consulting Purpose & Vision Realized Leader.

  • How EY supports both employees and customers to understand their personal and organizational purpose.
  • How EY individuals have found purpose through internal L&D-led purpose programs
  • An intriguing new concept in our purpose journey—the idea of nested Purpose
  • Why personal purpose, personal vision and organizational purpose are part of what gives daily meaning to the work that you do daily
  • Why developing a platform and program around personal purpose and vision is important to leaders of an organization.


  • Tal is on LinkedIn here
  • Jeff’s EY contact page is here
  • Find out more about the EY’s ideas about Purpose here
  • The EPIC (Embankment Project for Inclusive Capitalism) report mentioned in the conversation is free to download here
  • RedThread’s on-going Purpose work


This season will culminate in a live online gated experience (a webcast) where we'll review and debate what we've learned. Seats are limited. Secure your place today, over at www.novoed.com/purpose.


We're also thrilled to be partnering with Chris Pirie, CEO of Learning Futures Group and voice of the Learning Is the New Working podcast. Check them both out.

Season Sponsor

Global enterprises rely on its collaborative online learning platform to build high-value capabilities that result in real impact, with its customers working to deliver powerful, engaging learning that activates deep skill development, from leadership to design thinking and digital transformation, as well as driving measurable business outcomes.


Four key quotes:

“By everyone knowing our purpose statement, it creates a golden thread—so no matter where you are in the world, what culture you have, whether you're a new employee or a tenured employee, what service line you're in and what work you do you come to work to do every day, we are all connected by the fact that we are all building a better working world.”

“Purpose alone is not a magic bullet and it never belongs in a conversation by itself; purpose + vision + long-term value, when you look at that equation, that is the power equation.”

“If you want to be an organization that claims to be purpose- and vision-led, you need to be led by leaders who themselves are purpose- and vision-led, which means developing a platform and program around personal purpose and vision.”

“We view the role of L&D as having a role in helping people become better, right? Better performers, better colleagues, better leaders, better people, and helping people discover and activate their purpose and vision almost immediately makes them better in all of those categories. And of course, many complementary ways outside of L&D to also activate purpose. But you know, your question is about how the role that L&D teams play in bringing purpose and vision, it's helping people become better people.”

Chris Pirie:

You're listening to Learning Is The New Working, a podcast by the Learning Futures Group about the future of Workplace Learning and the people helping define it.

This is an episode in our ’Is Purpose Working?’ season—a collaboration with Dani and Stacia from RedThread Research. This episode is sponsored by NovoEd: global enterprises rely on NovoEd's collaborative, cohort-based learning platform to deliver high-value programs with real business impact. With NovoEd, you deliver powerful and engaging learning that activates deep skill development and drugs and measurable business outcomes.

On March the 11th, at 10:00 am Pacific time, NovoEd is hosting a live webinar where you can join RedThread Research founder Stacia Garr, Dani Johnson and myself to discuss what we've learned in our season exploring the implications for learning and talent management of purpose aligned organizations.

We can't wait to meet you and to get your questions and observations and experiences on the topic of purpose alignment, as well as share our own reflections and research. We're really looking forward to it; to register for your seat, submit questions and access lots of bonus material around all these episodes, including transcripts, please go to www.NovoEd.com/purpose.

“Purpose alone is not a magic bullet, and it never belongs in the conversation by itself. Purpose + vision + long term value—when you look at that equation, that is the power equation. That's the one that if you really want to make a difference in the world for all of your stakeholders, that's the equation that's necessary when you think about high strategy.”

Chris Pirie:
In this episode, Stacia and I interviewed Tal Goldhamer and Jeff Steir. They’re both in the professional services firm, EY. Jeff has led the ‘purpose plus vision’ practice for EY Americas since 2014, where he and his team help organizations and their leaders articulate what they stand for and implement purpose at scale. Tal is the chief learning officer for EY's America's division of over 80,000 individuals across 30 countries.

As you will hear, Jeff and Tal work really closely together in a unique partnership that revolves around the power of purpose. Their work forms a sort of virtuous circle that helps both customers and employees understand their personal and organizational purpose and where the insights gained from the customer-facing work that Jeff does informs employee facing programs that Tal runs and which in turn are made available to those customers to help them define their own and build a better working world.

Tal Goldhamer:
Hi, it's Tal Goldhamer; I’m the chief learning officer at EY for the Americas practice.

Jeff Stier:
And this is Jeff Stier: my job title is the lead for the ‘purpose and realize’ solution within people advisory services at EY.

Chris Pirie:
Well guys, welcome to Learning Is The New Working and thank you so much for your time and sharing your insights with our audience today. Today, I'm joined by Stacia, and we're going to talk to you about purpose driven organizations, and I know we're going to have a really interesting conversation, so welcome to the podcast.

Tal Goldhamer:
Thanks, Chris, and thanks, Stacia. You know, one of the things that I'll share a little bit of why I'm so excited about this; I wake up every day inspired to make things better for others so that they can thrive and in turn, make things better for others. And we've been on a purpose-envisioned journey for a few years, and we've learned a lot and we're excited to share all of what we've learned with your listeners, so thanks for having us.

Chris Pirie:
Could you start by telling us what part of the world you live in and work in and why?

Tal Goldhamer:
Well, because of the pandemic, it's a trickier question, but I was born and raised in New York City, technically work in New York City, although I’m right now physically in Denver, Colorado—I made a pandemic getaway and escaped with my family out here. So it's a two-pronged answer; my heart is in New York City, but my heart is finding a home in Denver, Colorado.

