How To Avoid the Problem of Purpose in 2 Steps

In Culture, Purpose, Mission & Values

Deloitte’s 2014 Core Beliefs and Culture Survey found organizations that focus beyond profits and instill a culture of purpose are more likely to find long-term success. In fact, 91% of the executives and employees who said their company had a strong sense of purpose also reported historically strong financial performance. (And they reported correctly: the top purpose-driven brands studied in the Stengel 50 research had a growth rate triple that of their competitors).

Purpose-driven brands are on the rise, and that’s good for business, good for employees and good for society. (You can read my colleague Barry’s thoughts on this rise here.)

But Deloitte’s researchers found a major disconnect that is troubling: 64% of executives strongly agree that their company has a strong sense of purpose compared with only 52% of employees, and while 50% of executives say their organization has a major positive impact on the clients and markets it serves, only 39% of employees agreed. Curious.

While 11 or 12 percent might not seem significant, the difference becomes so when you consider that decades of studies (like Gallup’s Q12 Meta Analysis) have proven again and again that there are significantly predictive relationships between employee attitude and important business outcomes, like safety, productivity, customer loyalty, employee turnover and profitability.

So what is going wrong? Is purpose stuck in the boardroom and the C-suite? For many companies, we believe it is.

Understanding and defining your purpose is the first big step (these questions can help). But far too many companies take this big step and create a shiny brand book, only to put it on a shelf to gather dust. Yes, the business leaders who did the hard work to research, refine and codify the brand’s purpose soak in it and absorb it over weeks and months. And after the work on purpose is done, these passionate leader-converts use their new purpose every day to guide their thinking and fuel their work. But what of their employees?

Take these two steps to ensure your purpose gets out of the C-suite:

1. To be a successful purpose-driven brand, that purpose should be shared broadly, and all stakeholders – leaders, employees, customers and community – must be equally engaged. As much care must be paid to both launch and create on-going engagement plans as was given to the creation of the brand itself. How can we tell a compelling story about our purpose? Who should tell this story, and to whom? How can we help our employees have insights about their roles in living our purpose? How should we best engage each stakeholder group?

2. Leaders should dedicate time and resources to create a purpose-driven culture and bring the brand and its purpose to life. Study your current culture, envision the aspirational culture you want to have, and recognize the gaps between the two. What are the behaviors necessary to deliver on this purpose? How can we empower teams to change processes and prioritize purpose in how they support he business? What is the culture we aspire to be?

To realize the long-term financial benefits of purpose your company must be both purpose-driven and culture led.

This article may be reprinted when the copyright, link to article and author bio are included. ©2015 Storyforge, LLC.  Please contact us for inquiries.

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Haley BW smallerHaley Boehning is a principal at Storyforge. Building on 20+ years driving change and creating alignment for Fortune 500 clients, non-profits and start-ups, Haley has developed a pragmatic approach to change through storytelling, developing relevant, consistent and emotionally compelling messages and targeted communications strategies that help brand and culture triumph in times of great change.