Finding the meaning of ‘why we are’ has been the quest of mankind for centuries. Today, this search has become the epicenter of the inner drive for higher-purpose, that pushes us to make our own unique contributions to the world we live in. Looking beyond our personal journeys, I believe its time now for organizations to also harness the power of purpose and make their stakeholders, employees, partners, customers and ultimately society part of something much bigger.
Being human fundamentally makes us sensitive to feelings of wellbeing and happiness. But beyond financial gains and personal benefits that contribute to creating these positive emotions, we all want to be a part of ‘making things right’ with the world. In large part, this has been the cause for turning the mantra for organizational success on its head, with the pursuit of pure financial goals and self-interest often being seen counter-productive to value creation.
Doing-well and doing-good not mutually exclusive
Today, businesses are a growing web of interconnected people and it’s imperative that everyone in this web sees the value they create or the contribution they make towards enabling a larger purpose for an organization.
And I feel this is why organizations like Google are seeing greater employee engagement, brand equity, customer loyalty and eventually higher holistic value, because they chose to invest time and effort in helping people achieve, outside of self-interest and monetary gains.
Typically, we always tend to think of ‘Doing-well’ as a key driver for any organization, often weaving our product development and strategy around this thought. But today, ‘Doing-good’ also needs to get intertwined with these revenue goals. When product development and strategy are equally influenced by both – Doing Well and Doing Good; that’s when a company truly starts moving towards holistic success.
Core business competencies build an enduring case for purpose
The most common question plaguing organizations when transitioning to being purpose-led is the dilemma of balancing core revenue objectives and business competencies, with a social or environmental cause. The key to overcoming this, is in realizing, that defining a higher purpose is not about turning into a charity or not-for-profit entity. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
Organizations need instead to ask themselves some key questions including how they define purpose for their brand; what are their reasons for their being; what are their strengths and capabilities; how can they measure their purpose and its impact; and most importantly, what future business strategy will help them adhere to their greater purpose and continue to deliver value beyond monetary gains and profits.
There are many interesting ways for organizations to achieve this. Take technology companies for example. Driving purpose in their case could mean they have used their strengths to identify software solutions that help customers get their purpose into motion.
Bringing purpose to life
Standing for a purpose has a direct impact on accelerating business success and building brand equity. But this is possible only when organizations approach their transition in a strategic manner by exiting siloes like marketing and CSR, and making change an employee movement.
For me personally, company’s ranking as a leader in “Fit for Purpose” is proof of us having got four things right – the purpose itself; communications; performance and behavior. This brings me therefore to the conversation of how organizations can roll-out an abstract concept like Organizational Purpose into real-life action or operation.
One important thing to start with is to break the definition of your purpose into smaller comprehensible bits and then individually look at them to see how they can extend beyond pure material fulfilment and add value to people’s lives. Bringing ‘purpose to life’ means embodying it in your strategy, product development and communications and measurement metrics are critical to this success.
We also have to remember is that organizational purpose needs to be multi-stakeholder led and not boxed in only with specific departments like Marketing or CSR departments. So, ensuring continuous engagement and review to understand how well your purpose statement has become embedded across the organization is vital to success.
Today, I truly benefit from the positive energy that comes from being purpose-led, because I decided to work for an organisation who has chosen to take the lead and become a completely humanized brand. But building a legacy of Business-to-Human brands is a tall order, because the mandate of driving greater purpose does not end with just creating impact. In fact, it implies an even greater responsibility to educate and amplify your message and to inspire others to enable purposeful living.