Katie Hart, a Consultant in Berwick Partners’ Consumer & Retail Practice, recently hosted an event on ‘The Role of Purpose in Business’. A CEO of a small consumer goods business asked the question ‘How do I get my stakeholders and investors to see the value of Purpose, when ultimately their focus is the bottom line and growing shareholder value?’ The conversation around the table of CEOs from FMCG businesses of various sizes quickly turned to talent value, and that the angle for convincing investors of the importance of Purpose should be talent, as Katie explains.
Attracting and retaining top talent remains an ongoing priority for businesses. How do companies stand out in a highly competitive market and how do they optimise employee engagement so that talent chooses to stay? Purpose can be an effective tool for achieving this. It delivers a very powerful message to an increasing number of candidates who are making fundamentally different choices as they progress their careers. Candidates, and not just millennials, are exploring different paths as they look for greater meaning in work. They are looking beyond financial return, for businesses that offer them the opportunity to align personal values with their professional achievements. Having Purpose in work matters.
Purpose must be genuine
Purpose must reflect the identity of the organisation. It is not enough for companies to release stories that simply create the impression of Purpose and act as a marketing quick-win. It is essential for business leaders to be brave. They must be visible and build Purpose that is authentic, relevant and felt throughout the organisation. It must also make a difference to its people, the environment, society and be embedded within the company’s systems, processes and culture.
Purpose and leadership
For Purpose to be truly integrated, it has to be owned by the entire organisation, but first and foremost it must be driven by senior leaders. It requires a genuine and sustained leadership commitment for it to be meaningfully embedded within the company culture; the ‘natural’ way of running the business. Supporting Purpose at the top signals advocacy, credibility and permission for employees to act. Senior leaders can help their teams understand that what they do makes an impact, and create an environment where employees feel valued and invested in. Purpose-driven leaders will inspire Purpose-driven employees, who are more motivated, engaged, empowered, satisfied and, importantly, loyal.
We are seeing a growing trend in candidates seeking a tangible personal connection to the ‘why’ in their motivations for joining a firm. Talent management strategies with a clear focus upon Purpose and performance-driven culture offers companies a real point of differentiation. It is a magnet for attracting, motivating and retaining the best talent. Companies that can articulate the ‘why’ by demonstrating a Purpose-driven culture are sending a clear, strong message of intent to the market. This, coupled with an engaged and driven workforce, will undoubtedly improve business performance and ultimately keep shareholders happy.