Getting your employees to contribute to your purpose journey can give you a sustainable competitive advantage.
There are four main stages towards adopting purpose in your business. If you want that journey to be successful you must engage employees through the last three stages. If you fail to involve employees in any of them, your purpose journey will almost certainly fail.
Stage one: Commit
The first stage is to collaborate with your executive team to agree that you are all prepared to put in the time and effort to discover your organisation’s purpose, and then bringing your new found purpose to life. If your leadership team is not 100 per cent behind the project, please don’t start the process.
You will need to set up a steering committee, and ensure your CEO is fully committed and prepared to be its sponsor. Significant resources will be required, including possibly some external advice and assistance to offer some perspective on your business.
You should also consider whether now is the right time to start the journey. If you are dealing with crisis, it is probably best to cope with that before starting the process.
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Stage 2: Discover
If you want all your employees to own your purpose, you have no choice but to involve them.
A top-down project that is delivered Moses-like from the mountain almost inevitably fails, as employees feel it’s being “done to” them rather than “with” them. On the other hand, if opportunities are created for all employees to actively participate in such a way that they feel it’s done “by” them, they are far more likely to own and support the purpose.
With today’s technology there are no excuses for not engaging with all employees. Online surveys, forums and the like make it very easy to ask for and receive feedback. They also allow you to create an ongoing conversations that help discover purpose.
Stage 3: Engage
This is the time to take employees from participants to advocates. Not everyone will be immediately excited once you announce your purpose, so take the time to help your employees connect with it and make it relevant for them. Some champions of your purpose will become evident during the process, so make sure that you enlist and empower them to help with the engagement process.
Developing a good narrative to support your purpose, and telling stories about it will help too. Your purpose will need to be a shared purpose so engaging groups of employees in forums and other group discussions to explore what it means for them will be helpful.
Stage 4: Embed
This is where the real works begins. Your objective is to embed purpose into every fibre of your organisation’s being: from decision-making to marketing. From the large and impactful statements to the small, almost unnoticed symbols. The extent to which you embrace purpose will determine the degree to which it seeps into your culture and becomes your new way of organisational life.
As purpose becomes more deeply embedded you will notice that your employees will start to think and speak to each other in new ways. They will become increasingly bound by a collective intent that is deeply meaningful and rewarding. This is likely to increase staff engagement, retention and discretionary effort and therefore customer engagement and loyalty. This will build a genuine differentiation, a sustainable competitive advantage, increased organisational capacity and profitability over the long run.
Nicholas Barnett is CEO of Insync. He recently coauthored a book with Rodney Howard titled, Why Purpose Matters: and How it Can Transform Your Organisation.