When embarking on a culture renovation, a primary decision is the path to set for the company. In the spirit of renovation, the new direction should acknowledge and embrace past successes, but set up the organization to forge new ground into an unknown future.
Most organizations begin with a Purpose Statement, but crafting the right one can be tricky. If the purpose is hollow or purely marketing-driven, most will see through it. If the purpose is boring and wordy, it can have the opposite effect; rather than inspiring current and future employees, it can contribute to apathy and sometimes even cynicism.
As outlined in the book, there are a few guidelines we recommend in creating a lasting and impactful purpose statement:
- It should be relevant. A purpose statement needs to speak to customers and employees. It should relate to the products and services provided by the company.
- It should operate on many levels. The purpose needs to work on a macro level for large initiatives, as well as micro level on everyday issues.
- It should evoke emotion and differentiation. A statement should not be so bland that it sounds like it applies to any company. Instead, it should be unique, pithy, and powerful.
- It should be enduring. A good purpose statement should be as relevant in the future as it is today.
The purpose statement establishes a north star which other elements of the company need to align with. Good friend Joan Amble, who is a board member at Zurich Insurance, Sirius XM Holdings, and Booz Allen Hamilton, reinforced this when she said, “A company can only achieve greatness if its purpose, culture, and brand are in sync.” This is a concept we explored in depth in a whitepaper titled The New Corporate Currency.
In fact, i4cp rolled out a new purpose statement to kick off 2021: To Discover and Advance Next Practices in Human Capital. Why did we pick these words? As a company, we are all about discovery and, today and in the future, we do this via research we perform, interviews we conduct, case studies we explore, among various other methods. We do this to advance our discoveries via our published reports, various forums we run, peers we help connect, etc. That advancement is focused on the Next Practices in human capital we’ve uncovered, which are the people practices that are strongly correlated to better market performance but only utilized in a small percentage of organizations.
Purpose sets the tone for an organization’s culture and brand, and ultimately performance. This was summed up well by the CEO of one of the best performing organizations we work with–Satya Nadella.
“Being CEO has taught me this—that two things perhaps matter the most: having a very clear sense of purpose or mission that gives the organization real direction; and having a culture that allows you to go after that mission,” said Nadella. “One of the key things, I feel, is that just like individuals, companies have an identity. I talk about it even as a soul. It’s that collective purpose that a company represents. In Microsoft, we talk about our mission as being empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Every one of those words, for me, telegraphs that soul.”