In the 25+ years I spent working in HR for both fortune 500 companies and small fast growing startups, we developed countless initiatives to engage and inspire our employees. Each time, however, we were unable to gain the momentum we’d hoped for. That’s why, when I heard of a company called Ignite that claimed to engage and inspire employees through international immersion trips, I was skeptical. Could these “purposeful journeys” (as they call them) really be the answer to the purpose gap that exists in the workplace? Could they help to develop stronger leaders and teams, empower companies to build a more diverse and thriving culture, and make the world a better place in the process? I had heard a lot about Ignite from others who raved about their journeys, and after a conversation with the founders, I decided to join them in Mexico to see if I could answer those questions for myself.

From the moment I arrived, I knew this wasn’t like other trips I had taken. The first night the group bonded over margaritas on the beautiful white sand beach of San Pancho, a small community an hour north of Puerto Vallarta. With our toes in the sand and the sun setting over the Pacific, we listened to each other’s stories – a bit about our families, careers and why we had joined the trip. Our reasons for being there varied, but one theme was common – a desire to connect and immerse through a completely new experience.

Over the next four days, Ignite facilitated cultural immersion and community engagement that became a rich context for all of us to learn about ourselves and each other, to gain leadership insights, and to reflect on questions of profession and purpose. The food was exceptional, the accommodations were boutique and comfortable, and the exposure to customs and traditions were unforgettable. The journey was coordinated in close partnership with a community organization called EntreAmigos that added a deep sense of purpose to the journey. We worked alongside their efforts in the community and learned a great deal from their leaders and beneficiaries while deepening our connections with the members of our group. It honestly was one of the best travel experiences of my life, and over the last few months I’ve become convinced that this was exactly what we were looking for at my former companies. As business leaders, we need to invest in our people and culture in ways that create purpose, develop leaders, champion diversity and contribute to improving the world. That is what happened on this Ignite Journey.

Being in the human resource space for most of my career, I’ve seen how helping employees become the best versions of themselves is not simply the right thing for companies to do, it is one of the most strategic. But the workplace is evolving… what worked 20 years ago while I was at Kraft just doesn’t cut it anymore… and that’s a good thing! I see it now as a consultant working with companies of all sizes – work is no longer confined to a 9-5 and a paycheck. Employees spend vast amounts of time at their jobs so they expect to find rewarding relationships, meaningful work and opportunities for personal and professional growth. Companies that provide this will attract top talent, improve retention and increase productivity.

Shared experiences like the one I had in Mexico with Ignite will help companies build a diverse and thriving culture, engage and develop their people, and ultimately drive business outcomes including stronger financial returns, growth and brand equity. As I’ve reflected on the trip, I’ve realized that these journeys uniquely address so many of the drivers of the employee experience:

Experiences can bridge the gap in the workplace and provide not just a momentary jolt of engagement, but a sense of purpose and meaning that changes people forever… and as we know, happy employees means happy customers, which means a stronger business.

For me, I’m not going to wait too long before venturing out on another Ignite journey… maybe this time to Nicaragua with one of my clients teams. But in the meantime, I’m incredibly thankful for how this experience impacted my life. I have a powerful new offering for my clients… and a renewed sense of personal purpose.

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