Stacia Garr:
Those mountains will do it to ya!

Tal Goldhamer:
The mountains and the skiing, so yeah.

Jeff Stier:
So I was born in Connecticut, but spent the last 26 years in New York City, raised a family in the city; right now, sheltering in place in the Northern Catskills, in a town that I love to say the name called Cornwallville, lots of farmers. It is 12 miles from a ski mountain, so we get a lot of skiing up here as well. And you asked the question why I never thought I was going to raise a family in New York City—I grew up in the country—but my wife is from Queens, New York and she is an only child and her mother lived in Queens, so she tricked me to moving from Boston to New York city so that we can be close to her mom. And it was a great decision and we've been very happy raising our family there.

Chris Pirie:
Can each of you tell me what your job title is and sort of briefly describe the scope of your responsibilities?

Tal Goldhamer:
So our team works every day to develop programs where people are so inspired by what they're learning and they're experiencing that they feel compelled to pass it on to others. And as the chief learning officer for EY in the Americas, we try to create that world for over 80,000 people in about 30 different countries.

Jeff Stier:
I look over a practice called ‘purpose vision and long-term value realized;’ we help organizations transform around those three foundational elements that I call high strategy. When an organization is looking to create what they stand for, what they believe in, and then use that as filters in decisions for how they run their companies, we help them create high strategies around purpose, vision, and long-term value. We've been doing that for about eight years, both internally with EY and externally with clients.

Stacia Garr:
I love that focus on long-term value. One of the things that we've seen here with the podcast is how a potential impediment to purpose is short-term thinking—you know, not knowing when you're going to get the return on purpose. And so I love that you are combining those two concepts and kind of helping people think about that longer term in what you're ultimately trying to become.

Jeff Stier:
About three years ago, we had an ‘aha’ moment—that purpose was one element of high strategy, but vision looking to the future was another. And of course, when you look to the future, what you want to become, and the impact you want to have on the world, those things require some measurement that so you know, you're progressing on that journey. And so long-term value, purpose envision where the natural mix is in the equation for us.

Chris Pirie:
I think what else is really great about having both of you in this conversation is both the internal perspective and responsibilities that you have, Tal, and the insights that you bring into the dialogue, Jeff. For anybody who's not familiar, and that can't be many people, but it's good to just cover our bases, can one of you introduce the EY business and business model?

Jeff Stier:
About nine years ago, we had a new CEO take office and he looked to the future and realized that the consulting business was something that was going to grow significantly. As part of EY, we had primarily been known as a tax and audit organization, and we were called Ernst & Young at the time, with a tagline of ‘quality in everything we do’—very inward-focused.

And he had the vision to say, what got us here won't get us there. And so as part of our own transformation and the legacy he wanted to leave, we changed our name formally from Ernst & Young to EY, that tagline ‘quality in everything we do’ to a purpose statement of ‘building a better working world,’ and we began to transform ourselves around that high strategy.

As we began doing that, a lot of our clients had interest in purpose as well. The leaders at Davos were starting to talk about that. And so we started getting requests in the strategy practice where I sat at the time saying, can you help us take the lessons you've learned—positive and negative—and transform ourselves?

And so that's the journey we've been on. And, and now that's the business model, at least Tal and I work on together, both through the internal and the external client-facing side.

Chris Pirie:
What's the talent landscape look like at EY?

Tal Goldhamer:
We hire tens of thousands of people each year as both we, as we continue to grow and as we expand our portfolio of services. And when we look at the overall demographic of our people, you look across the 300,000 people we have globally, or the 80,000 people we have in the Americas, it may be surprising to you or maybe not but the average age is in the late twenties—it’s around 28 years old.

And so as an average workforce age, that probably skews a bit younger than many other companies; perhaps it's because the number of people we hired directly off college campuses each year, among other things. And of course we have people that are younger and people that are older than that, so everything we design, everything we do for our people as part of the talent organization is incredibly focused on the diverse workforce, whether it's the age, ethnicity, backgrounds, gender, and so on.

Chris Pirie:
We've alluded to this a little bit, but it'd be good to know where you each fit in the sort of organizational model and how you collaborate and in what context you come together and work together.

Tal Goldhamer:
Our team is part of the EY Americas talent organization. So we have the pleasure of being part of our L&D team or learning team. And so we support all of our professionals, both our internal facing professionals and all of our external facing client-serving professionals.

Jeff Stier:
And I sit within the Americas consulting practice. There are different practices, as you've heard Tal allude to, and in the role that we play, we actually work across all of the practices, all of the service lines, because every organization, no matter whether you want tax, audit, or consulting, has a vision for the future, whether it's articulated or not. And many of the organizations, I would say about 30% that we're working with right now, also want to become purpose-driven. So we cross service lines, break down silos and work across the Americas.

Stacia Garr:
I know you mentioned, Jeff, that a few years or a number of years ago now changed its tagline, but I'm curious about purpose specifically, and if EY has an explicit purpose statement, and if so, what it is?

Jeff Stier:
We do have an explicit purpose statement, and it is ‘building a better working world.’ But the reality is, and this is true with most organizations, purpose comes from your past purpose is why you exist, it's the DNA of your organization. And the fact is for 150 years, EY has always served the capital markets or Ernst & Young before it became the why and helping to use the capital markets to build a better working world.

So it was unstated, but it was there. And as part of our exploration to become a purpose-driven organization, we excavated, if you will, that magic from our past and brought it forward to modern future, thus building a better working world, which is a phrase and a feeling and a belief that 300,000 of our people across the world now all know and can all articulate.

