Employees want to work for companies with a purpose

An article appearing in The Edge Markets suggested that when a company intentionally lives out its corporate purpose, it can attract and retain higher-quality employees.

If a company simply asked a rhetorical question — Would the world miss us if we were not here? — corporate leaders will discover that employees want to work for firms that put a meaningful purpose behind their operations.

However, it can’t just be a plaque on the wall. It has to be a genuine sense of mission and purpose. In a recent survey, only 42% of workers said their company’s stated purpose had much effect on the work environment.

A global talent trends survey by Mercer found that the highest­-performing employees are three times more likely to work for a company with a strong sense of purpose. Yet, only 13% of the 7,600 respondents surveyed said that their organization was actually differentiated by a “purpose-driven mission,” The Edge Markets noted.

“A purpose needs to be a ‘living’ document that puts purpose to work, and translated into what needs to be done at a company daily,” the story added.

Creating an effective purpose statement cannot be undertaken from a top-down approach. It must involve the ideas and experiences of many people in the organization, including workers, contractors and customers. That’s the only way to help people foster a sense of ownership and enthusiasm for the shared purpose, according to The Edge Markets.

However, in my opinion, while companies need to be mindful of the ideas and experiences of others, the problem with creating a shared mission statement from scratch is that the end result is often so diluted to satisfy all the constituency groups that nobody remains who is passionate about the purpose to pick up the baton and run with it.

Yet, attention should be given to employees who have regular interaction with customers because they have a unique perspective on their needs and pain points — for which addressing them should be the primary purpose of any company.

“Purpose must be clearly articulated and ultimately be translated into steps that drive symbolic emotional changes, steps that people on the shop floor can relate to,” the article explained. “Employees need clarity on how they can contribute.”

One of the examples cited in the story was Ritz Carlton, where managers ask employees daily to describe how they contributed to the firm’s higher purpose or messed it up that day. That type of interaction works to keep a company’s purpose front-and-center rather than reading it from a motivational poster in the break room.

“If you have a strong purpose, it disciplines you. You need to translate it into strategic choices that you make. It means that some things are not doable anymore. You cannot be all things to everyone,” the article noted.

“A purpose will force you to consider fundamental questions like: Who do we want to serve? What do we want to provide? And not provide? You have to scrutinize your whole product and brand portfolio to see if it is purpose-proof.”

A friend and I were talking the other day. We met at McDonald’s in September 1976 and have been close friends ever since. Back then, McDonald’s stated purpose could be summed up with the acronym QSC-V, which stood for quality, service, cleanliness and value. Those points were drilled into our daily work experience.

Sadly, both of us wondered what McDonald’s purpose is today because quality and service are no longer evident when visiting one of the restaurants, and cleanliness is a hit-or-miss experience.

The other point about identifying and articulating a company purpose is that it allows the firm to find people who are also passionate about pursuing that purpose as well.

It’s one thing to engage in a company-wide exercise to help fine tune a corporate purpose. But, the ultimate purpose must be strong enough to motivate people to carry it out. And, if workers and managers don’t, then the company must release them so they can find a company with a purpose they can get behind.

Amazing things happen to companies when employees stand behind a shared sense of purpose and an individual desire to carry it out. Without it, eagles leave and only turkeys remain to keep the company afloat rather than helping it to grow and thrive.

The full story is available at www.theedgemarkets.com.