6 December 2018

Why, why? What’s your purpose?

Organisational purpose. What’s yours? Why do you need it? Is it worth the investment?

A business’ philosophical heartbeat? A company’s reason for being? An intangible link that pulls your organisation together?

Sound a bit fluffy to you? Maybe. Simply put, ‘purpose’ is a statement that joins ‘head’ with ‘heart’. It’s finding a way to express the effect, influence and impact of your business on the lives of your customers and colleagues. It’s about creating a real, tangible human connection no matter what your organisation does.

Walmart could talk about discount prices, but their purpose is about improving people’s lives: “We save people money so they can live better.”

The BBC could talk about the breadth of television programmes they offer, but it’s about their impact: enrichment, information, education, entertainment: “To enrich people’s lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain.”

And Twitter could talk about being a real-time news engine, but it’s about creating connections and sharing stories: “To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly.”

Connecting people with your purpose takes them away from their day-to-day and helps them think more about the bigger picture. The infamous story of the NASA space centre janitor is a great example of this. The janitor, when asked by President Kennedy, what he was doing, replied, “Well Mr President, I’m putting a man on the moon.” He had purpose, far beyond his efficient cleaning.

And that’s what purpose does, it takes you from ‘efficient’ to ‘effective’ and ‘empowered’. Efficiency can be achieved by simply doing things better. But being truly effective, that requires people to have a sense of purpose and to have that purpose weaved throughout their employee experience at your company.

The NASA story also raises another important point. It’s not only big brands and charities that can be proud of their purpose. Every employee in every company, can have a purpose. Why should an investment banker feel less purpose than a social worker? Or a bailiff feel less purpose than a teacher? A study by the American Psychological Association found that hospital janitors, whose daily duties were far from “meaningful” work, were actually some of the most purposeful workers they surveyed. It’s simply about finding your human connection and impact, and helping people be proud of it.

Does it pay the bills?

This real, tangible connection has real, tangible benefits. Purpose pays off!

  • Deloitte found that 73% of colleagues say they work at a “purpose-driven” company are engaged colleagues, compared to just 23% of those who don’t. https://www.inc.com/adam-vaccaro/purpose-employee-engagement.html
  • Glassdoor found that 74% of people want a role where their work matters, and 52% people said purpose and values was a dealbreaker when accepting a new role.
  • Imperative found that purposeful employees perform better across the board. They are more likely to rise to senior level roles, to be net promoters of their organisation, to stay longer, and to have stronger relationships with their colleagues.
  • And this is important to colleagues across the board – but particularly to the younger generations. A recent survey found 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a values-driven company!

Purpose done right

Zappos, the American online shoe retailer, could just sell shoes. But they don’t. Through their purpose, “delivering happiness and wow service” – they sell happiness. And this translates, into real colleague examples:

  • ‘The Offer’ – a sum of money offered at induction stage and at different points of the employee journey for people to leave Zappos if they no longer align with their purpose and culture.
  • ‘Cultural alignment interviews’ – specially trained interviewers who look out for customer experience traits – if they sense the candidate is less focused on customer experience than they are, the recruitment process ends there.
  • Call centre employees are fully empowered to wow customers – there are no scripts, in fact they actually encourage colleagues to use their imagination to make customers happy – no need to check with the boss! With over 75% of sales coming from repeat questions, this really works.

It translates into real customer examples, that come with brilliant press coverage too:

Purpose – it’s not a choice

It’s clear that purpose is far from fluffy. It’s relevant in every business across the world, and to every colleague in the organisation. Engagement scores, productivity and profitability can all be linked to your purpose. So how do you go about creating one? And where do you start with embedding it? Lucky for you, we’ve got two more articles in this series that will answer those exact question. Keep your eyes peeled on our Hub for these in the coming days…

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