Early in a new year, it’s natural to take some time to think critically about our existing teams, processes, tools and more. HR professionals are no different — we’re looking at how we can do better and searching for ways to deliver more value to our people and our organizations.
One of the biggest priorities on everyone’s minds is understanding how to navigate change. Given that disruption is now constant in business, it’s vital to think beyond short-term trends and stay cognizant of how our teams can thrive over the long haul.
With these concerns in mind, there is one element that HR and business leaders need to put front and center: purpose.
When viewed through the right lens, purpose offers practical benefits for any organization. In fact, a recent white paper from the Harvard Business Review and EY demonstrated that companies that prioritized purpose were more profitable than those that didn’t.
The fact of the matter is that focusing on purpose helps us build better businesses and is invaluable for solving many of our biggest challenges.
Purpose Attracts Top Talent
It’s no secret that the competition for top talent is fierce right now. Between record unemployment, the skills gap and generational shifts in the workplace, it’s only getting harder for businesses to find the talent they need.
We also know that professionals want more than a paycheck from their jobs. Study after study has shown that people crave a sense of purpose in the workplace, with many even willing to take a pay cut to get that fulfillment. People want to make an impact through their work and be a part of something bigger than themselves. When we offer candidates a sense of purpose, we can truly stand out from the competition and bolster our recruiting efforts.
For example, if you are a financial services firm and hiring financial advisors, is the purpose of your business only to drive fee income, or is your purpose to ensure families are prepared for their futures? Which is more compelling for candidates in the long term?
Everybody works for a paycheck, but nobody lives for money. By offering something bigger than financial gain, you’re bound to draw in more qualified candidates.
People Work For Money, But They Perform For Purpose
Purpose not only helps us attract talent, but it also helps us ensure they’re delivering their best performance. People will often show up to work and do the minimum required of them to avoid disciplinary action and earn their salary. However, if we want to unlock discretionary performance, we have to inspire our teams. This is only possible if we offer them the feeling of working on something bigger and more important than earning a profit.
It’s not about saving the world or a glamorous mission, either. It can be something as simple as delivering the best possible product in your market space or providing a product that you know really makes a difference for your customers.
By offering employees a sense of satisfaction and meaning, we also boost our talent retention efforts. Given that retaining talent is the best thing we can do to win the talent war, that makes a huge difference.
Purpose Offers Strategic Direction
From an even broader perspective, purpose offers the entire organization a guide for strategy. From the executive team to HR to talent acquisition and beyond, it offers a sort of compass to aid our decision-making. With every decision we make, we can ask ourselves whether an option truly aligns with our purpose beyond profits.
Now, we all have to put food on the table and earn revenue to keep the organization running. However, understanding that purpose-driven organizations are more successful in the long term it definitely offers value in guiding strategy.
How HR Can Put Purpose First
Most of the people I’ve talked to in HR readily recognize the benefits of purpose. Where it gets hazy is understanding the specific steps that HR teams can take to prioritize purpose.
First and foremost, HR departments need to make sure they are communicating the organization’s purpose beyond profits, both internally and externally. Everyone at the company and every candidate who views your website should completely understand your purpose. If there’s any doubt about what your company’s purpose actually is, you won’t unlock the benefits.
Furthermore, HR departments need to ensure they are measuring metrics that truly relate to purpose. Rather than measuring generic employee engagement, we should be measuring the specific employee experience on items that specifically support our purpose.
How much of an impact do employees feel like they make at the organization or with clients? How do employees define our purpose in their own terms? Digging into these questions can give us a read on whether our employees truly feel connected to our purpose and identify ways to strengthen that connection.
Ultimately, it all comes down to putting people and a practical purpose at the core of the workplace. Ask yourself how you can help your employees focus on executing the purpose of the organization in a fulfilling manner.
Are You Ready To Leverage Purpose?
Having a purpose-led organization is what will help your department and organization thrive through constant change. It will carry you through digital transformation and help your team become truly great. However, you have to really understand, and then live and breathe, that purpose. Any half-hearted efforts to emphasize purpose will fail spectacularly.
It all comes down to one question: Are you ready to put purpose front and center for your team?