Purpose Part I: Why every company must establish a clear purpose

Does your company have a clearly defined purpose? And do your people believe that purpose?

Let's first take a look at the benefits of having a clearly defined purpose, then dive into the actionable steps you can take to establish purpose in your company.

  • Attract top talent that's motivated to overcome challenges and will be there to help you solve the biggest challenges.
  • Increased focus from your existing employees.
  • Higher employee engagement
  • Greater effectiveness and efficiency
  • Helps people in making everyday decisions; with purpose, people know why they're doing something and can act accordingly.
  • Orient new people on your team.
  • Bring clarity to your brand messaging and make sure your customers understand why they should buy from you.

These benefits may seem like obvious reasons to adopt a purpose for your company, but how does it all look in practice?

How purpose benefits employee engagement and retention

It's easy to keep anybody motivated when times are easy, pay is good, and when there is no stress. As a leader, there is little work to be done, other than continue to keep things easy.

It's important to note that many top performers will not be attracted to a "Utopian work environment." Top performers crave challenge and seek problems to solve. They're not interested - or at least not very engaged - in environments where they can go about their day-to-day work without putting in much effort.

Top performers look for the most challenging environment where they think they can drive impact, often for three main reasons:

  • More opportunity for personal and professional growth.
  • Keeping themselves on edge and personally motivated. Some people crave the dynamism of challenging work.
  • A desire to affect change in a company, an industry, or the world.

Fortunately, reality is often not conducive to a no-stress work environment.

Instead, for many high growth companies, the stress can lead people to feel like their hair is on fire. They're constantly fighting stressful battle after stressful battle.

When there are numerous formidable challenges facing your team, it's crucial that they're reminded about why they joined you in the first place. Your people will go great lengths when they're motivated by a higher purpose. In his groundbreaking 2017 work, Actionable Gamification, Yu-kai Chou describes "epic meaning and calling" as one of the Eight Core Drivers of human behavior (as part of the Octalysis framework). It's one way that savvy game makers, and choice architects, drive people to stay engaged longer and feel a greater level of accomplishment and satisfaction afterward.

For your people, it's what keeps them waking up every day with a clear understanding of why they're working in your company. Not why they have a job in the first place, but why they work in your company.

Clear alignment between purpose and execution also can help to drive higher engagement. If people feel like they're "on a mission" when they come to work and that "their work matters," they're far more likely to go the extra mile and put in the necessary effort to see it through success.

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