We are becoming increasingly aware of how important an organisation’s identity, culture, strategy and purpose are for business success. And that culture and organisational purpose are what makes any business attractive to both customers and employees.
In our research on The Culture Economy we found that a positive culture, including a clear sense of purpose and meaning for employees at work, gives businesses a clear competitive advantage. So, what exactly is organisational purpose?
Organisational purpose isn’t simply what the business does. It addresses the why too. Why does your business do what it does? The EY Beacon Institute provides a formal definition of purpose as follows:
“Our working definition of purpose is an aspirational reason for being that is grounded in humanity and inspires a call to action”
A Harvard Business Review of The Business Case for Purpose defines organisational purpose as:
“[A]n aspirational reason for being which inspires and provides a call to action for an organization and its partners and stakeholders and provides benefit to local and global society.”
The report by Harvard Business Review also asserts that companies with a strong sense of purpose are able to transform and innovate better and deliver consistent revenue growth. Much of the research and discussion around organisational purpose suggests that companies perform better when they have a clear sense of purpose. Employees perform better when they are invested in business goals.
Organisational purpose can be described as the company’s raison d'être.
Let’s take a look at some of the key aspects of purpose:
- Creating value for the customer
- Positively impacting wider society and the local community
- Inspiring innovation and change
- Providing employees with a sense of fulfilment
- Generating revenue for shareholders
- Contributing to ethical business practices and sustainability
- Reducing the business’s impact on the environment
- Encouraging and supporting employees to persevere through challenges
So how, as a business leader, do you deliver a shared sense of purpose in your organisation?
Don't make any assumptions
Don’t assume that every employee knows what is happening in the business and why you are doing it. Communication of shared purpose is key. You can’t expect employees to feel invested if you don’t communicate what it is they are supposed to be working towards.
Identify your organisation’s purpose
What do you do and aspire to do? What would be lost if your business closed tomorrow? Unearth the details of your purpose by conducting surveys with consumers and staff.
Make purpose more than hype
Despite some businesses offering brilliant communication around purpose, they fail to integrate purpose into their employees’ day-to-day experiences. If employees aren’t connected to an organisation’s purpose, it becomes a thin and meaningless veneer.
Articulate purpose effectively
Craft and communicate your organisational purpose so that it resonates with your employees and your customers. Use multiple communication tools, including talks, visual illustrations, imagery and music and disperse the messages to everyone involved in your business.
Invest in business culture and organisational purpose leaders to communicate and embody purpose throughout your enterprise. Your organisational purpose representatives need to live, walk and breathe the behaviour that aligns with the company’s purpose.
Engage employee passion
Create initiatives that help employees to become invested in your organisational purpose.
Always work to deepen and sustain organisational purpose
Pay attention to all aspects of the business environment that shape your employees’ behaviour. Provide opportunities for meaningful work and personal growth within the working environment. Introduce rewards and incentives for behaviours that embody and advance organisational purpose.
Embed organisational purpose
Allow employees to contribute ideas and provide creative solutions.
Modify the working environment
Have a break area displaying images and stories to demonstrate and celebrate company purpose.
By creating a strong and positive culture, organisational purpose and a working environment that is meaningful and aligned with your staff, you will attract and retain the talent you need to make your business a success. Establishing a positive organisational purpose is one of the key motivators in attracting people who want to work for you. People are more likely to invest time, energy and enthusiasm into things they believe in.
Remember purpose isn’t your mission statement or your vision or values. It is why your business exists.