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The Power of Purpose

Four ways organizations can leverage mission in order to motivate and retain talent.

By Shannon Schuyler

To succeed, a company must consider its North Star: Why it’s in business; what brings humanity to its suite of services; and what brings meaning to the hours of work its people invest in solving problems. According to PwC’s 19th Annual CEO Global Survey, CEOs across industries are acknowledging that a business purpose -a clear reason to exist beyond making money -goes hand-in-hand with a sound business strategy. But how is purpose being adopted in organizations and resonating with employees? To find this out, PwC conducted a dual survey of more than 1,500 full- and part-time employees and 500 business leaders in the United States across 39 industries. Four findings from Putting Purpose to Work stand out:

1/. Companies aren’t walking the walk. At the leadership level, there is a sizable disconnect between how important purpose is claimed to be for business and how central purpose actually is to business decisions, employee experiences, and recruiting.

• Seventy-nine percent of C-suite executives said purpose is incredibly important, yet only 34 percent said they are using purpose as a guidepost for decision-making.

• Only 27 percent of employees say they are recognized or praised for behavior aligning to the company’s purpose.

2/. Purpose is valued differently across an organization.

There’s a huge gap between CEOs, the C-suite, and employees when it comes to their beliefs on why purpose is important.

• 72 percent of business leaders are communicating their purpose because they believe it will result in reputation for growth and innovation.

• 83 percent of employees want to find meaning in their day-to-day work.

• More than 50 percent of employees seek a strong sense of community among fellow employees or understanding the company’s impact.

3/. Every generation wants to hear about purpose.

Employees want to understand how their work makes a difference through stories from customers, colleagues, and managers -not necessarily from senior leaders in conjunction with financial, product, or service updates.

• Nearly half of Millennials prefer to hear customer testimonials through social media, while baby boomers prefer company websites.

• 50 percent of employees would like to hear more stories from clients/customers about the organization’s impact; 36 percent would like to hear more stories from other employees.

4/. Organizations need to better connect purpose to how they attract and retain talent.

If 79 percent of employees and 81 percent of business leaders think purpose can impact employee satisfaction and retention, incorporating the company’s mission in the heart of talent strategy is a must.

• Only 29 percent of business leaders have changed or are about to change how they recruit talent to better align with their purpose.

• Only 27 percent of employees said they were recognized for demonstrating purpose in their day-to-day job.

• Millennials are 5.3 times and non-millennials are 2.3 times more likely to stay when they have a strong connection to their employer’s purpose.

So what does this mean? If companies truly believe the value of purpose, they have to change their behaviors and start aligning it to initiatives. Four things to consider:

1/. Align decision architecture with purpose.

Purpose is inherently about authenticity and should emanate from the core of an organization: its leaders. Not only do employees need to hear leaders speak genuinely about why their work matters, but leaders also need to show that the organization’s purpose really is central to business strategy.

2/. Keep a pulse on what purpose means to employees.

Organizations hold the power to guide employees in building a personal connection to the company mission, but only when they understand and acknowledge what matters to them. This insight provides an immense opportunity for team leaders to be translators, connecting organizational purpose to the roles and responsibilities of individual team members. By helping employees answer, “Why does my work matter?” and encouraging them to reflect on the question, “How does my work align with my personal values and aspirations?” managers and coaches provide the stepping stone employees need to understand how they, as an individual, make a difference in the organization and beyond.

3/. Communicate the human element of the business.

Employees want the opportunity to personally engage with purpose, and not just be fed anonymous, passive messages that provide no chance to connect. Personal delivery and the opportunity for dialogue is imperative.

4/. Incorporated the company’s mission into the recruitment strategy. A company that touts commitment to and passion for its purpose must also recruit and cultivate these same values in their people.

Now more than ever, companies must cultivate the power of purpose if they are to succeed in a world where the opportunities -and responsibilities -of business have never been greater.

Shannon Schuyler is chief purpose officer at PwC

Tags: july-august-2016

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