Two young twenty-somethings were talking with me about their jobs not so long ago. They were each working for good firms and felt they were well compensated. However, neither felt very inspired by the “purpose” of the company. I have heard the same thing from people of a wide variety of ages. How can organizations establish and communicate “purpose” effectively?
Many purpose statements of companies and nonprofits miss the mark. Companies often talk about “maximizing shareholder value” and nonprofits talk about the services they provide. What is missing is a statement about the “impact” the organization makes for others – for customers or those benefiting from the services of a nonprofit.
Here are some suggestions from a recent article* in Harvard Business Review on how to craft a meaningful Purpose Promise statement:
*Why does the organization exist? Explain the purpose in terms that are relevant to the customers/users. How are your products/services unique? What makes you different from competitors?
*What principles guide your decisions? Consider all of your stakeholders as you craft this aspect of your purpose. What values guide your interactions with various stakeholders? What kind of work environment do you want to build?
*What is your long-term future? This is the “vision” question. What future are employees building as they work hard day in and day out? What difference do you intend to make longer term?
The most talented people in the workplace want to make a difference with their hard work. Key to all of this, as usual, is that top leaders must role model the purpose and the principles. Without that, they are just empty words on a page. A well-articulated Purpose Promise – which you actually deliver on – can make your organization a high impact magnet for talent.
*Blount, S. “Why Are We Here?,” Harvard Business Review, November – December 2019, pp. 132- 139.