How to promote a culture of purpose in an organisation

Organisations need to move away from the belief that they exist only to make money.

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An organisation’s culture of purpose is defined by what it is and what it stands for. Its beliefs, expectations and values are separate from its overall goal of profit making.

If an organisation aims to grow and expand, it needs to not only focus on building its business, but also cultivating a strong foundation of core values that positively impact everyone inside and outside its boundaries. However, this is easier said than done.

Many a time, organisations forget that they even have a purpose outside of succeeding in their line of work. Their ‘purpose’ may be printed on a plaque outside their office buildings, but not actually practised inside. This dissonance becomes apparent when stories about misconduct and injustice start doing the rounds, about organisations that are otherwise known to promote pristine values and beliefs.

“An organisation should have a purpose beyond the business needs of the organisation”

Ramesh Shankar S, HR leader

So what can be done to promote a culture of purpose in an organisation, to actually push the ideas to the forefront and ensure that they’re practised by everyone?

1. Define purpose: Ramesh Shankar S, HR Leader, says, “First of all, an organisation should have a purpose beyond the business needs of the organisation”.

It should be a properly defined purpose that doesn’t clash with the business needs of the.

2. Involve employees: Shankar goes on to add, “Secondly, it should involve all employees”.

In some organisations, only the top management knows about the purpose of the organisation and they do not involve their employees or urge them to adapt it. “There is no engagement or emotional connection with the purpose,” he explains.

By keeping the employees out, organisations themselves push them away from the purpose, so much so that many of them fail to even recall it. Not surprising, because the purpose hasn’t been communicated with them in a clear manner by the upper management.

3. Link it all to HR: “Thirdly, it should all be linked to the HR functions,” states Shankar. All the HR processes of the organisation, be it rewards, recognition, training and development, induction, promotion or incentive schemes, should function around the purpose.”

4. Live the purpose: Fourth, and most importantly, everyone in the organisation should live by the purpose every day. “Only through regular practice of the beliefs can a culture of purpose be built,” stresses Shankar.

“An organisation is likely to have a strong culture of purpose if everyone at work personally identifies with that purpose, and is emotionally invested in doing the best to follow the values and beliefs”

Anil Mohanty, head of people and culture, Medikabazaar

Anil Mohanty, head of people and culture, Medikabazaar, agrees that organisations need to create a purpose that goes along with their beliefs and values.

It is necessary for the management to help foster a sense of personal purpose in the employees as well. “An organisation is likely to have a strong culture of purpose if everyone at work personally identifies with that purpose, and is emotionally invested in doing the best to follow the values and beliefs,” he enunciates.

“Organisations should communicate their purpose by demonstrating them through everyday practices at work,” he suggests.

Sachin Narke, chief learning officer, head- talent acquisition, and head-HR, Forbes Marshall, says that every employee should know and be able to recall the core purpose of the organisation.

He explains this through a personal example. At his orgnaisation, Forbes Marshall, the management came together and discussed the purpose of their organisation. After defining the purpose, they started facilitating each department to come up with their own purpose statement. The organisation took a top-down approach here, where each leader defines his/her purpose.

“When one goes down the hierarchical levels, all employees realise their larger purpose in the organisation and are able to practise it in their work life.” Narke says. He also believes that the young generation of employees truly wants a culture of purpose in their organisations.

“When one goes down the hierarchical levels, all employees realise their larger purpose in the organisation and are able to practise it in their work life”

Sachin Narke, chief learning officer, head- talent acquisition, and head-HR, Forbes Marshall

Millennials, and Gen Z employees are driven by their own sense of identity these days, feels Narke. Since they are aware of all the choices available to them, that weren’t present during their parents’ time, they have become more flexible and want to see their workplaces follow the path of their beliefs.

Certainly, organisations need to practise what they believe in. It is important to put the values of the organisation first, and not let them be suffocated under the demands of work and business. An organisation is more likely to be successful in the long term when all the employees in it believe in the same values, work to achieve them and also adapt them in their lives.

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