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Getting the best from your people is a constant challenge for businesses. Individual attitudes, work ethic, company culture, and customer relationships all play their part, but there’s one unifying factor that can – and should – drive your people: Purpose. 

Every business needs a purpose. Purpose is defined as the guiding thought behind all decisions; it drives the brand and empowers its people to be brilliant – an aim that seeps into its very fabric, guiding the behaviour of the organisation as a whole and every person within it.

Team happy

Your organisation will be made up of multiple different personalities and capabilities. Unifying all of these behind a common mission harnesses their collective potential, funnelling it towards accomplishing your business’s primary goal. The benefits are almost unlimited – from greater customer loyalty to improved productivity, but arguably the most important is greater employee contentment.

It was Apple who said that inclusion inspires innovation. It’s why the company hires with the aim to make their workforce “as diverse as the world around us”, whilst giving them one common goal: create simplicity to breed clarity. This purpose, and conviction is carried down from executive to junior level, and is how this company – with more than 50,000 employees and annual revenue approaching $100 billion – still grows by 60% each year.

It sounds cliché, but your people are your business – they underpin every facet of it. A happy team is more engaged, productive, tenacious, loyal, and innovative. A purpose ensures they feel they’re working towards a shared goal, and this sense of direction drives contentment.

Understandable and personal

First and foremost, your purpose must be clear and well-defined. If it’s hard to grasp or convoluted you can’t expect your employees to be able to embody it. Your purpose must be understandable and tangible, orienting and inspiring your people to build the business’s reputation and drive the customer experiences that build brand loyalty and growth.

Many businesses already spend huge amounts of money to make their purpose tangible and operational. But what they have to do is make it personal. The wellbeing and satisfaction of your team, will depend on them feeling an individual connection to it.

Today, this sort of deeper connection is often achieved by the development of Employee Value Propositions (EVP), an area that is the subject of increasing discussion and debate. What seems to be absent from this discussion is the idea that purpose actually frees employees. Rather than restricting them, it liberates them to achieve greater things, providing a framework for innovation and creativity that drive a business forward. The work of Jim Stengel presents compelling evidence to suggest that having a clear and engaging purpose delivers improved bottom-line results.

Freedom!

This brings us to a crucial point. Once your purpose is understandable, relevant, and personal, are you ensuring your employees have the freedom they need to demonstrate it? Hand in hand with purpose must be permission. Employees must have the opportunity to embody your purpose both outwardly to customers but also back into the organisation.

This permission is something that so many businesses forget. It allows your team the freedom to challenge how the business makes decisions, develop new products, and speak collaboratively with customers. It enables them to innovate freely, seeing new opportunities that amplify the purpose. It gives them a voice within the business and the evolution of its brand, at every level, in every role.

Should you really be following hard lines and hierarchical frameworks that formalise how and where people can share ideas? Perhaps when it comes to purpose, these rigid structures should be relaxed in favour of something a little more reciprocal? Do 360 reviews take account of how purpose is lived by everyone that is responsible for bringing a brand to life? If your purpose gives permission to disagree then how are people acknowledged for taking a different point of view?

Established systems may take time to turn around, but for businesses that need help redefining their purpose – aligning it with new concerns, new customers and new market challenges – there is a golden opportunity to bring its people together and galvanise an organisation.

Purpose throughout the company

How exactly you go about developing, revising, or reinvigorating your purpose is up to you, and very much depends on your specific company. What’s inarguable is that purpose shouldn’t cascade from on high – it should echo throughout a business and bring out the best in people. The key to growth is that it should involve all of them.

by Patrick Baglee, executive creative director, StartJG