The complexities of the changing workplace go far beyond what many people could have envisioned before March 2020. Since the onset of COVID-19, employees have re-evaluated their expectations and priorities, resulting in a dramatic shift in how they view their work and their purpose behind it.
As organizations have worked to adjust to massive disruption and change, HR professionals have zoned in on employee well-being, flexible work models, and company culture to meet the demands of a changed workforce. Purpose provides organizations with an opportunity to improve employee engagement by showing the impact of the work they do.
Why Does Purpose Matter?
Now, perhaps more than ever, employees seek organizations that align with their ethics and values. To continue to attract top talent in a competitive job market, organizations have taken steps to redefine and communicate their purpose. Being able to clearly articulate why your organization matters to people has become a top priority. However, purpose shouldn’t just be a set of words. Top-performing organizations take purpose one step further by using it to guide decisions and operations.
A Purpose-Driven Culture Fosters Connection
People want to contribute to something bigger than themselves by doing work that matters, and a strong sense of shared purpose can be a unifying force that helps every employee see how their day-to-day actions contribute to an organization’s overall success. Not only does purpose drive employees, it can drive results, as well. The Cone/Porter Novelli survey found that 66 percent of Americans would switch from a product they typically buy to a new product from a purpose-driven company. This figure goes up to 91 percent when Millennials (born 1980-1994) are polled.
In a more talent-competitive and hybrid environment, Hillenbrand President and CEO Kim Ryan realized that purpose could become an important tool to foster connection, attract, and retain talent, and build a strong company culture. With that in mind, we launched our purpose, “Shape What Matters for Tomorrow,” and our new core values to more than 10,000 associates globally in 2022. Over the course of the last year, we have learned valuable lessons that can be applied to organizations of all sizes looking to increase engagement and drive a positive impact in the world.
Taking Purpose from Idea to Action
A thoughtful approach for bringing purpose to life through a training program that is owned by our workforce can help ensure organizations fully reap the benefits of a more engaged workforce. Support from executive management is essential, but getting buy-in from employees at every level is critical to success. As an organization with employees in more than 40 countries, we knew we needed a global, multi-functional team to help us take our purpose from idea to action. We tapped local voices within our organization that carried weight and influence to share personal stories of purpose in action that would resonate with their peers and colleagues. Through hundreds of sessions, we brought employees together to build mutual understanding of our core values and ideate all the ways we can bring purpose to life. Purpose is the foundation for every decision our company makes, and ultimately how we add value to the world through our people, our products, and our partnerships.
The world of work has changed dramatically in recent years and will continue to evolve. As an HR leader, it’s my responsibility to help my organization navigate change and plan for the future of work to ensure we grow and improve. Our purpose helps us leverage our talent base by showing the value of their contributions. Leveraging a strong company purpose can be a differentiator in creating customer and employee loyalty, unlocking innovation, and driving growth.