Being a human organisation (part 3): Define and live your purpose
This is part three of our nine-part series on how to be a more human organisation. In previous articles, we’ve looked at how Human Organisations understand people and our social nature. Now, let’s talk about the value of purpose.
“When a company truly understands and expresses its purpose, it functions
with the focus and strategic discipline that drive long-term profitability.”
Larry Fink, CEO, BlackRock
These are not the words of a softy but the hard-edged leader of a hard-edged global financial business. And Larry has it right; having a well-defined, inspiring purpose drives organisational profitability. But it also does so much more…
There are over 100 motivators that persuade us to act. They provide the accelerators to the successful future you seek for your organisation.
Of all human motivators, purpose is one of the most significant. We need a sense of purpose to get up in the morning, to feel happy and fulfilled, and to lend our efforts to a cause – be it personal or organisational. In fact, a strong sense of purpose, a reason for being, has even been shown to help people live longer.
If purpose is so important, then surely organisations, having defined their purpose, seek to bring it to life (let’s call this ‘purpose activation’). So, it seems entirely fair to ask:
- How do organisations account for their purpose in their annual reports?
- How does it translate into employee behaviours or customer behaviours?
- How do these organisations translate words into actions, and actions into impact?
- Where is the detailed and robust evidence of impact?
Many companies (and indeed governments and charities) would score poorly against these criteria, where, having invested resources into defining their purpose, it goes largely un-activated. Employees, who would benefit from a truly embedded, lived organisational purpose, experience it as peripheral to their workplace culture and relationship with their employer.
When it comes to customers and citizens, the downside of an un-activated organisational purpose is even worse: they might see it as little more than a corporate slogan.
Trust is hard won, and easily lost. At a time when consumer and citizen empowerment has never been stronger a lack of commitment and action around your purpose is a huge risk.
For interest, Facebook’s mission reads like a purpose statement: “To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”. How’s that going then?
As discussed above, this is part three of nine planned articles on the characteristics of the human organisation. While you wait for the next instalment, why not read all about them in detail, by downloading our report ‘The Human Organisation’?
And if you want a chat about how to make your organisation more human, drop me a line at John.Drummond@CorporateCulture.co.uk