What’s the point of Purpose?
According to Quora.com ‘The purpose of meaning is a reason to support the cause of something. The meaning of purpose is the inner calling towards achieving something. The meaning of purpose in life is to discover your passion and calling. The purpose of meaning in life is to use your passion towards the betterment of the society and yourself’.
A lot has been written on this topic with much of it quite evangelical and therefore often dismissed or ignored as an idea for businesses. Surely businesses can’t have purpose, only individuals? We they can and do.
Traditionally, businesses followed a well trodden path of ‘mission and values’ and to some extent meaning is part of the same ethos i.e. there is a reason for a business to exist. Some missions have lofty goals, save the planet, feed the the starving, some are about education and some advancement through technology for example.
I believe the reason why such lofty ideas need to come to life is that to be properly engaged with work, people are looking for more than just the nature of the work and the pay. They want to be able to say to their family and friends that what they do has meaning and purpose. They strive to make to world a better place or their customers lives better.
Workplaces have some fundamental challenges.
We spend many hours toiling at work yet there are some fundamental work place challenges as evidenced by sickness levels, turnover and satisfaction surveys. Issues include:
1. Boring, repetitive activities such as data entry in call centres, accounting ledger reconciliation and factory production lines
2. A lack of career progression
3. Poor leadership and development
4. Pay not even keeping pace with inflation
Added to this, working from home has meant that it has become harder for employees to engage with businesses ideals, goals visions and missions. They no longer walk past the value posters (lucky them!) and the screen saver is just the wallpaper it is. Many businesses have failed to find a way to create purpose that can be translated for employees in meaningful ways.
There is another phenomenon at play, that of ESG, environment, social and governance. The idea that to operate in todays world employees, shareholders and other stakeholders expect businesses to think not only about making money but how they make it.
All of this links to purpose. If the thinking behind ESG and organisational meaning can be combined as opposed to being separate strands, you have a powerful hook for all stakeholders including employees.
Bring your Purpose to life.
These are grand words but how do you bring them to life? Well take the example of the janitor at NASA. He understood the organisations purpose despite undertaking an apparently menial task. He was proud of the part he played, he could boast to his friends and family and a President about the part he plays.
Engage your people.
I wonder how your employees would answer the question? Have you asked them or like many other organisations, have you stopped asking your employees as you fear the answer.
Have you got well developed thinking about ESG in your business but failed to engage your people with the ideals and concept?
Do you have employees talking to your customers and clients every day about your business and its products yet would have no idea how to articulate your organisation’s purpose? Or worse are they telling customers it’s all about making money?
Asking employees what they think is definitely a key part of engagement. Engaging them in creating meaning and purpose is the most powerful.
The hardest challenge is to simplify all the ideas into the purpose eg putting a man on the moon (sadly he didn’t say person).
I tend to like purpose that has clear stakeholder benefits especially for customers. For example, to get our customers lives back on track……., to build sustainable products that work, to simplify complex lives, to give our customers back time to live their lives. Increasingly, meaning has to include social and environmental impact so organisations that exist without damaging the planet or improving it will have higher meaning for colleagues than those that don’t.
2022 - Make A Start
Whether or not your believe that meaning and purpose is important, increasingly your stakeholders do! Investors, colleagues, business partners, collaborators and customers all want to work with organisations that mean more than just money.
In my view, organisations without meaning and purpose will be less prosperous than those which have.
Do get in touch if I may help your thinking.