Thought for the week

Creating a Purpose-Driven Culture

Much like the values embedded on a mission statement, a company’s purpose can quickly be forgotten. Here is how to create an effective purpose-driven culture.

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In 2020, a McKinsey survey found 82 percent of US companies “affirmed the importance of purpose, but only 42 percent reported that their company’s stated ‘purpose’ had much effect”. The inference is that many companies know that there is value in having a clear purpose but lack the conviction and energy to see it through. While organisations have long felt pressure to build purpose into what they do, it’s often been seen as an “add on” rather than an integral part of strategy. This lack of authenticity can be very corrosive.

If you were to ask every employee at your company what the purpose of the business is, do you believe their answers would match? Would every level of the workplace hierarchy say the same from C-suite to new starters?  

Studies show employees increasingly care more about value and “meaning at work” than salary. Millennials are more likely to join a workforce or spend money with a company if it demonstrates business ethics that align to their own.

Many organisations can find their purpose through culture. A Glassdoor survey found 77% of respondents would consider a company’s culture when searching for a new job. Culture is a critical aspect for hiring and retaining the best talent. People want to work in a culture where they feel respected, supported, and secure in their roles, with learning and development opportunities.

Creating a purpose-driven culture

Purpose is part of a company’s “why” – what are we here for, what makes us unique, what drives us forward? How do we do more than just create profit?

We like to describe culture as the personality of an organisation which is made up of beliefs, attitudes, behaviours, assumptions, practices. Regardless of what values your business says it espouses, how your employees feel will always speak louder.

Combining the two, a business cannot be purpose-driven if it doesn’t demonstrate purpose through its culture. A purpose-driven culture makes every employee feel respected, appreciated, and important. The leadership and strategy are in alignment, and the message of what you believe is echoed throughout communication, decision-making, and priorities. In a purpose-driven culture, employees will be guided by a business’s purpose in their day-to-day decisions and behaviour.

At Serenity in Leadership, our purpose is to help organisations become profitable and productive through a highly developed culture of responsibility, safety and inclusivity . Through the people we work with and the content we create, we demonstrate our mission for more equity, equality, diversity, and inclusion.

Microsoft’s stated mission is “to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”. They demonstrate this purpose through their workplace culture by fostering an environment where workers can use Microsoft’s platform to pursue their own fulfilment and passions (and that’s certainly at least part of their mission). By facilitating an environment that encourages staff to grow and feel fulfilled, they prove their statement of every person being able to “achieve more”.

Why companies fail to create purpose-driven cultures

Purpose and culture must align. When they don’t, we tend to find a decline in employee engagement and workplace satisfaction. Businesses may have a set purpose in place, but if leaders do not abide by it and if it is not measured or properly integrated, it will hold little sway.

A company might say they believe in innovation and exploring creativity, but workers are not encouraged or supported when sharing out-of-the-box ideas. Or a company may claim they believe in freedom of expression, but workers don’t feel psychologically safe enough to speak-out. What you say to stakeholders, customers, and employees, must be demonstrably lived in the environment you build.

Finding your purpose

There are lots of ways to create purpose. As Harvard Business Review notes, “cause-based purposes tend to receive the most attention”, but a company can focus on a “competence-based purpose” or a “culture-based” one. Mercedes’s purpose to “First Move the World” looks different to Tesla’s “to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy”.

Not every business holds a social cause in the same way Ben and Jerry’s campaign for social and environmental rights. Your purpose must be specific to your company – something that fits well with the services and products you offer.

Finding your purpose and using it to shape your culture may require:

Assessment: Using data and analytics to see how much influence your current purpose holds. Do your employees make decisions based on what your purpose is? Do your employees share the same purpose, or do they feel disconnected from company aims? At Serenity in Leadership, we like to survey every worker at a company to truly understand how much executives and staff are in alignment.

New integration: Once you have articulated your ’why‘, integrate your purpose into your culture. From processes, strategy, day-to-day operations, through to leadership and the hiring process. When purpose is successfully integrated and communicated, every stakeholder and employee will clearly understand what you represent.

Measure performance: Continually review and update how your purpose aligns with the company’s actions. How is your purpose affecting financial performance and retention?

As culture change experts, we have nearly 30 years’ experience helping large and small corporations with culture remodelling and integration. If you are looking to redefine your company’s purpose, contact us today via our form or telephone number below.

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Monday, March 7, 2022
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