Stacia Garr:
So the tagline is the purpose statement.

Jeff Stier:
Well, I’d never call, but I'd never call a purpose statement a tagline, but the moniker with which we've come now is our purpose statement; the purpose statement has replaced the traditional tagline.

Stacia Garr:
Can you talk to us a little bit more about this focus on purpose? I know you just, you kind of went back into the past and pulled some of that forward into our purview, but what's the history behind it? What was the rational kind of argument for a greater focus on purpose?

Jeff Stier:
We've always been a purposeful organization, although without the clear purpose statement different people articulated our purpose in different ways. In different words, you could ask 300,000 people and you might've gotten a different answer—all rooted in the same concept, but not clearly articulated.

And that's the thing: purpose is that thing that gives us a feeling of great fulfillment and provides us with meaning and keeps everybody in the organization aligned and focused on what that is. So when you create a consistent vocabulary for all of our professionals, in this case a clear declaration of 'building a better working world,’ you know, every one of our professionals, regardless of where they live in the world. And regardless of what part of the business they're in everyone's using that consistent phrase with each other, with our clients and in our communities. And there's great power in having that crystal clear articulation and a set of words, that's common and it's meaningful to all of our people, our clients and communities.

Tal Goldhamer:
Can I add something there? By everyone knowing our purpose statement, it creates a golden thread–so no matter where you are in the world, what culture you have, whether you're a new employee or a tenured employee, what service line you're in and what work you do you come to work to do every day, we are all connected by the fact that we are all building a better working world.So you could go into a dining room in Japan, or in Brazil, or in Michigan, and begin to have a conversation, because that golden thread, the glue that connects us all, there's one thing we can say that does that is that we work at a company called EY that believes in building a better working world. And that is very powerful.

Stacia Garr:
One of the things I was most excited about when we were first talking about having you all on the podcast is that you all have been doing this for a while, but not necessarily as long as some of our other podcast folks, who have been doing this, like literally since the 1800s. And so what I want to know a bit more about is kind of twofold. One is, is this overall purpose journey, and then specifically something we've talked about a lot on the podcast, which is the Business Round Table statement in the fall of 2019 and how that's impacted your journey.

Jeff Stier:
I suspect that if you went back and asked the original founders, Mr. Ernst, Mr. Winnie, Mr. Young, whether they form their accounting company with a purpose and a vision of mine, the answer would be yes, of course they did—almost every new organization, every startup is founded in that manner.

And the fact that we have rediscovered and re articulated it is important now, particularly at this time in the evolution of business. I would say that if you look at a purpose maturity model with zero if you're just starting out in a hundred percent, if it's fully activated, the journey, it never ends. So I would always question if anyone claims that they're at a hundred percent and for EY, perhaps we're at 75%, we've realized that articulation is the start, but activation really is what matters. I call it the ‘say-do gap’. You could say the words, but if you're not doing it, there's know authenticity where we are truly being authentic and drinking our own champagne, when we talk about it, when we bring it to our clients.

The BRT statement, it was really nice to see; it was very natural for our current chairman to sign it along with about 200 other CEOs. And it validated for us that we were no longer, at least when it comes to big organizations, really big organizations, on the journey alone. And that there was really now a commitment to change the way people looked at, and accounted for, purpose.

In our journey, there were a couple of recent ‘aha’ moments that we realized that are very, very important. I alluded to one earlier that purpose alone is not a magic bullet and it never belongs in a conversation by itself; purpose + vision + long-term value, when you look at that equation, that is the power equation. That's the one that if you really want to make a difference in the world for all of your stakeholders, that's the equation that's necessary when you think about high strategy.

The second thing that we've noticed in our journey, the ‘aha’ moment is that if you want to be an organization that claims to be purpose- and vision-led, you need to be led by leaders who themselves are purpose- and vision-led, which means developing a platform and program around personal purpose and vision. And I really believe that Tal and EY are leading innovation globally around this, both how it fits in or what we call is nested organizational purpose envision, how you do it using digital, virtual technology at scale, and in embedding it into the DNA of how we build and train leaders and all of our people.

Stacia Garr:
I love that you mentioned that part, because we've spent a lot of time talking about the importance of connecting individual purpose to the broader organization. But I think you had mentioned this idea of kind of nesting, and that there's an intermediary, there's the team and the nests that you're in, if you will. And that's so important to connect the purpose as well.

Jeff Stier:
We do. Just on that point, we actually have data through our own internal surveys that show that pre some of the creation of nested purposes of our service lines and divisions, at some point the enthusiasm about being a purpose-led organization wore off and there wasn't as much incitement and or enthusiasm.

As soon as we began to create this nested idea, you felt that you belong to a unique tribe within the organization, and you could really connect your everyday work to building a better working world. How did someone in the customer practice come to work every day and do customer things—how were they building a better working world? That connection was really hard to make, but when you create a nested purpose at the functional level, and then more than that, understand your personal purpose and can align that with the daily work that you do in support of building a better working world, you really get employee engagement—you get employee productivity, and it drives innovation because now suddenly you could see how, no matter what role you have, even if it's at a junior level, the things you're doing are helping to build a better working world.

Stacia Garr:
I love how you're, you're basically sharing pretty practical advice on how to make this come alive in a culture and to come alive for individuals. Can you talk to us a little bit more about how you do that and kind of in the operational running of your business?

