Having a clear purpose is an undoubtedly fundamental underpinning of any business. Of course, you have one. You know what your business is for? What you’re trying to encourage? It’s a bit hard to explain isn’t it? Then there is the bigger challenge of how to encourage.
Having an articulate and clear shared purpose is so important in engaging people effectively, yet so many company directors or managers overlook this.
Another couple of questions. Everyone within your business does their job well don’t they? Do they like their job? Are they clear about their own purpose, let alone the one of the business on the whole? If you, or your employees are having trouble answering any of those questions, it is likely that as an organisation you aren’t outperforming.
Outperformance in business means that the company is performing better than ever and more profitable than ever. In most outperforming businesses, everybody is clear of their purpose and knows what customer, social need or community that your organisation serves; and everybody is proud of your success. Outperformance is achieved by a shared sense of purpose.
What is Shared Purpose?
Shared purpose is the company’s core value. Their rationale, reason for existence, their basis. The absolution of being. It is the end that all the work, strategy and progress is directed towards, pretty much why the organisation exists in the first place.
The difference between having an organisational purpose and having a shared sense of purpose is that the shared version means all sense of purpose is shared mutual between all employees working for the organisation, no matter what their status or position in the hierarchy.
A high level of shared purpose suggests that people across the organisation have common goals. They are highly motivated to deliver these goals. A low level of shared purpose indicates trouble. Or worse; just a sad sense of fragmentation of effort, with little strategic direction that might get adequate results, but by no means outperformance.
HR professionals in all industries, should be very concerned about the level of shared purpose that employees experience. Employee engagement is positively associated with organisational performance. Anybody who has ever read a book on management will know this.
Shape and Strengthen the Shared Purpose
A statement of purpose will typically describe the principle reasons for an organisation’s existence, usually involving, the principal group of beneficiaries and the nature of the benefit that is provided. All decisions, including strategy should flow from this purpose. Think you have this covered? Wondering why the employees aren’t sharing your enthusiasm for your precious purpose? A word of advice; many employees would prefer the purpose to be along the lines of creating value for customers and giving benefit to society. These are uplifting and motivating purposes to share. Of course business is business, but the chances are that your employees are less likely to be loyal and committed if the only purpose they know about is making profits for investors and owners.
You should also give the following a try:
Be an Effective Leader
Effective leaders actively develop a shared purpose across the organisation and help to mobilise people’s energy. Crafted language use and storytelling are skills to help engage but ultimately, effective leaders know that timing is key. Deciding when to refresh the purpose and emphasise it is a critical judgement call. Good luck to all leaders out there (effective or otherwise.)
A Gripping Idea and Strategy
Take your storytelling skills and draw employees into a shared purpose by creating a distinct, crafted, persuasive vision of the future of the organisation. Don’t be unrealistic though, most of all remember that the organisation’s purpose should be at the heart of its vision and strategy. Both vision and strategy should then be woven into clear goals to be achieved. Employees need to know how their roles contribute to delivering these goals.
At the end of all this, communicating and celebrating progress towards the achievement of these goals with everyone involved is necessary to retain a shared sense of purpose.
Involve and Listen
A stronger sense of purpose can be created as easily as this. Senior managers consulting employees on key issues and listen to their ideas. Give them a chance. Employees will probably seem a lot more engaged once they have the opportunity to be involved in decisions affecting them.
Performance management. The dreaded term. We don’t mean just any performance management though; we mean effective performance management. A shared sense of purpose is strengthened when employees understand what is expected of them and receive clear feedback coaching on the job. Regular learning and development skills need to be addressed regularly.
Share a common practice, such as an approach to high quality. From the trainee to the director, this enables a shared sense of purpose across the organisation. It also breaks down slightly those physical and functional boundaries that can make communication difficult.