You probably know the rumours: purpose matters more than ever before. Gen Zers won’t get out of bed without a purpose, and certainly won’t join an organisation until they see, hear and feel it for themselves.
Some may argue nothing’s really changed – employees have always wanted to see the (social) value in their work. But arguably a period of reflection post-pandemic has encouraged a new generation to look ever more deeply at the credentials of their employer.
True or not, what does that mean for organisations? How can they know they’re getting purpose right, for their people, customers and themselves, and not running towards a problem of their own making? There are some very specific questions they should consider.
Out in the wash
Firstly, there is an issue of sincerity. Just as a new generation arguably prioritises purpose, so they have fairly refined antennae for anything they perceive as ‘purpose-washing’ (bullsh*t, in other words).
Any organisation claiming a sense of purpose disingenuously, for self-serving financial gain, is likely to come unstuck pretty quickly.
What it is, and where it comes from is key. And while for some that may seem pretty straightforward, what of those organisations where a clear and obvious purpose doesn’t stare back at them so easily? Where do they find something both sincere and inspiring?
Loud and clear
As and when purpose is established, there’s the crucial task of getting it out there.
Despite its potential value, many companies with powerful purpose statements aren’t always adept at socialising them effectively. Or even making it a priority.
If you’ve got it – you would think – flaunt it, but that isn’t always the case. In the context of a myriad number of messages, instructions and incentives to communicate, how, when and where should an organisation focus on its purpose?
A living thing
If and when purpose is socialised, there is the more complex task of making sure the sentiment is understood, internalised and lived by all the people working in its service.
Most organisations who claim a specific purpose would be seriously compromised if their people were seen not to be abiding by it.
Recent controversies at Oxfam and Save the Children were largely due to a perceived contravention of purpose by employees. Airbnb were called to question when their customer promise to ‘belong anywhere’ was undermined by the less than welcoming behaviour of some of their hosts.
Embedding purpose is fundamental to the impression that it is real and genuine. But what are the checks and balances, and how can you know before it’s too late that it won’t create an unwelcome problem?
None of the challenges are easy, nor the solutions simple and straightforward. But they are achievable.
Come to our blue goose briefing
In our next blue goose briefing at Mortimer House in central London, we’ll be exploring this topic with a panel of experts.
We’ll ask them about how they go about communicating purpose, and what they’ve learnt from their experience to make the connection between their purpose and their people.
Join us at our next BG Briefing on Thursday 6th July to discuss in more detail how to make sure your purpose is real, relevant and true.
We look forward to seeing you there!