Suits The C-Suite

Many of us dream of becoming a hero when we grow up. We want to make a difference. As we grow older, we realize that we do not have superpowers. But, we also realize that we can still make a real difference. Doctors heal the sick; lawyers defend the oppressed; CEOs guide their companies to help solve problems; CFOs ensure businesses are financially sound; CHROs make sure people are taken care of; auditors and consultants can, according to Ernst and Young’s (EY’s) purpose, help build a better working world. The list goes on.

What sets apart successful organizations with highly motivated talent pool? In one word: purpose.

SGV and EY define purpose as “The aspirational reason for being that is grounded in humanity and inspires and calls to action.”

Particularly in today’s business environment where professionals have changing personal and professional goals, it becomes even more crucial for an organization to discover its purpose. Organizations with a clearly defined and disseminated purpose can better inspire their people to connect their own personal purpose with the company’s, guided and sustained by leaders who lead by example, and who make an effort to embed purpose in the way the company does business. More and more, leaders are seeing how providing employees with an environment where they can make a difference clearly leads to having happier people who find real fulfillment in their work.

We can see some examples of how purpose has helped some very successful companies. For example, the purpose that drives one of the world’s largest social media sites is “To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” One airline company states its purpose is to “Connect people to what’s important in their lives through friendly, reliable and low-cost air travel.” One of the world’s largest chain of cafes likewise communicates that its purpose is “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

A global survey of business executives conducted by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services and sponsored by EY titled The Business Case for Purpose showed that:

1) Corporate purpose goes beyond financial results;

2) Purpose-driven organizations are believed to have better results;

3) Purpose is viewed as a driver of innovation and transformation; and

4) Purpose is being underleveraged.

This is one of the reasons why SGV/EY embarked on its own purpose journey and is now helping organizations discover and live out their purpose through Purpose-Led Transformation (PLT), which is believed to be vital for an organization to last.

PLT is important not only for the success of the organization, but also to help people enjoy their work lives. Considering how much time most people spend at work each day, it becomes even more important to help employees feel that they are making the most out of their effort beyond basic compensation, and that their hard work is contributing significantly to something bigger than themselves. This is why purpose-driven organizations usually have happy, passionate, and tireless people who are more than glad to go the extra mile in order to make a difference. PLT also inspires people to ignite long-lasting positive change and fuels sustainable growth and innovation, which, in turn, have a positive and cumulative impact on the community.

For most companies, the first step is to clearly define the organization’s purpose. Once defined, the company should then align the organization’s vision, mission, values and behaviors with purpose, which must be communicated to all levels of the organization. This “idea” can be as simple as a call-to-action or as complex as a full manifesto. The important thing is to have a message and purpose that resonates with people, exemplified by the company’s leaders, and clearly integrated into the business model. PLT focuses on behavioral change, on engaging at a human level to influence desired behavior with employees, customers, suppliers, regulators, investors, and the broader public.

The Harvard Business Review survey also indicated that purpose is still being underleveraged by many companies. While 70% of the respondents believe that it is important to integrate purpose into core business functions, only 37% say that their business model and operations are well-aligned with their purpose.

Company leaders are encouraged to realize the importance of having a clear reason for existence beyond the pursuit of market share and profit. This is how management can inspire their people to go beyond their call of duty, and sincerely believe that they are making a difference for the company, the community, the country, and even the world.

With a successful Purpose Led Transformation, your people may find the capacity, opportunity, and drive to become the heroes they may have once aspired to be.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

Marnelli Eileen J. Fullon is a Partner of SGV & Co.