Tal Goldhamer:
Yeah, it's a great question. It comes down to a little bit of what you were just talking about, Stacia, that’s really, the way we look at is proximity, proximity to the individual, you know, at the macro-organizational level our purpose is building a better working world. And we know that discovering and activating each person's personal purpose and personal vision is also important, but there's something in the middle there, right? It's how do you get closer proximity to the individual in the work that they're doing? And so what we were just talking about—of having nested purposes—many of our businesses and practices have articulated their own nested purpose, and that helps our people connect from their personal purpose to the nested purpose, and that's all in service to the overall purpose of building a better working world. Jeff had mentioned this golden thread idea, and there's also a really nice golden thread when you can articulate your personal purpose and personal vision, because we talked about personal vision is we think it's a really important dimension here, connecting that to a nested purpose of what your team, your broader team is doing, and overall connecting that to building a better working world.

So we think that's really important. I’ll just mention a couple of other things, which is we've had a lot of amazing support from some of our more senior, most senior executives, many of whom have discovered and articulated their own personal purpose and vision. And they've been using it in their communications and in their decision-making and talking about the fact that they've been using their personal purpose and their vision in their decision-making. And as we know, people's social model, right? Those around them and their leaders, so there's this natural movement that we see beginning.

And last thing I'll mention is we, a few years ago, we reimagined and challenged ourselves around what the attributes are of the best leaders. Many organizations have leadership models, so we took a step back. Our ours was good and it was fine a number of years ago, but less fit for purpose these days; organizational culture and workforces have changed.

And we said, we need to reevaluate. Imagine our leadership model and we put purpose and vision at the core. And we did that because we wanted it to serve as a reminder to everyone that it all starts with your personal purpose envisioned, because how do you lead others if you don't know how to lead yourself first?

And we use this in lots of ways, we use it from career conversations to feedback and even to promotion evaluations. So these are just a few examples how we're using our purpose operationally, influencing how we work and how we operate.

Stacia Garr:
I know that you've both mentioned a couple of times the purpose and how it's a little bit different than vision. And so I'm wondering, it seems like a good opportunity to kind of dive into that. So can you tell us a little bit about how you will see those things differently and related?

Jeff Stier:
Purpose? Whether it's personal or organizational, purpose is about what gives you great fulfillment. It's what gives you great meaning it's that, you know, that feeling that you get when you come home after a very difficult day and you still feel good: you might have had even a tough day, tough conversations or bad news or whatever it might be, but you still feel a feeling of fulfilment.

And the question is why do you feel that fulfilment? Well, probably because the work that you had done was very much aligned to your purpose, or as part of your organization, you accomplish something for your customers, your clients, or for the world. And that's rooted in your past—purpose is generally rooted in your past. It's based on origin stories.

Now by contrast, vision is generally a forward and future looking thing. It's a description of the impact that you as an organization or you as an individual want to have in the world. And that impact in that world is different for everybody. For some people, it's the immediate circle around them. For other people it's a bit of a wider circle and you know, yet for other people, it's the entire world, right? I mean, we can all think about people who we consider visionaries in the world and they truly are impacting the world. But you don't have to be a visionary to have a vision: you just have to have a view and articulation of the impact that you as an organization or you as an individual want to have in the world.

Tal Goldhamer:
For years, this idea of fulfilment has been questioned and what makes up fulfilment. And we think that personal purpose and personal vision and organizational purpose are part of what gives daily meaning to the work that you do daily. So in many ways, personal purpose is about daily meaning and daily fulfilment while I'm sorry, purpose is about daily, meaning daily fulfilment, and vision is about daily inspiration, inspiration about what that we have a hopeful or optimistic future.

And when you understand that you can wield these two tools, right, in the proper way to create the cultural mindsets, to create the strategies. But they're two very different tools when wielded.

Chris Pirie:
Yeah. I've never seen it described in that sort of temporal forward-looking backward looking where, but I really get it. There was another sort of definition question that it might make sense based on something you said, Jeff, something like purpose alone doesn't get you where you need to be. There's long term value and business operations. I can't remember. Could you repeat that piece for me and just maybe unpack it a little bit?

Jeff Stier:
So what I'm about to say might be a little heretical coming from a guy who built his career at EY by being the purpose guy, but here's what we now have come to believe. And I alluded to it earlier. The future is inevitable tomorrow. You and I, all of us will wake up personally, and we will be there tomorrow and tomorrow. Every organization has another day in the organization. It's unavoidable. It's inevitable planning for the future if you want to be successful is required, right?

Any CEO who's ever hired by the board, I guarantee you, although I've never been in any of those conversations has been asked, where can you take us? What can we do to get there? Purpose is completely optional, right? You can be a very successful person or organization if you plan for your future effectively and build the roadmap to get there. And we all do that in our lives, whether we know it or not. If in high school, you decide, you want to go to medical school, you know, you have to study certain topics, you have to get certain grades. You have to go to certain schools and you build a plan to get there. It's the same thing with your personal life now, each of you, all of us, and also as a business. But purpose is optional.

We happen to believe that organizations that will be the most successful over the long-term build both a purpose and a vision strategy—a future strategy because you have to, and a current strategy around purpose that is really important in today's age. Why? Because given the way Millennials and Gen Z value purpose, if you want to attract and retain those employees, you really better have a purpose strategy.

Given the fact, and I know we may talk about this later, but we're in the middle of a pandemic where the meaning of work and the meaning of life and the meaning of relationships has completely changed. People are looking for more meaning in their lives; people are looking for purpose in their lives today in a vision for the future, you better be an organization in our opinion, that has both—and that the best organizations balance being purposeful/cause-related/meaningful with having an optimistic view of where they're headed and what they want to accomplish.

