To suggest that companies have historically lacked purpose would be disingenuous. Purpose is elemental to humans and human institutions; it’s an existential imperative. We have one life, and most of us spend most of our waking hours working in an organization. It’s important that we find meaning and fulfillment in what we do. So, why the intense interest lately?
Everywhere these days, people are talking purpose. As big believers, we’re encouraged by all the interest. Yet we’ve observed that many organizations are merely scratching the surface; they’re missing the full power of the kind of purpose that can transform.
Many organizations do a superficial job of articulating why they exist, settling for vision-setting exercises that lead to little more than catchy slogans and posters. Some craft purpose statements that are so generic they could apply to just about any company. Other efforts are inauthentic, like the politically correct promotion that has no connection to the company’s DNA. But even among organizations that articulate their purpose effectively, many are guilty of going no further. They do almost nothing to integrate purpose into the day-to-day experiences of their employees and customers. This “surface purpose” amounts to a thin veneer that doesn’t ingrain new beliefs and behaviors. Despite the hype, the organization remains unchanged.
Organizations with surface purpose realize none of the benefits of authentic purpose: the energized employees, the stronger organizational alignment, the unswerving customer loyalty, and the greater value that comes from making longer- term investments in people, offerings, and new markets. And they may miss out on a fundamental element of purpose: its positive impact on society.
Realizing purpose with the power to transform requires a different approach.
In recent years, more and more leaders have declared their commitment to deliver on the triple bottom line—people, planet, and profit. Attracting, engaging, and inspiring employees, along with demonstrating responsibility to the community and committing to sustainable environmental practices, have become as important as generating profits. In addition, leaders are increasingly feeling a personal need to have a positive impact and legacy. They see business playing a larger role in shaping society.
Find out more about how the transformative power of purpose by reading our recent white paper: Purpose with the Power to Transform.