By Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer, Ideal Outcomes Inc.
Was the thought process behind your purpose statement based on research showing that consumers and employees favor such companies? A study by Cone/Porter Novelli (registration required), for instance, found 79% of consumers said they’d be more loyal to purpose-driven brands than traditional brands. Studies have also shown that employees who see their job as meaningful perform better and identify more strongly with their company.
Why not give customers and employees exactly what they want?
You should—as long as your purpose is real and not an opportunistic marketing gimmick or an attempt to appear socially conscious that’s been labeled “purpose washing.” Companies eager to jump on the purpose bandwagon—without having a true, meaningful purpose—are in danger of tripping themselves up. As Becky Willan, co-founder of a brand purpose agency, put it, “In the rush to stand for something, some organizations have risked putting the purpose ‘story’ ahead of the purpose plan and actions.”
So, how do you make sure you have a real corporate purpose?
Build a genuine connection.
Lead by example.
Spread the word.
One of my clients, for instance, encourages company purpose through seven cultural pillars that clearly describe why they exist. The learning and development program, which we created for this global manufacturer, includes a three-year plan to create more than 600 middle managers based on those seven pillars. The strategy is to empower managers with the skills and competencies to consistently communicate and model key behaviors that form the pillars.
Another client’s most important issue is safety — for employees and the public. This company, a large public utility, communicates its purpose by opening all of its meetings with a message about safety.
Purpose needs to be front and center throughout the employee life cycle, including recruiting, onboarding, feedback and performance management.
Keep your promises.
From my perspective, the bottom line when it comes to having a company purpose is this: While the concept that business as a force for good is increasingly relevant and important, your organization’s purpose must be real to have a meaningful and lasting impact.