What is Purpose and why is it important?

We all know a few people who are born with purpose – to be doctors, vets, actors or teachers. Most people take longer to work out what makes them fulfilled and happy.

It’s similar with organisations and companies. Some have an intrinsic purpose – such as public-sector institutions and the third sector. Other private companies, such as The Body Shop, have embraced commerce but want to show that business can work for good. We all know organisations that we admire and trust because of their purpose.

But there are other organisations that develop a higher purpose after fulfilling initial commercial aims, when they look for some sense of value beyond pure profit. Entrepreneurs turned philanthropists – such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Richard Branson – are motivated to do good but are more able to do so because of the position their business success has won them.

In the context of the PRIDE model, Purpose is defined as the positive impact that your organisation has on society. For you as an individual: what are the main motivations that drive you to do what you do and where you work? What are your personal desires and wishes, what do you want to achieve, and what impact do you want to have?

A lot of studies suggest millennials are more motivated than previous generations to work for a company with a clear sense of purpose. However, there is an equally strong case all of us are more questioning of institutional morality. After a decade of institutional trust being devastated –in governments, business, bankers, police forces and the media – many organisations are revisiting their values and principles. A statement of purpose, and with it a renaissance of trust, is something to offer the next generation coming into the workplace.

Countless companies have been set up to make something, change something, sell something, entertain. Others start with the fundamental purpose of making money, and their sense of social purpose comes at a later stage, with maturity or for market differentiation. But when organisations decide to focus on purpose, it needs to be real, authentic and reflected in everything it does.

Purpose also means different things to different individuals. It is not enough to think that organisational purpose alone creates meaningful work. The motivation of individuals drives people to achieve things for themselves and for others. It impacts how much effort we put in, how we relate to our work and when fulfilled can carry us deeper into a relationship with work.

The relationship between an organisation’s purpose and an individual’s purpose is really the beginning, middle and end of the PRIDE model. Purpose creates emotional connections between brands and customers, institutions and people; and it creates meaning for employees at work alongside their personal motivations. Companies that understand this dual aspect of purpose are the ones that are really flying.


Turning the tables on reputation management

Reputation makes an impact before people even join an organisation, by attracting them to apply for a job in the first place. However, the organisation’s external reputation continues to affect how an employee feels throughout their employment, and is a fundamental factor in building and maintaining employee pride.

Reputation is built by everything an organisation does, everything it says and everything said about it. When organisations think about brand reputation, they tend to think about their customers, shareholders and the media. Yet employees and potential employees are all consumers and as such are strongly aware and strongly influenced by their employer’s external reputation. Research has shown that most organisations neglect the importance of building a reputable employer brand – a strategic brand positioning – that is aimed at the people who are delivering their services.

The world’s most elite and reputable brands are the ones that spend the most money on graduate recruitment and employee advocacy. Look at all the indices and the names are the same: Apple, Google, EY, Microsoft, IBM, P&G, Unilever, Nestle, Mars, Diageo, Coca Cola.

For sure, money talks. But that doesn’t mean to say you can’t join the conversation.

Take the UK as an example. With a 31 million working population, 10 million work for SMEs. That’s a third of all UK workers working for companies most people have never heard of. This lack of reputation in the employment arena poses problems for both employers and employees.

Reputation is a pivotal factor between brand and employees – and most companies only make the connection in the context of employees delivering brand promise. They talk about employees needing to be brand advocates. But they don’t think about how their brand reputation, or lack of it, impacts their performance in the employee market. The PRIDE model encourages companies to think differently about building their story in the employment market.


Is your organisation’s inner truth up to scratch?

You know the feeling when you’ve made an exciting purchase, such as a new bike, then you start worrying you’ve paid too much. Doubt creeps in and, before you know it, the new shiny toy isn’t so exciting.

This cognitive dissonance is what happens when feelings or opinions conflict with one another. Marketers do their best to prevent this by reassuring new and recent consumers about their purchasing decision and the quality of their purchase. However, the best strategy is to prevent cognitive dissonance happening in the first place – by delivering a product or service that meets or exceeds consumer expectations.

The same principle applies to the employee’s experience in the workplace: every effort should be made to create a positive work experience that meets your brand promise and your employee’s expectations. Accepting a job is an act of faith, and most employees approach their first day full of anticipation. From the minute a new employee sets foot in your company, everything that happens to them – the workplace environment, how their manager communicates, the team dynamics, and so on – affects how they feel about their jobs.

Integrity, or the ‘inner truth’ of your organisation, is the daily reality experienced by your employees. It encompasses having the right processes or policies, encouraging the right behaviours and culture, and everything in between.

The employee journey, or employee lifecycle, maps out processes from recruitment and induction through to allocation of tasks and performance management, together with reward and recognition schemes that reflect the type of company you want to be and the values you want to represent.

But the PRIDE model requires you to take a second perspective, by looking at life in your organisation through your employees’ eyes. There are 100s of episodes every day – such as how you respond to questions, break news, deal with conflict, say ‘thank you’ – that either demonstrate or kill the integrity of your reputation.

If you are a business-owner, entrepreneur or CEO, you can have a huge influence your company’s work culture at work. But you can’t do this alone. The PRIDE model shows that everyday behaviours by all employees are just as important as company processes in determining the overall employee experience.

When all employees are working towards shared goals in small organisations or large ones that are strongly purpose-driven, processes and behaviours develop naturally that are in keeping with the organisation’s principles. However, as the employee population grows and the workplace becomes more complex, it takes conscious effort to create preferred working practices and behaviours. In larger organisations, line managers have an all-important role in not only motivating and supporting their teams but also in reflecting the organisaton’s desired culture.


