8 February 2019

Harnessing the power of purpose

After plenty of pondering, you’ve come up with the perfect purpose for your brand – and you’re feeling good. Next up, it’s the tricky bit: bringing your purpose to life.

For your purpose to be valuable, everyone who interacts with your brand must believe in it. Your purpose needs to be shared, lived and breathed, every single day. It should shine through in the day-to-day interactions people have with the brand – that goes for employees as well as customers. Charities have a slightly easier job when it comes to embedding purpose in the day-to-day activities of their business, possibly because their raison d’etre is clear from the outset. However, once you dig down into the passions and motivations that underpin your business, you’ll find your purpose quickly becomes clear too. But, while discovering and committing to brand purpose can solve many issues, it needs to be carefully managed in order to be effective. Many CEOs are worried that their purpose won’t be embraced and interpreted consistently by every employee, from head office to the front line. In fact, according to a study from 275 CEOs, only 21% strongly agree that purpose comes first in their company’s decision making during a crisis, while just 24% of CEOs say they are fully confident their company would reward whistleblowing on bad corporate actions. This suggests that businesses still have some way to go in terms of making purpose work well for them. While harnessing your brand’s purpose can be challenging at times, let’s remember why it’s well worth your while:  

Purpose in the employee experience

Purpose can act as a guide for daily decision-making, as well as a lens for long-term planning. For example: BUPA Arabia realised its purpose was more about healthcare than insurance, and the clarity this brought to everyday business operations helped the company grow from 50k customers in 2013 to 750k in 2014.  

Purpose increases productivity

A recent study had people conduct a data-entry task where one group were informed of the purpose of doing their task and how it helps other projects, while the other group were incentivised with a few dollars. The purpose-driven group saw productivity increase by 14%, compared to 8% in the cash-incentivised group. An impressive (perhaps surprising) indication that purpose can trump money as a motivator.  

Purpose-driven interviews

According to a survey, 85% of recruiters check whether candidates agree with the organisation’s values or purpose during interviews. Next time you’re recruiting, try picking out candidates whose values align with the business’ by asking questions like, ‘What aspects of your work make you happiest?’ or, ‘Think about a time when you adjusted your role to have more of a positive impact. What did you do, and what did you want to accomplish?’  

Rethink your social channels

Are you telling your brand’s story in a way that reinforces its purpose, across every platform? Dove are masters of putting their purpose first in everything they do, including on social; it’s consistently clear that they’re all about helping women to feel comfortable with their appearance, rather than simply sell soap. It’s no wonder their revenue has grown from $2.4bn to $4bn in the last decade.  

Purpose from the inside out

Having a clear purpose that’s used internally helps to build relationships with your stakeholders, customers and suppliers, supporting a stronger cultural alignment. Unilever’s CEO found that, thanks to their purpose, “More suppliers want to work with us now, because it energises their employees and business models as well.”  

Top five ways to embed purpose:

  1. Map your employee journey and decide how to integrate your purpose
  2. Use design to encourage purposeful decision-making
  3. Create narratives that support your purpose
  4. Help leaders to become purpose advocates
  5. Include your employees in the purpose-creating process


How will you know?

Once purpose starts to impact the way employees think, plan and act, you will know you’re well on the way. Purpose is linked to happiness at work, and we know happier employees are more productive. The Office for National Statistics measures the wellbeing of the UK by asking 200,000 people a series of questions, one of which is, ‘How worthwhile are the things that you do in your life?’ With that in mind, it’s well worth giving your staff a chance to contribute to the purpose of your business. If they feel able to add meaning to their role, they’re likely to thank you with their loyalty.  

Case study: San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo’s purpose is to end animal extinction. They’re a great example of how to embed purpose into the employee experience. To do this, they:

  1. Find people who are truly passionate about animals
  2. Immediately immerse them in the mission and visions with their orientations programme, ‘Explore the Roar’
  3. Train them in the ‘GRRREAT’ customer service training programme, which aligns the purpose initiatives: Unite, Fight, Ignite
  4. Bring in seasonal employees, and explain the influence they have on customers at every touchpoint
  5. CEO regularly tells employees how much they matter
  6. Employees share animal welfare stories
  7. Internal newsletter recognises employees’ purposeful achievement

  You’ll know when your purpose is working well because your entire team will feel the difference. When asked what the business’ purpose is all about, staff will be able to answer clearly and confidently.

If you’d like help with measuring and managing the impact of your purpose, get in touch with our strategist, Chloe Foy.


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