Don’t just engage, inspire employees with a sense of purpose!

By : |October 16, 2018 0

Most companies have a mission and vision statement. Some of these are well constructed, some mild and vague, usually full of platitudes or wishes while some others are simply a lot of words bunched together without any message at all. Organizations have been working on building mission and vision statements for ages and they are meant to give employees a sense of direction about where they are heading as a collective.

But more often than not, the mission and vision statements that really get people to come together and outperform are based on something more than just economic growth. The bonding and inspiration don’t come from the words or the statements – it comes from what these statements represent. It comes from a sense of purpose.

Discovering Organizational Purpose

Prashant John, Co-Founder and CMO, Kwench Global Technologies

Prashant John, Co-Founder and CMO, Kwench Global Technologies

In their report “The state of the debate on purpose in business”, researchers from EY Beacon Institute, point out that by acting on their purpose, companies can create more value for their shareholders and society over the long term than by pursuing purely financial goals or a narrowly defined self-interest.

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The report highlights five ways in which purpose enables success for companies. 

• Purpose instils strategic clarity

• Purpose channels innovation

• Purpose is a force for and a response to the transformation

• Purpose taps a universal need• Purpose builds bridges

To ‘activate’ its purpose, however, organizations must first be clear on what their true purpose is. Now every organization has a purpose, the only difference is that some of them are able to identify and articulate it much better than the others. Even if the organization would have started off with a purpose and mission defined by the founders, over a period of time most will experience “drift.” Re-discovering the company’s larger purpose cannot be a top-down exercise with executives cloistered in a conference room stringing weighty words together.

As the organization grows, it is natural to expect a diversity of opinion about the purpose building up over a period of time. To discover the dominant view, one will have to “unlearn” the organization and then have a finger on the pulse. This is an extensive and iterative process not to be taken lightly.

Patterns and narratives will emerge from the hundreds and thousands of individual perspectives that will point toward what the people who form the organization see the purpose of the organization as.

Connecting employees to the purpose

The 2016 Workforce Purpose Index carried out by LinkedIn and Imperative is one of the most extensive global studies done on the role of purpose in the workforce. In their research, they found that 37% of LinkedIn members globally are purpose oriented, which means that they optimize their job to align with work that matters to them. And, another 38% considered purpose to be equally weighted with either money or status.

The truly inspiring companies, the ones where people seem to do amazing work, inspire their employees by giving them a larger sense of purpose to align with. True magic happens when the company’s mission is linked with the individual’s own purpose. That is when the employee is willing to go above and beyond a job description and give discretionary effort.

In a study done by Bain and Company along with EIU research in 2015, over 300 executives from companies across the world were surveyed and asked to assess the relative output of dissatisfied, satisfied, engaged and inspired employees. Where satisfied employees were ranked at an index value of 100, inspired employees scored 225.

Once the company has discovered and internalized its larger purpose, leadership has to help the rank and file of the organization connect to that purpose. This crucial link can be established by helping each employee deep dive to discover their ‘why?’

Borrowing a leaf from the Six Sigma practice, by repeatedly asking the question ‘why?’ helps to peel away the layers that obfuscate the true reason why an employee is doing the task she is. A deliberate and disciplined approach to this aspect will help employees bridge the gap between ‘because it is my KPI’ to ‘because it helps me to transform the lives of my client.’ There is an often cited, albeit unverified urban legend, where a janitor at NASA was asked why he was doing his job. His answer – ‘to put a man on the moon.’

Beyond just employee engagement:

Discovering and connecting employees to a broader sense of purpose go beyond just driving employee engagement. The report ‘The business case for purpose’ by Harvard Business Review points out that 58% of companies with ‘clearly articulated and understood purpose’ experienced growth of +10% compared to just 42% of companies that did not prioritize purpose.

In the research paper, ‘Corporate purpose and financial performance’, Claudie Gartenberg et al., studied 500,000 people across 429 firms in the United States and found that ‘firms exhibiting both high purpose and clarity have systematically higher future accounting and stock market performance, even after controlling for current performance.’

Finding purpose is thus more than just determining some ideal goal. It helps employees to find meaning in their work. It helps them to grow. It helps to tap into their inner strength to give much more than what their job descriptions require.

Discovering and articulating the real sense of purpose could be the secret power source to electrify your organization and take it to new heights.

By Prashant John, Co-Founder and CMO, Kwench Global Technologies

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