Stacia Garr:
One of the things that we've talked about a bit with the research is how with these changing workforce dynamics and particularly some of the things you mentioned around the social justice movements and others, but also around things like gig work, where you can work any time, any place.

The question becomes what is the value of an organization to an individual? By joining an organization and putting on some level of the constraints that you have, particularly with a big organization, what do I get? And I feel like my answer, at least, to that question is, if it's a purpose-driven organization, you become a part of something that is much bigger than yourself that enables you to accomplish your kind of same purpose-driven approach, your personal purpose, but at scale. And to me, that seems to be one of the big reasons, one of the most compelling reasons to join a high quality organization.

Jeff Stier:
I think that's true, Stacia, if the company is doing their purpose gig, as opposed to just saying it. Because purpose is so popular today. Tal and I have coined a phrase, there's a lot of purpose malpractice that's going on. And purpose malpractice is when you'll attract an employee to go for the reasons that you just described. But when you get there, it's just not true, right? The covenant doesn't exist between the company and the person to deliver on the promise. What's the promise? You’re going to work hard for me as an organization, and I'm going to care about you, and I'm going to do things that demonstrate I care about you and how this is different from a gig networker, a gig worker typically they'll do the job for the organization, you’ll get paid and you'll move on. You know, companies with employees have a real opportunity—and this is one of the things that Tal’s team does in learning and development—is beyond my agenda. It's helped me learn things that I care about that are advancing my personal purpose, my personal vision, right? A work with clients who align with building a better working world. But the things I believe in helped me get in on projects that align that.

So I believe that we believe that the covenant between the company, when that exists and you join a purposeful company and they do for you what they promise and you do for them, what they promise, then you can really begin to change.

Stacia Garr:
Let's turn a little bit to the relationship between you two, and how you all collaborate and what opportunities are really created by aligning Tal, your internal perspective and mission with the customer-facing mission of Jeff.

Tal Goldhamer:
Yeah. I mean, I think it's a really great and unique collaboration. We've built programs, whether it's to help with organizational purpose envision that we use internally for the various businesses within EY, and we've built personal purpose and vision discovery programs that we offer to all of our people.

And the key here is that with any programs, what often makes programs stronger is continual feedback. And the more feedback we get the stronger a program gets, and we've been running the programs internally for a few years. And then collaborating with Jeff, we began offering the same programs to our clients and with each offering of the program, whether it's internally or externally, we get more feedback and makes the programs that much better and that much stronger. We have the benefit of running the programs with thousands of people within EY which provides us with great insights on what works and what could be better than when we iterate the program, and we've done that many times and then offered it to clients and get even more diversity and more range of thinking around what works and what works well and what could be better.

And so we have the EY culture that informs the design, and then we have now the benefit of running the programs in many other organizational cultures and with each offering, we strengthen the program and continue to strengthen the programs. We learn something every time. So it's Jeff, I will share here, but it's fantastic.

Jeff Stier:
I agree. It's been an amazing personal journey for me and getting to both work with Tal and make an impact both ways. It's not usual that you can make the impact inside and out in that way, and both of us do that.

The other cool thing is this creates a huge competitive advantage for us and talking with clients. Why? Because when we're in pitches, there are very few organizations that are pitching or responding to purpose and vision and long-term value work that can actually say authentically and credibly, we're doing it ourselves, right? And we're going to be able to help you because we've stepped in mud before you, we've also done other things great before you, and we can help you both avoid those missteps, and accelerate the things where we know it works.

And so that is a real competitive advantage that this collaboration has been able to bring to our pitches and to our conversations with potential clients.

Chris Pirie:
Do you invite your customers to come in and experience your programs—do you go that far?

Tal Goldhamer:
We generally don't intermingle sort of participants meaning that when we offer for our people, we typically offer them as cohorts for our people. But the cool thing is we have an infrastructure in place, so when we're working with clients on, on projects and they have an interest in some of our programs, we're able to easily turn on and, and run programs for our clients. So we typically run them as separate cohorts. But the cool thing is it's essentially the same program.

Stacia Garr:
You had mentioned a few minutes ago, Jeff, that, one of the benefits is that you all can help folks understand what mud is not to step in and from some of the lessons learned that you all have had. So I'm wondering if you can share with us what are some of the challenges or some of the toughest problems facing organizations in the immediate future as they think about this? Or what are some of the things that you've learned along the way?

Jeff Stier:
Yes. So the things that I see personally, given the practice that we lead and the work that Tal and I are doing together, and particularly at this moment in time, as you ask, it's about wellbeing, it's about morale and it's about mindset and mental health.

It's a really, really tough time when many of the things that people thought were important to them and the perks are stripped away. So for example, for organizations like ours and others, where you have people who traveled a great deal and were on client sites, think about what you get from that. Well, when you travel and you stay in hotels, you get frequent flyer miles, and you get frequent hotel miles; when you travel and on your road, your company's paying for your food. When you travel and you're on the road, there's usually a group of people who you can hang out with and bond with, and it's usually a lot of fun. And if you are moving from engagement to engagement or client to client, you might also be paid to explore and experience new cities.

That no longer exists. And so it's stripped back to, I'm sitting in my apartment or my home. I'm on virtual calls all day. I'm being asked to perform in a world where I've never been taught to perform this way before, by having relationships. What am I doing this for? And so we're seeing both within and outside of EY, a real challenge to morale and motivation. And so the reason Tal and I are called in on this is because, if the organization doubled down on their vision for the future.

