Engagement without purpose is a futile exercise


Socially responsible organisations are more attractive and engaging workplaces for employees across hierarchies 


It’s a known fact that employee engagement is key to productivity and ultimately to the company bottom line. Yet, of 7,500 senior executives across 107 countries, only 36 per cent respondents were found to be highly engaged, according to a survey recently released by Korn Ferry’s Hay Group.

Around 72 per cent of the respondents in the survey, which reviewed issues surrounding culture change and leadership development, indicated that the organisation’s culture, ideally in alignment with the organisation’s strategic direction, is the most important driver of employee engagement and organisational performance.

A dismal 32 per cent of the respondents indicated that their organisation’s culture is fully aligned with its business strategy. 87 per cent found a possible solution in linking the company’s social responsibility efforts to its leadership development as a strategy, to substantially improve employee engagement, and ultimately, organisational performance.

Pure profit motive does not inspire employee engagement
A company that contributes to the world in positive ways, and whose culture aligns with the values of prospective employees was indicated to be more attractive by 69 per cent of the respondents.

For organisations, therefore, ensuring a culture that provides employees with a meaning and purpose is critical to employee retention and engagement. In his recently published book, The Leadership Journey: How to Master the Four Critical Areas of Being a Great Leader, Korn Ferry’s CEO, Gary Burnison, explains: “To lead is to define a common purpose that transcends individual self-interest to an organisation’s [sic] shared interest… Where there is purpose, there is hope of succeeding—and exceeding what anyone thought possible”.

This translates into the growing critical need for purpose-driven leaders, who in turn, propagate a culture of purpose-driven engagement among the organisation’s employees. In addition, if an organisation’s social responsibility initiatives are perfectly aligned with its core mission, and solve a real-world social problem, then they create the best recipe for effective leadership development, when matched with a person’s core values.

However, only 59 per cent of the respondents indicated that their organisations currently leverage their social responsibility agenda to develop leaders.

Leadership and culture change: The connect
The survey further highlighted the role of an organisation’s leadership in establishing the company culture. 45 per cent of the respondents emphasised developing leaders to drive culture change in an organisation. Leaders who adopt behaviours consistent with the organisation’s strategic direction ultimately influence other employees to do the same by leading through example. This, in turn, drives alignment, collaboration and performance.

The report found that 75 per cent of organisation leaders do not identify and communicate their organisational culture to a great extent, and only 35 per cent believe that their employees could articulate their company culture. This, according to the report, does not bode well for organisations working towards adapting change and pursuing new opportunities.

This is because there is a pronounced need for them to align their employees’ values, beliefs, and behaviours if they are to find support among workers for new and evolving business strategies. Aligning talent to new strategies was found to be the fourth most pressing business priority among 35 per cent of the leaders, after improving profitability (50%), increasing organic market share (49%), and accelerating the pace of innovation (48%).

Apart from driving culture change, developing leaders to drive strategic change (66%), and filling gaps in the leadership pipeline (54%) were found to be the other two top global leadership priorities. The former was not surprising as a statistic given that only a dismal 17 per cent of the executives polled were confident that their organisations have the leadership capabilities that they need.

Further, an equally dismal 17 per cent of the leadership teams, according to the respondents, demonstrate behaviours required for their organisations to successfully deliver on their strategic business priorities.


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