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Topic: Purpose

Having an inspiring purpose is not enough

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Most organizations today have a defined purpose. Many may even have an inspiring one.

After all, companies know that purpose drives profits and business success. 91% of consumers would switch brands for a similar but purpose-driven brand. Harvard Business Review found that purpose-driven companies outperform their peers in stock price by 12X. And employees who find a meaningful purpose at work are twice as satisfied with their jobs and 3X more likely to stay with their organizations.

Purpose is not your mission, vision, or values. Mission is what you do. Vision is where you want to be. Values are what behaviors you want employees to live by. But purpose is why. Why do you exist? What value do you bring to the world? What would be missing if your organization went away? 56% of employees believe if their organization did not exist, their customers would miss something they couldn’t get anywhere else.

Current state of purpose in the workplace

Our 2018 Global Culture Study found 73% of employees say their organization has a clear purpose. 64% believe their organization positively affects the lives of others. Senior leaders understand the importance of a clearly articulated purpose and are dedicating resources to creating and maintaining one.

Many employees find their company purpose inspiring. 53% of respondents work at companies where they find the purpose to be inspiring and speaks to them, and 60% believe their organization’s purpose speaks to their customers. You may strive to change the world, to improve lives, to bring communities together, or make something easier. But it’s not enough to just have an inspiring purpose if employees don’t hear about it, connect with it, or understand how they can personally fulfill it.

56% of respondents say their organization inspires employees to work towards a collective goal, and 58% believe their organization’s purpose motivates them to do their best work. There is a disconnect between simply having an inspiring purpose, and teaching, reinforcing, and connecting people to it in a way that impacts behavior.

73% of employees say their organization has a clear purpose

64% believe their organization positively affects the lives of others


Only 56% say their organization inspires employees to work towards a collective goal

Only 58% believe their organization’s purpose motivates them to do their best work


Connecting to your purpose

Even companies with the most inspiring organizational purpose can struggle with getting employees to connect with it. Because it’s not just about what you say your purpose is, it’s how you talk (or don’t talk) about it.

Research shows only 46% of employees hear about their organization’s purpose weekly. 58% see reminders of their purpose throughout their workplace. 61% say their purpose is consistent across various parts of the organization. There is opportunity for organizations to better integrate their purpose into all aspects of the employee experience.

1. Align your purpose with your Employee Value Proposition, Customer Value Proposition, and social good.

Employees want to know how their organization benefits them, your customers, and society as a whole. Make sure you have a clearly articulated purpose that differentiates your company and specifies how you benefit your employees, customers, and the world.

When organizations tie their purpose to social good, employees are:

• 120% more likely to believe their organization positively affects the lives of others

• 64% more likely to believe their organizational purpose is clear

• 150% more likely to believe that customers would miss something if their organization did not exist

• 54% more likely to report that their organizational purpose motivates them to do their best work.

And when companies connect their purpose to the EVP, CVP, and social good, they see a:

• 935% increase in the odds that an employee will have a sense of purpose

• 288% increase in the odds that an employee will have a sense of opportunity

• 858% increase in the odds that an employee will be engaged


FedEx Vice-President and CMO Rajesh Subramaniam tells the story about FedEx’s origins:

“From day one, our number one employee, Fred Smith, understood the importance of our people. He understood that success starts with the people on the front lines, the drivers, the customer service agents who deliver, in equal part, every day. He knew that if you make your expectations clear, if you reward and recognize the right behavior, success will follow. It didn’t matter where these people were, Toronto, Taipei, or Timbuktu, the FedEx language was the same. Our culture is the bedrock on which our brand and our company is built.” The company’s Purple Promise is to make every customer experience with FedEx outstanding. Employees not only know and believe in the promise, but they are empowered to bring the promise to life in every customer interaction they have


2. Communicate your purpose often—and everywhere.

Employees should see it, hear about it, and feel it frequently. Talk about your purpose in town halls, newsletters, emails, posters, meetings, and from leaders. Make it part of your company culture by sharing stories and examples then reinforce your reason for being, and help employees embrace your purpose organically.

When employees see their organization’s purpose throughout their workspaces, they are 32% more likely to believe their organization positively affects the lives of others, and 30% more likely to believe their organization inspires them to work towards a common goal. And when they hear about purpose throughout their employee experience, they are 20% more likely to be motivated by that purpose and 26% more likely to believe customers would miss something if their company did not exist.

"If you want to be successful over the long haul, you have to have a sense of purpose that is clearly articulated and embedded in your organization and processes, but you also have to live it. There can’t be two sets of rules."



3. Recognize people who live your purpose.

Be specific in how an employee’s great work or accomplishment furthers your organization’s purpose. It’s a constant reminder of how an individual is part of something bigger and more meaningful. It reminds them their work is more than just a job, that they are working towards a common goal with you together. Tying recognition to your purpose also connects employees back to your customers by showing how they’ve impacted customers with their work.

When employee recognition is connected to purpose, employees are 196% more likely to feel a sense of ownership of the organization’s purpose and 121% more likely to be motivated to do their best work.

Don’t forget to celebrate successes publicly. By recognizing an employee in front of their peers, the effect of purpose multiplies. You reinforce your company’s purpose and how employees contribute to it to the entire team, and the message spreads across the organization.

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4. Connect employees to purpose in manager one-on-ones.

Frequently connecting an employee’s work to the organization’s purpose keeps the purpose top of mind, but also shows how employees are contributing to something greater. It shows the value they are adding to the world, and what they do matters.

One-on-ones should communicate your purpose, but also set individual goals on how to achieve that purpose, check in on work and projects along the way, and show appreciation when employees live out your purpose. They should be specific, ongoing conversations of how you can help your employee feel they are doing important work.

When employees feel their work is meaningful, there is a:

• 42% increase in feeling their leader supports them

• 52% increase in feeling successful

• 61% point increase in employee Net Promoter Score

• 49% increase in feeling highly motivated to contribute to company success

“Connect the dots between individual roles and the goals of the organization. When people see that connection, they get a lot of energy out of work. They feel the importance, dignity and meaning in their job.”



Just having an inspiring purpose on your company’s website is not enough. Employees must know, feel, and connect with your purpose. They should know why your company matters and how they uniquely contribute to it. When your employees experience something that communicates, reminds them of, and connects them to your purpose, they’ll be inspired to help you fulfill it.

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