Set Direction, but remember, not everyone
wants to climb Everest

People often talk about ‘their dream job’, a career highlight when everything about their job and the company they worked for came together to deliver a fulfilling experience and great performance. If you are a leader, you have a huge opportunity to make this a reality for your employees.

In the fourth element of the PRIDE model, we show how leaders can motivate teams to achieve common goals, not only by setting an organisation’s direction but also by tuning into their employees’ personal aspirations.

Good leaders understand the importance of creating a compelling vision and clear strategy. While the scale and tone will differ from a start-up or SME to a market leader or a mature institution, the opportunity is universal. Working towards an improved future state creates momentum for both the organisation and its employees.

Leaders set strategy in different ways, but the most motivating and effective way is to be inclusive and collaborative by enabling employees to help develop the strategy. When employees have the chance to influence the outcome, they put more effort into achieving the objective.

Communications teams also have an important role in supporting the leadership and helping to shape a compelling narrative. The larger the organisation, the more formal process and effort is required to make sure all employees understand the organisation’s direction. A leader with good communications skills can also create a clear line of sight between strategic goals and individual tasks, so people feel their work is valuable and really counts towards a collective goal.

As in PRIDE’s Integrity module, there is an important personal perspective to Direction. All employees have their own professional motivations and agenda; they are defined by their personal ambitions, circumstances and commitments that change throughout their careers. An essential leadership responsibility is to know how employees perceive their role in your organisation, where they are in the context of their own lives, and what they want to achieve next in their careers.

When personal motivations are in sync with the organisation’s direction, employees will be committed. And that’s where the magic begins: they start to perform, they start to achieve.

There are a lot of softer emotional benefits too. When leaders show an interest in employees as individuals, people feel more connected and more respected. Motivated employees often speak of a sense of belonging, a personal affiliation with their company’s purpose and values.

When leaders talk about bringing people with them towards a strategic goal, they tend to focus on the high-achievers, the upwardly mobile and the top teams. It is equally important to understand those employees who, while putting in a great performance, want to do the same job for many years. The PRIDE model helps leaders and managers understand and appreciate the value of all their employees.

An HR director tells a story about joining a global company where succession planning sometimes involved people moving to a new country, which the leadership regarded as good news for the person concerned. At her first succession meeting she asked: “Has anyone asked these candidates if they want to move?” You can guess the answer: the leadership had a one-dimensional view of their employees that lacked any knowledge of their personal circumstances.

In the PRIDE model, leaders and managers look at three dimensions: where the company or organisation is going; where the job is going; and where the employee is going in terms of their personal development ambitions. When all three of these conditions are positive, the individual will be able to take pride in contributing to their organisation’s direction.


Is your organisation going to run out of energy?

Look at any sector in the current global economy and you will find an ever-increasing pace of change, more sophisticated consumer demands and new sources of competition. There are new technologies, materials and processes emerging every day that offer opportunities and threats to existing market players.

While some outstanding organisations have withstood the tests of time, the average life expectancy of an organisation is declining rapidly. Organisations have always had to adapt to change, but there has never been a greater need for innovation, resilience and energy.

At the same time, people are living longer and most will have to work for longer to finance their longer lives. Compulsory retirement ages are also rising – a school-leaver entering the workplace in 2020 is likely to work until 70, a full 10 years more than their grandparents’ generation. Individuals have the ultimate responsibility for their own health, but employers also have a duty of care. Employers not only need their employees to work smarter and harder, but also for longer.

The fifth element of the PRIDE model looks at physical, mental and emotional energy in the workplace, and provides an Energy Plan approach that will achieve long-term success and wellbeing for both the employee and the organisation.

Physical and mental wellbeing needs to be on the corporate agenda. Health at work has many aspects – including locations, facilities, working conditions and operational processes. Flexible employment is important because different working patterns cause different health issues – for example, shift-workers are more likely to smoke and have a poor diet resulting in heart disease and obesity; while international executives suffer stress and depression brought about by frequent long-haul air travel and constant connectivity.

In an ageing demographic, wellbeing is also a social and economic issue. Commentators on the ageing population in Western markets tend to focus on how increasing dependency on health and other care services is draining national economies. The implications for businesses and organisations are somewhat more complex. Over the next 10 years employers in many sectors are facing an imminent shortage of manpower as more people in developed economies come out of the workforce than join it. For example, government employment statistics in the UK show a deficit of 7 million people by 2025, which will affect the engineering, retail, teaching and healthcare sectors. It is time for employers to consider more flexible working patterns or different roles that will encourage employees to stay longer in their organisations and prevent the exodus of talent and experience through early retirement.

Creating an energetic workplace requires respect for individual working preferences. Many of the hi-tech innovation companies have a reputation for providing time and space for creative thought, mindfulness, relaxation and even play. There are lessons here for all organisations who want to inspire their employees to achieve higher productivity.

Highly energetic cultures rely on influential individuals who can challenge the status quo. For many, an energetic workplace is one where you are given the freedom to learn, grow and seek inspiration from the outside world. Others find their inspiration from within their organisation or their own networks. Communications and HR professionals can help fuel the energy of their leaders and influencers by sharing inspirational sources, creating processes and platforms to encourage innovation and collaboration. They can also explore then implement aspects of working that motivate, energise and inspire employees.

People have a choice to be positive players and influencers in their organisations. No single activity will flick the switch from passive to active participation, but positive energy is highly contagious. Outstanding organisations rely on high levels of collective and sustained effort to thrive, and anything you can do to feed that energy will deliver rich returns.

Do you want to take PRIDE?

There is no single silver bullet that will bring PRIDE to your organisation, but there is a proven methodology. Get in touch with Sheila to find out how you can implement a PRIDE programme in your organisation.