With 2017 only a few weeks away, you’d be forgiven for feeling a bit reflective – looking back at this year’s successes and challenges, while already planning your next steps, and new initiatives for the new year.

What’s our core purpose?

But this is also the perfect time to take stock and ask your organisation the big question: what’s our core purpose?

In today’s business environment it’s more important than ever for a forward-thinking organisation to have and be seen to have a core purpose that aligns the benefits brought by its products and services with the beliefs of its key audiences, and the needs of society.

Identifying, understanding and communicating your purpose to your colleagues, customers and stakeholders could ensure a much happier new year.

Your purpose is why you exist

So, what is an organisation’s purpose, and how does it differ from its vision or mission?

  • Your purpose is why you are in business, why you exist. It guides you.
  • Your mission is what you do each day to accomplish your purpose. It drives you.
  • Your vision is where you will get to, one day. It’s what you aspire to.

Your purpose should lead to a clear statement of the difference you make to improve the lives of your employees, customers and stakeholders.

Being purpose driven matters

Having a clearly articulated and communicated organisational purpose gives your employees belief that they and you are doing work of value. It taps into an innate human need for meaning that is hard-wired into the brain. Sharing a purpose strengthens colleague commitment and retention.

In our connected, social age, being a purpose-driven business also matters to consumers. When your organisational purpose demonstrates a genuine belief that chimes with your audiences own beliefs, it creates a positive emotional connection, it enhances reputation, and it generates a degree of loyalty that all brands strive for.

Commercial and reputational benefits

However, it’s essential to articulate a purpose that is true to the heart of your organisation, and that rings true to employees, customers and stakeholders.

These are the purpose statements from a variety of organisations – arguably some are closer to living their purpose than others:

  • To build trust in society and solve important problems (PwC)
  • To help people to do more, feel better, live longer (GlaxoSmithKline)
  • Caring for the world, one person at a time (Johnson & Johnson)
  • To make people happy (Disney)

When you identify and communicate your purpose, bear in mind that your customers and commentators are savvy – so keep it real.

Ultimately, a purpose-driven organisation benefits both reputationally and commercially by aligning its core products, services and business operations to a societal need.

So, as 2016 draws to a close and the new year beckons, resolve to ask and answer one question: what is our purpose?

John Drummond
November 2016.