The natural state of human beings is to hope for a better future. And when we are in tough times, we always hope for a better future. The best CEOs of these times today are balancing being pragmatic about making money and doing things currently with optimism for the future. People need that as well. So doubling down on the purpose of your enterprise or your function, and then helping people understand their own personal purpose and vision, and then maybe having your leadership double down too, getting on your people's agenda, to help them understand that being within the organization, we can help you with your morale because we're going to move your personal agenda forward. Those are the biggest challenges facing us today.

And that's why the work that Tal and I are doing both together and separately is really, really called on more and more.

Stacia Garr:
It's interesting, because I was at Deloitte, I'm still in one of these social networks, Fishbowl. I don't know if you guys are, you know, I'm sure you do. And it's so true because I've been out of it long enough that I hadn't really thought about, you know, all the kinds of consulting perks and benefits and, and just the litany of people who are like, I'm not on the road anymore, I’m not seeing people! It’s so true and it's widespread across the industry. I really like how you're thinking about reframing it.

Tal Goldhamer:
And every organization that has a B2B Salesforce, right, is in the same boat, every single one and it's sector agnostic. So this is affecting a hundred percent of clients across a hundred percent of the sectors.

Chris Pirie:
What do you think about the role of L&D in the shift to a purpose focus? We talked about some very specific programs that you land, but how important is the role of L&D in a purpose-aligned organization?

Tal Goldhamer:
L&D could be a really great Trojan horse in serving up many different types of great development programs. From my discussions and travels with other CLOs, generally speaking, most organizations and the people in those organizations are well, they're learning organizations and learning people: people like to learn. That's a human thing, right? In general, people like to learn new things and explore new things and realize new things and find insights. So there is for the most part built in demand at organizations for L&D to come to the table with great content and great programs and purpose-envisioned discovery are interesting because they're not really learning in a traditional sense, we're not teaching people knowledge. I mean, there's a little bit of learning that's happening, but this is about self discovery; this is a more of a working workshop or working session. Cause we're not training people.

We view the role of L&D as having a role in helping people become better, right? Better performers, better colleagues, better leaders, better people, and helping people discover and activate their purpose and vision almost immediately makes them better in all of those categories. And of course, many complementary ways outside of L & D to also activate purpose. But you know, your question is about how the role that L&D teams play in bringing purpose and vision, it's helping people become better people.

Chris Pirie:
Tell us something about those programs and maybe some of the human impact?

Tal Goldhamer:
Sure—I mean, it's, it's one of the things that we actually love talking about, you know, it's the understanding that humans are the center of a purpose-driven organization. And if we unlock the power of personal purpose and personal vision within each of our people, it naturally supports and connects to an organization's purpose. In our case, you know, building a better working world.

Many people spend good chunks of their life, doing what we call ‘chasing purpose’. When we talk to most people at the average age of our professionals are somewhere in the late twenties or early thirties. And so they've grown up and they've come to the workforce, knowing that purpose is important in some way, but in having conversations with them they know it's important, but they don't know how they're going to go and find their purpose: you know, it's almost like they're going to stumble upon it in some way or come across it and something's going to click for them, and suddenly their work and their life is going to have a different meaning.

And then to tie it all together, you know, we talked about vision. Most of them probably haven't really thought about vision. You mentioned some, even the Red Cross, there's certainly a vision there that attracts people based on the impact that it wants to have. So we describe it as people are chasing purpose: we view it as our role as helping people be more efficient about it. We've developed the programs that help people articulate their personal purpose, their personal vision, and then figure out a way to actually activate it, put it into use and tie it into whether it's the nested purpose of the organization or the macro purpose, the overall purpose of an organization, the vision of the organization and a vision for their life, instead of people literally jumping around and hoping one day they'll stumble upon it; we're making it more efficient for them.

You asked about, you know, human impact and, and stories around people. I mean, the cool thing about the role and the work that Jeff and I are doing together is that we, if, if we do it well, we think we do it well. If we do it well, people are really excited because they've learned something about themselves that they otherwise didn't know.

In my case, I finally articulated my personal purpose and vision in my early to mid-forties. All right. Well, it would have been much more efficient for me to know that when I entered the workforce, and I would have been able to align more of the work and choose projects and do things. Sometimes you don't have a choice of what you're going to work on, but to the extent that you do have a choice, or you have the ability to influence it, it's much cooler to know that early on.

And so, as I mentioned, one of the cool things that Jeff and I have the opportunity to be the recipients of, is that as people go through these programs they love to come back to us and to our teams and share what they've come up with and how it's impacted their lives. So with your permission I'll share one or two stories, which you know, just recent stories.

So, the story of a woman that we heard recently of probably 80% of her job was unfulfilling, you know, 20% of her job. She really liked 80%. She didn't like so by all accounts, that's probably not a great ratio in terms of how you're going to spend a large part of your waking hours for most people. And so, you know, she went through the program, articulated her purpose, articulated her vision, and suddenly had a language and vocabulary that she was able to then use as a lens to look at the work she was doing, and then realized that the 20% is what really fulfilled her.

She realized why a filter, because the vocabulary gave her language to be able to use as a lens, and then sat down with her team leader and said, look, you know, here's the stuff that I really love about my job. I feel like I do it well. I feel like it gives me great fulfilment: I want to do more of it. And here's the stuff that I like less.

And she didn't say, I'm not going to do 80%, but she just said, here's the stuff that I really enjoy, and here's the stuff that really drives me. And here's the stuff that really doesn't drive me. Well, it turns out the team leader said, well, you know, it's funny that you should be bringing this up, because I've been thinking about expanding this part of our team, and it really aligns with what you're describing is your purpose, your vision, the impact that you want to have, would you like to take on more of this kind of work?

