A new report says that corporate ‘purpose’ motivates employees by aligning their personal goals with that of the organisation – helping increase productivity and sustainability. Matt McAllister finds out more about the purpose behind creating a purpose
Employees want to work for organisations that have a clear and satisfying purpose – that’s the finding of a new YouGov poll.
The poll, published as part of a wider report into the changing face of employee branding by global brand consultancy Calling Brands, surveyed 4,202 employees in UK, the U.S. and Germany.
Out of those, 65% said that a sense of ‘purpose’ would motivate them to go the extra mile in their job and 64% said it would engender a greater loyalty for the company they worked for.
And ‘purpose’ emerged as the second most important motivational factor (18%) after pay and benefits (52%).
It appears essential, then, for organisations to define and communicate their corporate purpose to employees at all levels. But what marks out an organisation with genuine corporate purpose and one that doesn’t?
“Ask any business leader and they will tell you that they have purpose. But only a few really do,” says Sean McKnight, director of strategic development at Calling Brands.
“When we talk of ‘purpose’ we mean the animating idea that energises, directs and differentiates the business. It sets out what the business exists to do, where it’s going, why it matters and what it’s good at. It gives it a reason to be that goes beyond the achievement of purely financial goals.”
McKnight says that a sense of purpose motivates employees as it helps them align their personal lives with a mission or set of goals that resonate with them.
If they feel a personal link with the aims of the organisation, it motivates them to push themselves further in pursuit of the same goal.
Customers and context
Some organisations have proved particularly adept at creating a believable sense of purpose.
McKnight points to two different examples: Unilver’s customer-centric focus on “helping people look good, feel good and get more of life” and Google’s context-based mission to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
“Purpose guides both short and long-term decision making,” McKnight says.
Purpose provides clarity to all audiences, both inside and outside of an organisation, on why a business is valuable to its customers, employees, shareholders, partners and society as a whole
“It provides clarity to all audiences, both inside and outside of an organisation, on why a business is valuable to its customers, employees, shareholders, partners and society as a whole. As such the clarity it provides helps drive profitability and strengthens a business’s brand in the long term.”
This view is backed up by a series of interviews conducted for the report with HR and communications chiefs from multinational organisations including Unilever, Time Warner, Bupa, Santander and Experian.
The consensus among interviewees was that employees are now seeking out companies they can connect with, either because they’re looking for greater long-term fulfilment (especially when pay and benefits have stagnated in many sectors) or because they have become disillusioned after corporate scandals.
“Purpose provides context and rationale,” says Helena Christopher, head of marketing and communications at QBE Group. “It helps people understand why the company is pursuing a certain direction. If they can understand why, then they are more likely to deliver on it.”
Organisations not only need to define their overarching purpose but they also need to successfully communicate this to employees.
If they do, then they will motivate employees far more than any short-term, profit-driven goals – two-thirds of respondents said that they felt more loyal to businesses that do more than simply maximise shareholder value.
“For the average employee, delivering shareholder value does not seem that exciting,” adds Christopher. “Delivering a purpose is.”