HR Insights
Quick Read
January 2, 2018

Why a clear business purpose is vital to employee engagement

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Every organization starts with a purpose. Making money is not that purpose. Rather, an organization’s reason for being is to positively impact customers, a community, or the world in some way. This purpose is fueled by the organization’s ability to execute on the right things and make money doing them.


Unfortunately, organizational purpose is often forgotten as a business grows. Leaders chase sales and profits and use financials to try to motivate the people who work for them. In reality, these factors aren’t motivators for many people in certain jobs. Think of the retail associate who would rather continue a conversation with coworkers than assist a paying customer. The associate’s very employment depends on what patrons buy, but many fail to recognize this.


As business operations become more complex and layered, it’s easy to forget the bigger picture. Hitting quarterly or annual targets becomes a matter of survival and the measure of success for leadership teams. Rarely do organizations hit the pause button to ponder whether they truly have the right people focusing on the right things. In the end, everything a business does must support its organizational purpose. Business actions that don’t advance the company’s purpose can be chalked up to waste.


When an organizational purpose is clear and undeniable, customers, employees, and job candidates know exactly what to expect. This expectation helps drive the right customers and people to the organization and ultimately defines the work that needs to get done.


Creating proper alignment throughout the organization starts with recruiting. If people believe what you believe coming in the door, they will be highly connected to your business. This will translate into employees who have an honest and personal connection with your organization’s purpose and a sincere interest in helping to fulfill it.


There are several ways employers and HR leaders can begin to do this, such as outlining company purpose in job postings, or including purpose-related questions as part of the interview process. Fulfilling a commercial entity’s organizational purpose leads to selling more products or services to more people, becoming more profitable, and continuing the cycle.


To strike a winning balance of purpose and execution in your business, human resources leaders must support their business in the following three ways:


1. Reinforce purpose in recruiting and hiring.

Ensure that the organization’s reason for being – its purpose – is clear, understood, and continuously reinforced throughout the business and in all recruiting efforts. If there is a lack of clarity on the organization’s why, suggest that business leaders ask themselves what void would be left for customers, their community, and the world if the business disappeared today. The answer to this question is the organization’s purpose. More organizations are using onboarding as a way to educate employees on company purpose and business objectives.


2. Connect employee motivations with organizational purpose.

Ensure that all people working within the company believe in and are passionate about the purpose of the organization. This is accomplished by connecting employees’ personal purpose with the organization’s why. Knowing what gets your people out of bed each morning, what they are most passionate about, and what they want others to remember them for encourages strong alignment.


3. Align employees’ personal and professional goals with organizational success.

Ensure that everyone performing work in, or for, the organization understands and can see the connection between what they do day to day, and how their contributions help fulfill the organization’s purpose.


In the ongoing process of employee development, the best organizations have changed the way they think about goal-setting. Employees and managers work together to align their personal and business goals to the wider organizational goals. With this approach, employees are more engaged and motivated by understanding how their work impacts the overall success of the organization.


Aligning an organization’s embedded and embraced purpose to the work necessary to fulfill it creates focus, meaning, and employee engagement and accelerates financial results.


For more information, visit and check out my new book Purpose Meets Execution: How Winning Organizations Accelerate Engagement and Drive Profits.


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