Of course the answer was yes! So suddenly, she reported that 80% of her job was incredibly fulfilling, incredibly meaningful to her, incredibly impactful for her and impactful for her team. IT totally aligned. And 20% was still stuff she wasn't really thrilled with, but it went from being 80% to just 20%. That’s an incredible story.

I'll give you one other one, And this is really about people feeling empowered. When you go through the process of discovering your personal purpose and vision, we've talked about, it gives you a vocabulary. And that vocabulary gives you a little bit of empowerment and confidence to share with others. And so we just recently heard a story of another team leader who went through the process, was inspired by it. Didn't know exactly what he wanted to do with it—not everyone has a clear view of how to put into use, but he sat down with his team and said, Hey, I want to share with you, we know a lot about each other, cause we worked together for a few years, but here's what really drives me. Here's what really motivates me.

And instantly, what happens when people share their purpose, even if they don't describe that it's their purpose or their vision, but when you begin to share it, its authenticity shines through in the conversation. You have no choice, but because you're being vulnerable, you're being authentic. You're sharing what gives you great personal fulfilment and the impact that you want to have. And the people on his team then went through the program and discovered their vision. And then they sat down and had a meaningful conversation, the most authentic conversation they'd been working together for years, and they came back to us that we now understand each other. We now appreciate each other.

The team leader said, you know what? I know when I have work that has to be delegated out. I know who I'm going to delegate what work to, because it's aligned with their purpose and with their vision. So these are two stories, but the great thing about one of the pleasures that Jeff and I have is being the recipients of being able to hear so many of these types of stories, because that's really what we were interested in is human impact.

Chris Pirie:
We have this whole poets versus quants sub-theme going through our podcasts, Dani, our engineer is not with us today, but I love the fact that this is really about language and giving people the constructs to have conversations around the stuff that's so important to us. It really is, you know, thinking about the future, collaborating effectively with others, telling stories—they’re deeply, deeply human traits. And I think that's why this is all so powerful.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. One of the things that occurs to me as you've been talking is if you think about the ‘I’ and the ‘B’ of that—the inclusion and belonging: if you have people who are like Tal’s story, be able to reform their work or to at least make the meaningful connections with others to understand this is who I am and this is what really drives me. That can only have a positive impact, I would think, on both inclusion and belonging.

Jeff Stier:
It does, Stacia. And this is where part of my personal purpose is to give everyone confidence to reach for their unique, remarkable. On the belonging side of it, and the inclusion part of it, if you understand that, no matter who the person is, they have a unique, remarkable and they have a fundamental right to exist in the world with their unique, remarkable. It almost should be built into the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence: then you understand that. I need to make room for these people to belong. Because frankly, and I remember when I was a kid when I was bullied, because I looked like I didn't belong. I went from a religious school to a secular school and I look like it. And who are you to tell me that, what do you know about who I am inside? Right? Nothing is the answer. This allows you to have that insight and to recognize that everyone has a place, everyone has something to contribute, everyone has a right to belong. And the companies and teams that appreciate and act on that are better off.

Stacia Garr:
I'm going to jump in and channel Dani and her engineering/quant side, because I want to be sure we get to this question–which is, we've been talking about all the amazing, in many ways, quality to have benefits of focus on purpose, but many organizations want to know, you know, what are kind of some of the metrics, what are some of the accountability measures that we might have: like Tal, you mentioned to knew that we've moved the ball forward on purpose, that some of the things we've done have actually worked. So I'd love to understand from, from either of you, how were you thinking about measuring purpose and the impact of it?

Tal Goldhamer:
People go through a program and discover their personal purpose and personal vision. We know when they've done that, and we can see on a timeline the before and after. And as you can imagine, as a professional services firm, we have lots of data; we love data and we analyse data—we’re analytics, or many of us are.

And so we can look at things like performance reviews, how their leaders view them, and people who have gone through and discovered their purpose and vision before they've done it. And after we have questions in our people survey, we do a periodic people survey and a question that we've asked is, do your leaders inspire you? And we can see whether or not people have changed their answer, or the trends in answers before and after somebody's gone through a personal purpose and personal vision discovery. Jeff, maybe you can jump in with some of the things that you've been working on.

Jeff Stier:
So for example, and Stacia, you talked about long-term value and you identified that earlier. In the EPIC report—and this is a global report that was contributed to about 40 organizations that manage assets of over $70 trillion—its goal was to create financial, quantitative metrics assigned to the creation of long-term value, of which purpose was one of them.

So let's talk about two of the drivers. One is employees. An employee is a driver of long-term value. And if you think about going back to the idea of fulfilment, when you understand your personal purpose and personal vision, and you feel like you're working for an organization, someone bigger than you, you are more engaged: and when you are more engaged, you are more productive, and when you're more and more productive, you lower the cost of labor. And when you lower the cost of labor, it drops directly to the bottom line, and globally, it's been agreed by these 40 organizations, and now everyone else who is sort of accepted at, by lowering the cost of labor and if you back it up, and if you work all the way back, you can get to organizational personal purpose as ingredients in helping that happen. There's a direct tie.

When you look at another driver, which is on the customer side of it, people who believe in what you believe in as an organization—customers, right—are more likely to purchase your products. There's also statistics that show that they're more likely to be loyal to you. And there's a whole bunch of statistics about what loyalty will bring to you: so for example, it lowers the cost of acquiring a customer, because you don't have to spend as much money with a loyal customer, very loyal customers, customers have the heart, emotional loyalty. And so there are clearly direct benefits when you believe in whether it's the case of an organization or the organization's leader and what they stand for, and you remain loyal to higher margins, lower cost of acquisition, higher retention, all drops directly to the bottom line.

