We’ve all heard the famous urban legend about the discussion between President Kennedy and the custodian at NASA. The President asked the custodian “what do you do?” and the custodian said, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” While this interaction may or may not have actually happened, there is a reason it is so often told—it illustrates the idea that employees who are motivated by more than a paycheck, i.e. a purpose, will be more invested in the greater picture.
A purpose-driven firm, as Deloitte defines it, is one that has "an important objective that creates meaningful impact for stakeholders"—those stakeholders being clients, employees, their communities, and investors.
A defined purpose is not the same thing as a mission, vision, or values statement. Purpose statements tend to take an outward focus, not just illustrating the importance of serving clients, but putting yourselves in the client’s or prospect's shoes. It is less, “this is what we do (laundry list of services)” and more “this is what we do for others and why it matters.” In a nutshell, it should connect the head to the heart. For example:
A survey by Calling Brands found that working for an organization with a clearly defined purpose is second only to pay and benefits in importance to employees, and ranks ahead of promotion opportunities, job responsibilities, and culture.
Additionally, studies show that if employees feel they are working toward a good cause, they are 30% more productive. [What would a 30% increase in productivity do for your firm?] A purpose mobilizes people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will. Yet, purpose and profit are not mutually exclusive. For a firm to truly thrive, it needs to infuse purpose in all that it does.
1. Be Specific.
Take the opportunity to eliminate generic service language from your vocabulary when crafting your purpose statement. No full service, teamwork, innovation, leadership, etc. Be specific about what your firm is doing for others that your competitors aren’t. The purpose statement should reflect the reality of what is happening at your firm. It needs to be real, not aspirational.
2. Explain your Contribution.
Oftentimes, brands are accused of creating demand for items people don’t need. This is your firm’s opportunity to articulate what you provide that your audience desperately needs—peace of mind? A stable future? Someone to light the way in the dark? Whatever it is, articulate it and explain why you are best positioned to fill that void.
3. Communicate the Importance.
Don’t overcomplicate things, but you do need to tell your organization why a purpose is important and what your firm’s purpose is. Provide the feedback and tools to assist team members to live every day according to that purpose.
4. Make it a Continuous Process.
A purpose is not an end goal or something that has already been achieved. It is continuous progress toward something better. There is always room for improvement, more problems to solve, and voids to fill; not to mention the need to reinforce the purpose with each new hire.
When done right, an organization’s statement of purpose is more than just a few paragraphs of buzzwords. Purpose can be a motivator for employees, a way to differentiate your firm from competitors, and a strategic asset. . . but, purpose only works when it’s authentic.