Getting serious about your organisational purpose: Part 2

9 January, 2019
Getting serious about your organisational purpose- Part 2

Organisational purpose truths to put at the core of your mission

In the first part of our discussion about organisational purpose, we examined the five most common organisational myths. In this second part, we uncover five truths about purpose that will help organisations better understand how it can be used to access benefits such as brand loyalty, employee engagement, better staff retention, etc.

 

Five organisational purpose truths to consider

The following five truths about organisational purpose can help companies to inform their long-term business strategies and ensure they are in line with the values and beliefs which the organisation and its stakeholders hold dear. As such, they should form a vital foundation of thinking at all levels of the organisation.

 

1. Organisational purpose is not another definition of CSR

The idea behind Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is that it creates an ethical basis for both an organisation and the wider community to profit. Since its inception at the end of the 20th century, CSR has been superseded by the idea of sustainability.

However, CSR and sustainability are very different to organisational purpose. Sustainability and CSR are surrounded in complex language encompassing factors such as the environment, social risks and social opportunities.

Organisational purpose encompasses a much broader landscape. It informs environmental strategies, business strategies and community collaborations. It is not separate to any single factor but is an ever-present in all conversations. It is evidence of an organisation’s commitment to all that it touches, from employees to shareholders, from customers to community.

Organisational purpose is the lifeblood of a company, determining objectives and aspirations and informing employees of their worth while helping them understand why the organisation does what it does.

 

2. Organisational purpose evolves

Organisational purpose is much like personal purpose, in that it evolves as circumstances evolve. As a person journeys through life, events reinvent purpose. Completing education, buying a new home, finding a partner and raising a family are all examples of events that change personal purpose.

Organisations travel along a similar pathway. A company begins its life with a clearly defined purpose, and as it grows and matures and its markets change and evolve, so, too, does its organisational purpose. While purpose is ever-present, it is not carved in stone. Attention to markets, regulations, and customer needs and desires help to inform purpose, as an organisation pays heed to its history while looking to its future.

Organisational purpose also enables leaders to redefine its strategic plan to align with the values and beliefs of its employees. When an organisation leads with purpose, the work that its employees do becomes more meaningful and enjoyable. This creates the environment in which retention of talented staff improves, as it empowers better decision making for recruitment and development, and enables the alignment of culture with strategy for sustainable success.

 

3. Organisational purpose is the responsibility of senior executives

An organisation’s brand storytelling must reflect its purpose, and must have the commitment of leaders. The CEO and his or her board drive strategy. It follows that they must believe in and commit to organisational purpose to act as a guide to employees.

The CEO is the key player in articulating organisational purpose, inspiring other leaders to give it their full backing and providing the momentum through each function, department and team. When senior executives speak passionately about organisational purpose, it inspires people to engage with that purpose. It becomes an integral part of an employee’s reason to turn up to work every day.

If organisational purpose lacks the backing of the CEO and senior executives, it will wane and eventually die – and the potential benefits will disappear also.

 

4. Organisational purpose is a continuous campaign

Organisational purpose cannot be embedded or communicated in a single campaign. It must be nurtured, developed, and lived continuously.

When an organisation first uncovers its organisational purpose, it is likely that the fire will burn brightly when senior executives communicate it to the organisation. This passion must not diminish. Putting organisational purpose at the core of an organisation necessarily means living that purpose every day. Purpose-driven organisations put in place initiatives to encourage engagement with organisational purpose at every stage of the employee journey, from recruitment to retention.

We’ve been working with EY to help them align their employees with the organisational purpose. To discover how to communicate your purpose and embed understanding of it within your organisation, read the case study here.

 

5. Organisational purpose can be measured

One of the criticisms levelled at organisational purpose is that it is a fluffy concept, and a subjective ideal rather than an objective process. When an organisation learns how to create more meaningful objectivity around its purpose, the sense that it is just words and rhetoric evaporates.

Like any meaningful goal, organisational purpose should be achievable and measurable. It is therefore important for leadership to define organisational purpose in meaningful and measurable terms. This will then provide evidence that the organisation is succeeding in its vision and mission.

There are many ways in which organisational purpose can be measured. These include the setting of suitable KPIs for teams and individuals, surveys that measure understanding of purpose, and developing targets to measure impact of organisational purpose on all stakeholders, employees and customers.

 

In conclusion

The key message about organisational purpose, evident by examination of both myths and truths of organisational purpose, is that it is not something that can be communicated once. It is a living, breathing element of corporate life. It can’t be delegated to other people, but must be led by senior executives, and lived every day.

The benefits of uncovering, developing, communicating and embedding organisational purpose as the core of what your company is about are plentiful, and include greater brand loyalty, more meaningful conversations with all stakeholders, and improved ability to attract and retain top talent.

To learn more about how your organisation can access these benefits and more by communicating its organisational purpose more effectively, get in touch with us here at The Big Picture People.

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