I could go on about that in each one of the five categories that have been studied by Epic, there's a tie to purpose, long-term value, which means including vision, and a direct benefit to the bottom line.

Stacia Garr:
Did you all do any of this analysis internally? Have you been able to kind of show and see the impact of your journey?

Tal Goldhamer:
We have, and I would call it a journey, so we are doing it. And we're starting to see: we launched the program at scale about a year and a half to two years ago, so it's not something that flips and you start seeing the trends immediately; you need time. So we are starting to go through it, and we're starting to see things like the impact to leadership skills in performance reviews. We're starting to see the impact to retention. Cause again, as you discover purpose and vision, and you're able to like the stories I shared or one of the stories I shared, you're able to to adjust the work that you're doing. And sometimes it's just a matter of looking at your work differently and realizing why you enjoy your work and realizing what you'd be giving up if you were to change.

So we're starting to see the impact of retention and we're continuing to work on some of the other metrics, but we're, the trends are showing that they actually are having the impact we think it should have.

Chris Pirie:
We ask everybody who comes on the podcast this question; let me pick on Jeff first!

The question we ask is, why do you do the work that you do? Was there somebody or something that inspired you to focus your professional life on this topic?

Jeff Stier:
I started the story with you when I was in grade school, and I came to a school where I was different and my English class—I loved English—I read a book called Grendel, Grendel's of character in Beowulf, the epic poem. I don't know if you remember, but Grendel was a monster on the inside, but a human on the outside, but a human on the insight. And I, I love the story about Grenville because Grendel lived in the time of the Vikings and Grendel lived alone with his or her mother and only wanted to be human. And when he or she heard the Vikings celebrating would come and knock on the Mead Hall door because they wanted to celebrate and be with other humans, because it was human on the inside. And of course, when the Vikings opened the door, all they saw was this monster on the outside and would chase Grendel away.

And the thing that I appreciated was I felt like Grendel. I felt like I joined the school and they didn't look at the insight. And the thing I appreciated about Grendel was Grendel was tenacious; chased away always came back, knocked on the door again and again and again, and never gave up. And so my personal purpose is about being tenacious—that when people say you can't do something, I get the spark inside of me that says you can do it, and that to recognize, and I shared this before that everyone has unique, remarkable. You just have to look for it and you can't tell from the outside.

So that is my spark. And frankly, I did not discover that until I came to EY and stumbled into this role net tall and then began building the personal purpose program that what I do every day is to help people have confidence that they are unique—that don't worry about what people say, what they don't know, who you are. Let's discover who you are, look into, who you are, and then you can become really remarkable and make remarkable contributions to your team or organization.

So I love the work that I do everyday. It's very personal to me, because it goes way back in my story as a development of a human being.

Chris Pirie:
Great, just thank you Jeff for sharing. Thank you, Tal?

Jeff Stier:
I look back and I would say I didn't pick the role in the job and the things that I'm doing. I think, I feel like it picked me and you know, like Jeff you know, I shared my purpose earlier, which is to make things better for others so that they can thrive and in turn, make things better for others. No matter what I was doing throughout my career, I didn't have those words, but no matter what I was doing throughout my career, I felt great when I was making things better for others—whatever it was, whether it was in my personal life, my work life, I was feeling great when I felt like I was contributing to the world and get meaning from it. When I was helping make things better for others and they were thriving and they in turn can make things better for others.

And what you hear in that, hopefully, is a bit of a ripple type of effect. I like doing things at scale, doing things that will impact lots of people. I feel great when I'm having a one-on-one conversation, I'm making them feel better; I feel incredible when I do things that I know will have a ripple effect and help many, many people, because I love scale, and I love big impact and making things better.

And so when this role came about and this opportunity to be in this role, there wasn't a moment of hesitation. Why? Because I knew in the role that I had that I would be able to make things better for others. At the time, I didn't know that I'd be doing it through purpose and vision; I thought I'd be doing it through lots of other L&D initiatives and programs, which I still do. The purpose and vision is just a part of what I do.

So I feel like it chose me and I wish I didn't know about it, but I wish I would've had my purpose and vision earlier on in my career, because it would have helped me get probably to this path, into this role, that much quicker.

Chris Pirie:
Great! Well, gentlemen, thank you so much for the conversation today—I’m really thrilled that we managed to get you in our season: you bring a really interesting perspective to the conversation. Is there some way where people can tap into your work and find out more about what you do?

Tal Goldhamer:
Yeah. I mean, you could certainly find us on LinkedIn so you can look for us on LinkedIn. You can also email us directly. So my email is [email protected] and Jeff, you’re [email protected].

Stacia Garr:
Wonderful, thank you both; this has been inspiring, and I think folks will also be able to say, I can do that, which I think was one of our goals.

Jeff Stier & Tal Goldhamer:
Thank you very much.

Chris Pirie:
We're very grateful to the team at NovoEd for their sponsorship of this season. Global enterprises rely on NovoEd’s collaborative, online learning platform to build high value capabilities that result in real impact. With NovoEd, you deliver powerful, engaging, learning that activates deep skill development and drives measurable business outcomes.

You can access the research that we discuss here and a ton of other great research and insights at www.redthreadresearch.com—and you can subscribe to the podcast, of course, at www.learningisthenewworking.org.





Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst