Turning Purpose Into Profits

CoinsEvery company launches with the vision and creative spark of its founder – be it a security consultancy, patrol business, integrator or monitoring center. But what happens to this original purpose once the business starts employing new staff and managers? And how can the current workforce access the passion and enthusiasm that started it all?

It is no longer enough for business owners to simply charge their staff with tasks and then expect peak performance in return. In the past, companies could get away with control and command practices. But this no longer works because employees are demanding more engagement. It is critical for business leaders to communicate their vision and purpose, and instil passion in their people if they are to succeed and grow.

Three factors have caused this change:

  1. The ready availability of information online and our mass-connectivity has created an age of knowledge that is driving accountability and transparency. Armed with knowledge and social media, the balance of ‘power’ is shifting from organisations to customers and employees.
  2. The new generations care more than the baby boomers did at their age, about over-arching issues such as sustainability, globalisation and environmental conservation, and they are committed to making a difference in life and business.
  3. The creation of prosperity and choice has raised the expectations of employees to move assertively up Abraham Maslow’s classic 5-level Hierarchy of Needs. With our physiological and safety needs met, people are now focussed on the next three levels of human motivation: belonging, esteem and self-actualisation.

Chip Conley’s best-selling book Peak re-affirms Maslow’s hierarchy and the importance of recognition and meaning as motivational drivers for employees. To create passion and enthusiasm now, companies must shift away from compliance to engagement, away from secrecy to transparency, and away from power to responsibility.

An engaged workforce that understands the purpose and role their employer plays is a huge competitive advantage.

There are three steps company leaders can take to achieve this:

Create An Operating System Of Trust

The way to achieve the highest motivator of meaning is through the creation of purpose and company core values. People need purpose at work. The only way to create purpose is to have one. Companies without values cannot tap into the highest employee motivator, and for that reason will always lag behind.

Companies with values create an operating system of trust with their employees. When an organisation works to a set of values, everyone can understand the big picture and how they fit into it. It provides a firm basis for decision-making, that otherwise could be seen as ad hoc or discretionary. Dave Logan, author of The Three Laws of Performance outlines three hallmarks of great companies: core values making the decisions, working to an aspirational vision and attracting world class people. When decisions are made based on values, they become transparent, accountable, objective and fair. The creation of a set of inspiring and practical values that a company can use to guide the business is the foundation of success.

Implemented well, they unite the workforce with common goals, increase moral and reduce turnover rates. They instil pride in the company and its products. They encourage collaboration, the sharing of best practice and productivity. They attract like-minded staff. They create a culture of accountability, success and service. They inspire authentic connections with customers. And, they reduce political infighting, personal agendas and juvenile behaviour. More of the workforce’s energies are channelled into the company’s objectives than into playing games.

Articulating the vision and purpose of the company into a set of coherent values, and then living true to them, is the single most effective thing a leader can do to create a passionate workforce.

For example, Zappos.com founder Tony Hsieh created the following 10 values to transfer his amazing passion for service, happiness and self-actualisation to his team:

  1. Deliver WOW through service.
  2. Embrace and drive change.
  3. Create fun and a little weirdness.
  4. Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.
  5. Pursue growth and learning.
  6. Build open and honest relationships with communication.
  7. Build a positive team and family spirit.
  8. Do more with less.
  9. Be passionate and determined.
  10. Be humble.

Take A Collaborative Approach

Collaboration is the antidote to the old fashioned control and command model. The world is a much more connected, educated and empowered place with access to information, ideas and insights. Companies now have much more to gain from collaboration amongst a diverse talent pool of employees, customers, suppliers, investors and communities.

Tony Hsieh engaged his employees to help create the set of 10 values his billion-dollar company lives by. While they were based on Tony’s vision, he collaborated with his people not just so they would buy into the process, but so they could contribute and add value.

Every commercial organisation is a collaborative unit. It needs its employees, teams and divisions working together for its very survival and prosperity. The better they collaborate, the greater its performance in the short-term, and the stronger its organisational health in the long-term. An environment conducive to collaboration provides everyone with the optimum conditions to learn, grow and contribute, which in turn drives productivity, innovation and growth. The resultant vitality and success creates new opportunities for employees to develop their careers.

Future Laboratory, one of Europe’s leading brand strategy and consumer insight/trends research consultancies has said that “1980s greed is being replaced by me-we collaboration”. Company owners must let go of the desire for command and secrecy, and engage employees on the basis of fairness, objectivity, truth and transparency.

Instil Pride In Purpose

How many employees are truly proud of the company they work for? The answer, sadly, is very few. Everyone deserves the opportunity to find fulfilment and happiness at work, as much as every company needs to create growth. The two are intrinsically connected.

The purpose of individual companies is to make a difference in the lives of their customers and employees. Purpose does not have to be as earth-shattering as the Grameen Bank’s mission to eradicate poverty in order to inspire, unite and engage employees, customers and investors with the pride of being part of something special. IBM shifted its purpose from IT Products to Smarter Cities, National Australia Bank from Credit to Healthy Relationship With Money, and Novartis from Healthcare Products to Healthy Families. GPT Group, one of Australia’s largest diversified listed property groups, creates and sustains environments that enrich people’s lives. These hugely successful and diverse corporations understand the power of purpose. In today’s multi-connected landscape, where product features are copied and assimilated by competitors in a heartbeat, purpose provides a differentiator and a competitive advantage.

Chip Conley inspired his hotel group’s housekeepers to view their jobs not as cleaning hotel rooms but as creating space for travellers far from home, looking to feel safe and protected. Atlassian gives its software developers one day a month to work on any project they like, no strings attached, except that they submit the results to the company. This has created some of their best innovations to date.

What is it your employees need to feel included and recognised within your business, so that they can wholeheartedly embrace your vision, purpose and passion? Find the answer to this question and then pass it on to your customers, investors and stakeholders!

Omer Soker
Omer Soker is a corporate speaker, trainer, consultant and a recognised thought leader on organisational trust, employee engagement, conscious business and ethics. He is the author of The Trust Future which has been described by CEOs as “a breath of fresh air in current business literature” and “a compellingly, powerful, thought-provoking book”.