Four steps for building a purpose-led business

- April 19, 2019 3 MIN READ

Today, we are demanding more of consumer brands when it comes to social corporate responsibility. We are also demanding more of the companies we work for, writes  Elise Ward, General Manager People and Purpose at Prospa.

While competitive salaries and professional growth are still strong motivators, today’s workforce is increasingly looking for career experiences that offer a sense of purpose and the opportunity to make a positive environmental or social impact, locally and globally. A global GMAC survey of business school candidates, for example, found that an increasing number were motivated by a desire to contribute to the well-being of their community. Another survey by BetterUp found that 9 out of 10 employees would trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work.

Attracting (and retaining) top talent in 2019 requires your business to have a clearly articulated and demonstrated sense of purpose – a ‘reason for being’ that taps into something beyond profit, but that can be backed up with tangible outcomes. And businesses have much to gain from making this a priority.

Connecting employees to a purpose heightens engagement day to day, inspires bigger and bolder thinking at every level, and increases the time and energy people invest in the business. It also increases resilience. We’ve seen all of these at Prospa, where our purpose is to keep small business moving.

The good news is that most businesses I’ve come across in my career leading people and culture teams, do have a purpose. They often just haven’t taken the time to articulate it.

Whether you’re hiring your first employee or your 500th, the following steps can help you effectively communicate and integrate that purpose throughout your business.

Get clear on your purpose

Purpose is not just a theory. It’s the fuel that drives commitment and resilience when things get tough and above all, it stimulates the sense of pride and achievement when key successes are realised. Take the time to surface it for both current and future employees. As a leader in your organisation, ask the people around you ‘why do we do what we do?’ Build your purpose collaboratively, as people need to ‘weigh in’ in order to ‘buy in’. Purpose is often confused for company goals and objectives, but it’s not the same. Purpose is the reason why your organisation exists. It’s future-focused, aspirational, and most of all, needs to be tested.

Test it

This isn’t a test you perform once. Particularly as you reach major milestones in the business and enter new territories, such as different geographical markets or product diversification, it’s important to reflect on what’s driving this journey. Surveying employees – anonymously – helps to identify the areas or teams in the business where it is resonating most strongly, where it needs to be communicated more effectively, and where it might not be evident at all.  This can really help prioritise projects and support positive change

This year Prospa invested in ‘testing’ our purpose and commissioned independent research into the economic impact of our small business lending. The research found that for every $1 million we lend to small business, we contribute $4 million to Australian GDP and support 57 FTE jobs. Being able to demonstrate with data that we ‘keep small business moving’ hasn’t just impacted current employees; it’s supported our engagement with prospective candidates across every area of the business, as well as government, investors, customers and partners.

Reinforce and anchor it

Presenting your purpose in employee induction or splashing it across the website homepage is great, but these can be easily forgotten. Consider incorporating your purpose into performance frameworks, monthly planning meetings and company-wide updates.

Any solution you choose must be fit for purpose so encourage your leaders to think about what formats work best for their particular teams and give them the freedom and empowerment to implement.

As you scale, priorities will become blurred and you’ll be constantly juggling what to do now, next and later. Your purpose can function like a north star to assess priorities and keep you on the critical path. Integrating it into your Objectives, Goals, Strategy and Measures (OGSM) framework is an effective way to cascade it throughout the business.  This way everyone knows how their role contributes and alignment is clear, even when the day to day looks cloudy!

Share stories

Whether it’s a customer success story or an exceptional moment from employees, bring it to life. Use videos, share a testimonial or even have an employee or customer share their story in person. Stories are memorable and tap into a different part of our brain that delivers emotionally.

The best organisations lead with purpose and in today’s workforce, it’s proven important for attracting and encouraging the best talent. Profit will follow.


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