The Exponential Power of Purpose

In business, success often comes from single digit improvements. You improved loyalty by 5%. Cut costs by 10%. Breakout companies might hit high double digit growth rates. It’s the rare, truly great ones that go into triple digits. Which is why sometimes I have to pause when I see data about the power of purpose. The numbers can get crazy, exponentially good. This week was no exception. I participated in a session where researchers showed that employees are 12X more likely to recommend their employer if it leads with purpose. 12X??  I do this work everyday and I was blown away. 

The moderator of our panel was Carol Cone, who has been studying purpose and business for 30 years. She said the data has never been stronger about the importance of purpose for attracting and retaining talent. “Ultimately, the companies that “win” with purpose will be those that leverage their “why” to inspire, engage, and protect their most powerful asset: their employees.” And there is very little disagreement from employees on the importance of purpose. Statistics from her report include:

  • 88% say they truly believe companies focused on purpose will be more successful compared with those who are not.
  • 84% say the pandemic, economic uncertainty and social justice conversations of the past two years have made them think more about how their work can have a positive or negative impact on society.​

However, Carol’s research also uncovered a massive gap between C-suite leaders’ buy-in to the power of purpose vs middle managers and supervisors. And most employees don’t feel that companies have really activated their purpose very well. They want help aligning their personal purpose to company purpose. They want to be involved more. They want it more prominent in customer interactions and communications. They want more company commitment to racial justice and equity and the climate crisis.

There are success stories. We heard about PwC’s “My Story, Your Story” program that encourages employees to share more about themselves, their interests and core competencies with each other. About resilience programs that cut health care costs and improve innovation and retention.

The success of challenger brands is also inspiring. Tony’s Chocolonely’s purpose is to make chocolate 100% slave free. “By paying a higher price for its cocoa beans to ensure the farmers are earning a living income and even transparently showing where it has failed, Tony’s is holding itself and others accountable — and the employees feel the commitment.”

Another example is Oatly, who started out as a brand for lactose-sensitive people but then embraced their product as a solution to climate, leading to massive growth. “Oatly keeps a consistent finger on the pulse of its employees’ and supply chain’s relationship to its sustainability initiatives; and it incentivizes leaders to prioritize sustainability by linking it to its performance expectations. This creates an environment where employees are both allowed and encouraged to live the brand’s purpose.”

In a world where culture eats strategy for breakfast, doubling down on activating purpose seems to be the equivalent of choosing that acai berry bowl over eggs and bacon. It’s exponentially better for you, for society and for the planet, especially in a world under pressure.

Quote of the Week: “Attitudes have changed, technology has changed, the economy has changed, the climate has changed; we can no longer afford to be philanthropists and cause marketers only when it’s convenient. Now is the time for us to act… on purpose.”

Carol Cone

Are you ready to build a better working world?