It's time for the fourth post in our series on becoming a more purpose-driven business.
This time, we’re delving into the world of people-related issues to be considered when fostering a true sense of purpose in your business. We’ll cover every stage of what we might call the “employee life cycle” (for want, perhaps, of a better term) - before, during and even long after employees leave your business.
Remember…compelling evidence shows 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)
It’s become incredibly important for employers to be clear on the unique value they offer to employees (and prospective employees). Your EVP allows you to do just that.
To put it perhaps 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.
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 they’re not the core.
Building your reputation as a sought-after employer should be a priority in your recruitment process.
First, consider the tone of any advertising for roles. 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 information about the company and what it does.
What’s often missing in job advertisements is any statement articulating 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.
What does your advertising focus on?
Once you begin interviewing, don’t be shy about exploring how much your purpose resonates with each candidate. Try to be as specific as possible in asking how the candidate considers their skills, experience, values and beliefs will enhance the reputation of your business (while getting the job done, of course).
We also recommend involving your existing “purpose champions” as interviewers - they’ll provide useful feedback on candidates.
In many businesses, onboarding is a hit-and-miss affair. But first impressions matter.
Given it’s the point at which you make your first hands-on 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. At the extreme, we know of situations where a recruit has gone to lunch on day one, never to return which you’d agree is not ideal.
If you don’t already have an onboarding process, there’s no shortage of information available to help you build one.
Whatever you do as far as onboarding is concerned, your purpose should be all over it.
Of course, new recruits need to understand the ins and outs of policy and procedures, who’s who in the business, how to access the resources they need 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 buddies 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 really hold water.
The last thing you want is for all the enthusiasm to be knocked out of them just after they’ve walked 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, their values, and their commitment to purpose.
Just as you would discuss and agree on expectations about activity-based and financial outcomes that need to be achieved, likewise, there needs to be a clear understanding of 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, without doubt, relate to achieving 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 employees.
The corporate world is littered with examples of reward structures focused on financial outcomes that have been shown to encourage pretty ordinary behaviour. We don’t need to say any more than that…we’re pretty sure you can readily think of examples.
If you want your business to be - and be seen to be - purpose-driven, rewards and recognition must encourage behaviours supporting that purpose.
Let’s face it…people leave jobs from time to time for all sorts of reasons.
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 occasionally 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 genuinely 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 easy to achieve by any means, but your efforts will be repaid.
Aligning your employees is the most powerful thing you can do to create a genuinely purpose-driven business. They can give life to purpose in a way nothing else will.
How purpose-driven is your business right now?
If you're keen for immediate feedback on how sustainable your business growth might be over the longer term, please follow the link to our "Strength of Business Purpose Pulse Check".
It'll take only a few minutes to complete, and you'll get your results instantly.
Is purpose your "business North Star"?
Are your employees purpose-driven advocates for your business?
How clear are your employees (really...) on your business purpose?
The advisers at GrowthCatalyst can help you create and embed purpose and put you on the road to long-term, sustainable and profitable business growth.
Contact us to arrange a face-to-face or virtual conversation.
Alternatively, you can book a time for an initial discussion here.
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