Purpose-driven organisations: Part 1

By Ben Carey on 6 October, 2021

Formerly a professor of Food and Beverage and Service Operations Management at the world-renowned Ecole Hotelier de Lausanne, Ian Scarth has a background in strategic development and leadership within the hotel and hospitality sectors.

Here he gives readers of The Business Exchange his insights into what it means to be a Purpose-driven organisation.

Purpose-driven organisations: Part 1

Many leaders claim to have a Purpose that’s clear, well defined and communicated throughout their organisation.

However, making that Purpose sustainable, so it adapts to ever changing business needs and keeps up with market expectations, while all the time keeping team members informed and on-side, is a much bigger challenge.

Yet, being on-side and involved is high on the wish list of employees that now seek an inclusive working environment in which to develop and grow.

Purpose-driven organisations are very clear about their need to create economic benefit, maintain legal obligations and generate long term shareholder value. However, in today’s business world these are givens that need to be complimented by less tangible and harder to measure stakeholder expectations.

This Higher Purpose is more aspirational and provides a sense of meaning that attracts support from employees at all levels. It also appeals to buyers that want to feel they are considered and that their needs are being imbedded into the process of designing both products and services. 

The early 21st century has delivered extraordinary challenges. The recession of 2008, the devastation of Covid-19 and its economic aftermath, the complexities of Brexit, an uncertain US election fought in a climate of never seen before hostility.

These events, however, have helped many leaders reach a similar conclusion: they need to get their employees on track and involved to a greater degree than ever before. The circumstances have also raised employee expectation and a desire on their part for greater involvement and inclusion in the control of their own destiny and the achievements of the organisations.

Employees are seeking increased participation in the creative process and the many initiatives that result in the construction and fulfilment of company strategy. They are expecting their organisations to show increased empathy and use appropriate rhetoric that demonstrates inclusion and encourages participation at all stages of the planning, actioning and reviewing processes.

Today’s employees value their self-worth more than ever and expect leaders to respect and nourish that worth. There is an expectation on the part of those entering the job market, and those presently established within it, that their self-worth will be recognised and cultivated.

In light of this, a company’s Purpose needs to reflect the ambitions of its people, ensuring that while delivering shareholder value, ROI and market share, it focuses on the needs of internal stakeholders as never before. For some years now we’ve travelled a road through the experience economy, in which product and service quality alone, no longer cuts it. Today’s employees are shouting out for the same intangible and ‘unmeasurable’ benefits, all of which if provided, will drive the shareholder values mentioned. 

Employees appreciate the benefits they get from their employers and become unsettled if these are taken away. Over the last eighteen months of Covid many companies have changed their employee benefits and shown greater levels of trust in their staff. Realising for example that working from home does have benefits and can be a win-win. Taking such benefits away or reducing them without serious consultation, will impact cultural beliefs and challenge organisational stability. Organisations need to involve employees in the process of reassessing the pros and cons that have come out of the Covid crisis, before making snap decisions about returning to any elements of the old norm.

The potential danger here, is that we all need and deserve recovery time and the opportunity to settle back into some kind of normality. While this is certainly true, it will inevitably push any learning gained from this pandemic towards the back of people’s minds, this could result in organisations not taking full advantage of the knowledge gained from this crisis. Maximum advantage must be derived from the present situation, by setting a vision of what an inspired and Purpose-driven organisations looks like to employees and its customers.