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Building purpose in your business - part four.

 

It's time for our fourth post on becoming a more purpose-driven business (actually to be honest, we’re well overdue so apologies on that score).

 

This time we’re looking at the range of people issues that should be considered when creating a focus on purpose in your business. Those issues cover every stage of what we might term the “employee life cycle” (for want, perhaps, of a better term) - before, during and even after their time with your business.

 

Remember…evidence is strong that employees in purpose-driven businesses tend towards higher levels of engagement and are more productive than others.

 

So, first things first…

 

Your Employee Value Proposition (EVP)

 

We wrote a piece not long ago on the importance of your EVP. It makes great reading in the context of embedding purpose early in your relationship with prospective employees.

 

Some attempts at creating an EVP fall a little short. They're the ones that are little more than a list of benefits that might attract good people to work in your business. True enough, benefits are an important and legitimate element of a good EVP but aren’t the core.

 

To put it rather grandly - but appropriately - your EVP should be a “manifesto” that spells out the opportunity for employees and prospective employees to make a difference by contributing their talents and skills to the pursuit of a shared purpose.

 

Your best employees will be those who believe in why your business exists and understand their contribution to the big picture.

 

The EVP is where that connection begins.

 

Recruitment

 

The opportunity to continue building that connection continues during your recruitment process.

 

First, think about the tone of any advertising you do for roles in your business. What do those advertisement focus on? Often, job ads dedicate a lot of space to what the job is (fair enough) and the education and skills requirements (also fair enough).

 

We also see plenty of factual information about the company and what it does. 

 

What’s so often missing in job advertisements is any statement that clearly articulates the business purpose.

 

That’s a real shame because it’s what your best prospects want to hear and it’s a perfect way to build on your reputation as a purpose-driven business.

 

Once you begin interviewing, don’t be shy about exploring the extent to which your purpose resonates with each candidate. Try to be as specific as possible in asking how the candidate considers his or her skills, experience, values and beliefs will enhance the reputation of your business (while getting the job done of course).

 

We also strongly recommend involving your existing “purpose champions” as interviewers - they’ll provide some really useful feedback on candidates.

 

Check our recent post to read more about recruiting “on purpose”.

 

Induction

 

Induction (call it on-boarding if you’d prefer) in many businesses can be a bit of a hit and miss affair.

 

Given it’s the point at which you’re really making your first impression as an employer, it pays to spend time doing it well. There’s plenty of research showing the first few days on the job can make or break a new recruit.

 

If you don’t already have a clear induction program, there’s no shortage of information available that will help you build one.

 

Whatever you do now or in the future though, your purpose should be all over it.

 

Naturally new recruits need to understand the ins and outs of policy and procedures, who’s who in the business, how to access the resources needed for them to do their jobs and so forth - all of this needs to be communicated in the context of purpose.

 

For example, when you’re providing information about your organisational structure, make sure it’s couched in terms of why each role exists and how it contributes to purpose. If new recruits are assigned “buddies” to help them transition into the business, make sure those folks are themselves purpose champions who will reinforce the right messages.

 

This is the time when your new employees find out whether all the great things they’ve learned about you, your business and its purpose during the recruitment process actually hold water.

 

The last thing you want is for all the enthusiasm to be knocked out of them as they’re walking in the door.

 

Performance expectations and management

 

In our view, “performance” isn’t just about getting the job done. It also encompasses how the job is done - the behaviours individuals display at work, the values they hold and their commitment to purpose.

 

Just as you would discuss and agree expectations about activity-based and financial outcomes that need to be achieved, likewise there needs to be clear understanding about what is expected in terms of how team members achieve those outcomes.

 

Providing feedback to employees often and objectively is critical in maintaining the right focus.

 

It’s natural to find the “what” discussions much easier than the “how” discussions - by definition it’s much simpler to be objective about the former. Reinforcing commitment to purpose is crucial though, if it’s to become truly embedded in the business.

 

Reward and recognition

 

A key component of reward and recognition systems must of course relate to the achievement of outcomes that contribute to business results. Care needs to be taken though, to ensure these measures do not become all-consuming in the minds (and actions) of team members.

 

The corporate world is littered with examples of reward structures focused on financial outcomes that have been shown to encourage pretty ordinary behaviour. The financial services sector here in Australia provides us with a stand out example right now.

 

If you want your business to be - and be clearly seen to be - purpose driven, rewards and recognition must encourage behaviours supporting that purpose.

 

Exiting employees

 

Let’s face it…people leave jobs from time to time for all sorts of reasons.

 

When departures aren’t “forced” by the business, you’d ideally love those exiting employees to be advocates for your business and its purpose. Making their exit as positive an experience as possible increases the likelihood the departing employee will have good things to say about you, your business and its purpose.

 

And that’s important for a positive, purpose-driven profile in the market.

 

So, make sure you conduct a proper exit discussion with everyone leaving your business. Of course you’ll from time to time hear things you weren’t expecting and maybe don’t want to hear, but take them on board and deal with them appropriately.

 

Where you feel it’s right to do so, let your departing employee know you’re sorry to see them go and that they’d be welcome back if the opportunity arose. 

 

In short, treat them with the same respect as you did when they joined the business. It’ll pay you back many times over.

 

The bottom line

 

Your team is at the core of your ability to be a truly purpose-driven business.

 

As we said at the outset, team members who believe in that purpose will be engaged and motivated to deliver discretionary effort. Everything you do from a people perspective must reinforce the right behaviours and be focused on delivering results “on purpose”.

 

It’s not an easy thing to achieve by any means but your efforts will be repaid.

 

Next steps?

 

Aligning your team is about the most powerful thing you can do in creating a truly purpose-driven business. It's your team that will give life to purpose in a way nothing else will.

 

It doesn't happen on its own, we know that...

 

We're happy to discuss some ideas that you can implement quickly and easily in your business.

 

Please do give us a call or drop us a line to start a conversation. There's really no good reason not to.

 

Join the conversation!

 

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