If you Google the word “purpose” you get the definition “the reason for which something exists.” This is a challenge if you think about it in the context of an organization. And it is for this reason that so few organizations have cultures that are based on purpose. Instead, almost all of the organizations we see have visions and mission statements.
Purpose is the Foundation of Culture
Why is purpose the necessary foundation for the right organizational culture? The answer is clear. When culture is based on purpose, that purpose informs strategic, business and financial decisions. It becomes easier to see what decisions to make in the context of your organization’s purpose.
Purpose in Action
Let’s say you are a membership organization and your purpose is to serve your members. Assume you are in the meeting where you prioritize capital investments and you are looking at two technologies. The first aims to build a solution that will scale a product to reach more members in remote places. The second aims to make one event very effective.
With the purpose of serving members top-of-mind, it is easy to make the call and choose the project that impacts more members. On the other hand, if you had a vision statement, the choice might have been open to interpretation and internal political debate.
Purpose is deeply connected to the human side of business. As such, it is much harder to argue with.
Employees are Motivated by Purpose
Purpose driven culture also helps to get your employees to buy in to your vision. Purpose is inspirational. It is personal. It is also based on values and, as such, can transcend the gap between work and personal life.
When your organization is purpose based, your employees who connect with that purpose can bring their authentic selves to the job. They can be themselves. In turn, this makes them feel more connected to the organization. That naturally elevated employee engagement turns your employees into ambassadors of your brand.
Mission Statements are Not Enough
There is no mission statement that can drive the loyalty that purpose can. Big brands often forget that, and they spend more time in the boardrooms talking about strategies. Strategies come and go. Purpose is permanent. An organization with purpose can easily survive changes in management and changes in the market. Even though leadership might change, purpose stays forever.
Purpose Drives Hiring and Retention
With purpose based culture, even recruiting is easier. Candidates that share the passion for your purpose naturally demonstrate that in their interviews. It is much easier to spot and hone in on that in an interview than it is to test vision statement buy-in.
Although purpose is much harder to define and it may take a little more soul searching, taking the time to do so early on is the best investment when you launch your organization. The ROI of that time is eternal and may well save your company’s life down the line.
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*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.