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Why you should care about business purpose in your workplace

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About exactly 6 years ago, PWC published a study on the importance of purpose in the work environment. The multinational network highlighted the disconnect between claimed business purpose and the way business leaders operate on a human level. The report then went on to examine the extent of that disconnect and how to tackle the problem.

Six years on and purpose is still more relevant than ever. It has taken centre stage in the realm of branding and, in the midst of a global pandemic, brands captivated consumers by showing their most human side to everyone in need. Nowadays, people are looking for something more from brands – something to connect and relate with, something that gives them a reason to love a product beyond the price tag. It is only natural, then, that in the business realm filled with ties and suits, purpose has become key and it’s not going away any time soon.

Business purpose matters beyond some shiny new ways to reach a target audience; it matters for employees just as much as for consumers.

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The Starbucks #WhatsYourName campaign is perfectly in line with the company's values of equality, inclusion and diversity.

Why strong purpose makes better employers

Too many organisations, agencies and brands alike, will still employ purpose as a sheer tick box. To some it’s no more than a nice-to-have, a perk, something that will keep consumers closer. Some may even succeed in “purpose-washing” their target audience into believing something that is not authentic; but when things go wrong, and when employees or even consumers start to notice that disconnect, it is almost certain that things will go haywire, resulting in headaches and PR crises.

A business that is truly led by purpose will have authenticity and honesty, humanity and empathy at the core of every major decision. Purpose must stem from the makers of these decisions – business leaders and managers – who should feel naturally compelled to lead a company in the most human and sustainable way possible. Purpose, of course, goes beyond sustainability, and it involves diversity, community and inclusionas well. The best employees will (and should) be naturally attracted to these business, offering something beyond a pay check to prospective employees: meaning.

The report from PWC says: “Only once an organisation is authentically led with purpose can employees truly begin to appreciate what it means for them and their work.” Purpose and connections make us human; and as humans, we are all gravitating towards the need to find meaning to our lives. Employees will be more engaged with the company when they empathise and connect with their business’s purpose. Which is why, as a jobseeker, looking at the company’s record in company culture and purpose is so important.

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Image credit: Charis Tsevis

Storytelling and other magic spells

I love to reference the title of that book by Jonathan Gottschall any time I can, but we humans are storytelling animals and we love connecting with stories. One could go as far as to say that stories are what makes us human. So you can see why, when looking at the decisions of a business in any given community, purpose will always generate good stories, and good stories will always generate meaning.

What good is it for you to work for a business that has only ever been growth-oriented? Well, perhaps you are incredibly ambitious and a workaholic yourself – but who’s to say you won’t reach burnout before long, as you dive into a company culture that rotates around money, rather than meaning? Meaning is what makes you engaged. Meaning is what keeps you motivated. And meaning comes from that simple, human connection between a company’s leaders and their team.

There are companies who focus their entire talent strategy on purpose, and those will always tell you more about why they make certain choices, rather than merely describing growth-oriented business decisions. Hiring managers will screen you for your personal engagement in whatever cause they are fighting for, in the attempt to insert you in a team of like-minded individuals that can only help you thrive.

This is not to say that financial growth should ever be overlooked. It is desirable to be ambitious, and businesses need growth at the end of the day. However, a number of agencies and brands in the industry will tell you that the best talent is attracted by meaning. The most motivated employees are not simply cannon fodder to squeeze until they stop yielding results – something you can commonly, though not always, experience in retail and other low-skill jobs. The most motivated employees are the ones who care. Businesses who found their whole strategy and culture around purpose will know that quite well.

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Momentum Worldwide and Critical Mass dominated the Best Agency to Work For category in our Annual 2020 awards. The best employers are always the one with the best purpose and culture.

Can you spot a purpose-driven employer?

Believe it or not, it is actually incredibly simple to spot a company that is not in line with what you may be looking for. Apart from the much needed round of research on their websites, social media and similar, any company who values purpose will know how important it is to have that come across as early as possible. If meaning doesn’t show up in the interview process, that is often a red flag; but often you need not go that far.

Often, you will be able to spot a dry company from their dry job descriptions. There will be commonly used words, strange jargon and an overall dryness to the whole copy, aimed at being more effective than it can be human. In our beautiful industry, it is incredibly common to see quirky job descriptions, perhaps describing the company culture rather than giving an overview of how awesome and financially imposing your prospective employer is.

Looking at employee benefits could help too, as employers will always find interesting ways to make you feel the warmth of their work environment. Some will feel that mentioning a ping-pong table is incredibly relevant to giving off good company culture vibes, while others will focus on game nights, team bonding and other cool perks. And if you have the strong feeling that something may be off with all that… You can always ask more questions at the interview. You’d be surprised to see how many hiring managers love that.

Other than that, as a general rule, you can look at the overall tones of the advert. This is one great example from Mindful Chef, and it only takes one line to hook you in: “If you’re a ferociously talented, fresh thinking mid-senior Graphic Designer, we’d love to hear from you.”

So whenever you see something as generic and dry as this: “companyis on a mission to deliver the world's best content experience to our millions of users around the globe. You will be an integral part of the editorial team who provide high quality, accurate and topical sports copy…”

… Maybe just run.


Header image: Starbucks
 

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