We know that a positive culture and purpose makes a business attractive to customers, employees and investors. What’s less clear is how to create a purpose driven organisation. So far, there’s no one-size fits all, plug and play solution to organisational purpose.
What is organisational purpose?
Organisational purpose isn’t simply what a business does. It addresses the why too. At its simplest, purpose is a company’s raison d'être.
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 says 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. We also know that employees perform better when they are invested in business goals.
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 can SME leaders build a purpose driven organisation?
How to create a purpose-driven organisation
There are two broad stages of creating a purpose driven organisation. Step one is to create and communicate the purpose itself. Step two is embedding that purpose within your business.
Don’t assume every employee knows what is happening in the business and why you are doing it. Take a step back to understand how well you are currently communicating to employees. How much do your staff understand about what you do?
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.
Articulate your purpose effectively
Craft and communicate your organisation’s purpose so that it resonates with your employees and your customers. Using a variety of tools such as talks, imagery and music will help you share the messages to everyone involved in your business.
Creating a purpose-driven organisation means investing in your business culture and leaders. This makes it easier to communicate and embody purpose throughout your enterprise.
Nominate and train ‘organisational purpose leaders’ to live and breathe the behaviours that align with your company’s purpose.
Make purpose more than hype
Some businesses communicate purpose brilliantly but fail to integrate it into their employees’ day-to-day experiences. This can become damaging.
Regular employee surveys are a good way of understanding how close your employee experience is to your aspiring culture and purpose.
Remember that organisational purpose lives in every interaction
Pay attention to all aspects of your business’s environment. A purpose driven organisation provides opportunities for meaningful work as well as personal growth.
Give your employees the opportunity to engage in your company’s purpose and you’ll find it easier to create a purpose driven organisation. Encourage your people to contribute ideas and provide creative solutions; chances are they’ll have ideas you’ve never considered.
Creating a positive culture and organisational purpose pays off. Not only do you get a working environment that is meaningful to your staff, but you also attract and retain the talent you need to make your business a success.
Creating 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 in things they believe in.