Better Organizational Purpose: It May Be THE Business Game-Changer

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Aug 27, 2014

The Deloitte 2014 Core Beliefs and Culture Study proves it again — that those workplaces who focus on creating a meaningful environment for all their stakeholders (customers, employees, and communities) foster a culture of purpose that builds confidence, drives investment, and “can lead to competitive advantage in a time of economic vitality.”

The survey was conducted in February of this year and is designed to explore the concept of workplace culture, defined by a set of timeless core values and beliefs, as a business driver.

This year’s survey looks specifically at whether a strong sense of purpose leads to higher levels of confidences among stakeholders and drives business growth. Methodology included the survey of a sample of 1,053 adults (300 executives and 753 employed adults) employed full-time within an organization with at least 100 employees.

5 keys to an organization’s sense of purpose

Evidence from the survey indicates that focusing on purpose rather than profits is what builds business confidence. What do organizations define as purpose though?

When respondents were asked about activities that are part of the purpose of their organization, the Top 5 cited answers were:

  1. Providing business services and/or products that have meaningful impact on clients/customers (89 percent)
  2. Providing business services and/or products that benefit society (84 percent);
  3. Providing employees with education, experience, and/or mentorship benefits (77 percent);
  4. Encouraging employees to volunteer (74 percent); and,
  5. Generating financial returns for our stakeholders/shareholders (69 percent).

Deloitte also found that those respondents who agree they work for an organization with a strong sense of purpose were more likely to say their organization recorded positive growth (81 percent vs. 67 percent) and outgrew competitors (64 percent vs. 44 percent) in 2013.

Three big confidence factors

When looking to the future, respondents who say their organizations have a strong sense of purpose are also much more optimistic about the future prospects of their organizations: 91 percent of respondents who believe their organization has a strong sense of purpose feel that their company will maintain or strengthen its brand reputation and loyalty vs. 49 percent of respondents at organizations without a strong sense of purpose.

Organizations with a strong sense of purpose tie confidence to three (3) main factors:

  1. A commitment to delivering top quality goods/services;
  2. A focus on long-term sustainable growth; and,
  3. Clear understanding of organization’s purpose and commitment to core values.

Companies reporting they do not have a strong purpose however, find confidence tied almost exclusively to financial factors like these:confidence-factors-aug-26

When looking at priorities of leadership at these companies, we see a similar trend.

Purpose also drives corporate investments

For organizations that report having a strong sense of purpose, making a positive impact on clients is ranked most often as the top priority for leadership vs. leadership at companies without a strong sense of purpose, who most often report short-term financial goals as their top priority (the study notes that there were no major differences in top leadership priorities as stated by employees and executives).

Purpose also appears to drive investment. Respondents at organizations with a strong sense of purpose are consistently more likely to say their organization will increase investments year over year than companies without a strong sense of purpose, especially in areas such as:

  • New technologies: 38 percent vs. 19 percent;
  • Expanding into new markets: 31 percent vs. 21 percent;
  • Developing new products/services: 27 percent vs. 17 percent;
  • Employee development and training: 25 percent vs. 11 percent.

Companies with a strong sense of purpose also perceive higher levels of confidence among key stakeholders – 89 percent of respondents say their clients trust that they deliver the highest quality products and services (vs. 66 percent at organizations without strong purpose).

If this data isn’t enough to suggest that there really is something to creating a strong sense of purpose and values at an organization, Deloitte’s data also details that more fully engaged employees, greater diversity, and encouragement of innovation are also more present at organizations reporting a strong sense of purpose.

Wanted: A strong mission, focused on more than profits

Despite the benefits though, 20 percent of respondent’s state that leadership fails to set an example for the rest of the organization by truly living the organization’s purpose and 18 percent say it is not part of performance evaluations.

Once again, the data are persuasive. Organizations with strong missions that are focused on more than profits are clear winners creating successful, sustainable businesses.

Put another way, creating a strong, purpose-focused culture may be the best hedge against the difficult economic, political and talent challenges facing most organizations today.

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at