A White Paper by Ledgent Technology
What’s your IT team’s purpose? Is it to generate reports? To keep the company’s network running smoothly? To keep data secure? The answer is likely, at the most basic level, yes. But at a higher level, what are you really working toward? What’s the greater purpose that unifies your team and your organization in what you set out to achieve?
In technology, being mindful of a greater collective purpose can be tough. Teams are immersed in data and code and problems to solve all day long. It’s often challenging to look past the daily needs and focus on why you’re really there. And yet it is critical to do so. Studies consistently show that employees who are driven by a sense of purpose are more engaged – and engagement leads to better outcomes.
A shared purpose amongst a team, and across an organization, serves as a powerful motivator and has a positive effect on the entirety of your business.
A shared purpose spreads across employees, leadership, and consumers, all eager to play a part in something bigger.
In this white paper, we’ll explain what we mean by “shared purpose,” why it’s important in the technology industry, and how to create and communicate a shared purposed among your team. Get a quick snapshot of how to create a shared purpose in our INFOGRAPHIC.
Esprit de corps, Raison d’etre
Spirit of the body, reason for being – a shared purpose is more than a decorative quote for your break room. A shared purpose goes beyond the products or services offered by an organization. It is the why: why you sit in front of your monitor every day, what you write code for, why your organization exists at all – distinguishing your business in a sea of corporate-ness.
Baker Brand Communications, an employer brand agency, defines a shared purpose as an “inspirational driver that defines and drives all organizational activities — innovation, creativity, policy, structure, culture, communication, processes, as well as performance, growth and change.”
A shared purpose serves as a north star, directing the entirety of an organization, ensuring that everyone is rowing in the same direction.
“Purpose” is a hunger that is shared by all humans in their everyday life, and work should not be excluded. It’s good for the human and the employee.
A study by Deloitte found that in organizations with a strong sense of purpose, 73% of employees were engaged, compared to only 24% of employees in organizations without. Harvard Business Review found that 89% of executives stated that a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction.
Forbes states that organizations with a shared purpose are more cross-communicative. A shared purpose inspires – almost forces – collaboration, as all members are responsible for and desire similar results.
In addition, Inc., Forbes, and Quandora all report similar versions of what employees desire from their employers: “feeling important/ valued” always comes out on top. A shared purpose serves as an avenue for feeling important, instilling a unique responsibility in each employee.
However, Harvard Business Review reports that only 46% of respondents report that their organization has a strong shared sense of purpose, while only 38% report that their staff has a clear understanding of organizational purpose and commitment to core values and beliefs.
“In spite of efforts to improve performance, most organizations struggle to provide what people really need most to be successful – an emotional connection to the team and work,” says Curt Coffman, author of Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch.
A shared purpose is communal across a business and transcends to customers and the public. In a new era of business transparency and “slacktivism,” more and more customers want to be intimately involved with the brands they interact with and piggy-back on their purpose. A desire for purpose is felt by all humans, not just employees.
According to a study by Edelman PR, U.S. consumers feel responsible to help others, but aren’t particularly involved – they look to marketers to bridge that gap. Buying from a brand that has a strong purpose is an easy way to feel part of a bigger picture through their average purchasing decisions, and the same can be said for B2B services.
Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, states, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
In their Culture of Purpose study, Deloitte found that in organizations with a strong sense of purpose, 92% of respondents stated that they had long lasting relationships with clients, compared to only 69% of those in an organization without a strong sense of purpose; while 79% believed that their organization would outperform the competition, compared to 47% without.
In addition, in their Business Case for Purpose, the Harvard Business Review found stakeholders were more likely to trust the organization’s leadership, and investors were more confident in growth prospects. Further, 81% believed that purpose-driven firms deliver higher quality products and services, while 80% believed that it increased customer loyalty.
While this is inspiring in a business sense, purpose must be authentic. Demonstrating your purpose to your customers is crucial, but should not be the driving factor for implementation.
“Purpose is certainly not just a marketing issue or positioning of your brand image,” says Raj Sisodia, founding member of the Conscious Capitalism movement. “Purpose should impact every aspect of the firm.”
Whether it’s on an organizational or departmental level, purpose should drive your team. The process of establishing and maintaining a shared purpose remains the same for both.
First things first
Before immediately establishing a purpose, other needs must be met. Purpose is tricky, because it serves as a basic building block for the entirety of an organization and its practices, but it is difficult to encourage employees to care about a shared purpose if their basic needs are not met.
An employee simply cannot care about a bigger picture if their salary is not secure, or if their job is unstable, or work under unsafe conditions. Basic needs must be met before complex ones.
Money cannot be the purpose, but purpose cannot be achieved without it. Employees need a fair salary and benefits before they can be expected to champion the purpose. However, employees are more likely to accept a lower salary for more meaningful work.
Defining a Purpose
A purpose is not a goal. A goal is on the map, the purpose is the compass. A goal has an end, a purpose is continuous. Even after a goal is achieved, a purpose continues to guide past that.
The beauty of a shared purpose is that it exists whether you recognize it or not. A purpose is not created, it is discovered. Your product, service, and organization already plays a role in people’s lives. It’s about connecting your employees with that purpose by identifying it.
Define your purpose in tiers, what your organization does for the greater world, what your team does for the organization, and what the individual does for the team. This increases accountability, and gives the individual meaning within the purpose.
The process is simple: have a conversation. If you are defining an overall organizational purpose, meet with senior leaders. If you are defining it by department or team, meet together and lead the discussion.
Work together to define the purpose. Start with: What do we do? And from there ask: Why does it matter?
Keep asking Why does it matter? until it feels meaningful. Consider different wordings and angles. Then document it for everyone to see and reference back to.
From there, define each individual’s role within the purpose. If employees are having a hard time defining it themselves, it is up to you to aid them and recognize their contributions.
Once a shared purpose is defined, every decision should be made with that purpose in mind. When your teammates have new ideas or desires, ask them how it will contribute to the purpose.
Maintain this in hiring decisions. When interviewing candidates, gauge their passion for your purpose. Ask them what they see as the purpose of the company and their role.
If they just don’t get it, they are not a suitable hire. Patty McCord, pioneer of Netflix’s iconic company culture, stresses the importance of personal responsibility in creating an ideal workplace, beginning with exceptional hires who demonstrate responsibility. Personal responsibility for the purpose allows employees to find and utilize that intrinsic motivation. And personal passion combined with responsibility keeps the purpose self-sustaining.
Take it outside
Don’t let your purpose stay within the walls of your business. Authenticity is key when it comes to a purpose, and where and how you apply it will build that genuineness.
Communicate your purpose to your customers and apply it to different community and volunteer endeavors. Give back in a way that aligns with your team’s purpose and you will build loyal, engaged workers and intrigued clients.
It is most important for the conversation about purpose to continue long after it is defined. It must be consciously implemented on a daily basis. As a leader, your team and organization will look to you and follow your lead.
Purpose is rooted in servant leadership, meaning that you lead based on what you do for others. This type of leadership empowers others, rather than commands, and is key in continuing a purpose beyond its definition. As leader it is your responsibility demonstrate the purpose on a daily basis, while removing obstacles that will keep your employees from living it as well (salary, toxic teammates, etc).
By implementing and nurturing a shared purpose, you empower the people in all aspects of your business, making their lives better. It is then that employees are eager to return the favor, expanding your business.