What is purpose?

What is purpose?

‘Ok… this PURPOSE thing. What is it really, some firms ask?’

It has been so interesting to see so many leaders in professional services firms looking to (re)define what the business really is, what it stands for (and more importantly what it does not stand for), and where it wants to get to. Purpose, vision and values are being talked about more than ever before, probably driven by the need to retain and recruit key talent (as vision and values underpin the employer’s value proposition), succession and career planning, and creating learning and development interventions that have real impact.

But developing a ‘purpose’ can be difficult and requires deep thinking! ‘Profit is not a purpose, it is a result. To have purpose means the things we do are of real value to others’ according to Simon Sinek. Your firm’s purpose is not about what you do, but it is about why you do what you do. It is the answer to the question ‘What is your reason for being as a firm? 

It is about ‘What business you are REALLY in?’

Pizza Express does not see itself as a restaurant serving pizza. Instead, the business that they are really in is the people conversation business! “Feeding great conversations since 1965.”

The All-Blacks see themselves as more than a rugby team. Their business is ‘inspiring and unifying New Zealanders.’

TOMS aren’t about selling shoes: they are about selling a promise that each purchase will directly benefit a child in a poorer part of the world.

A few key questions for anyone looking at their purpose:

  • What is your firm’s desired impact on people or the world at large?
  • What would be reflected in a purpose that is unique to you?
  • How would your purpose provide strategic inspiration?
  • What is there about your purpose that would speak to the head and the heart?

And why is purpose so important?

Not only is it important for your purpose to provide your strategic direction, but it is also how your firm can truly measure it’s impact. 

It is also important because the pandemic has caused a shift in employees’ priorities, concerns, and expectations, and has meant firms have had to adapt and change the way they operate, particularly if they wish to remain relevant in the current recruitment market. Remote and hybrid working are key drivers of this. Many firms expected their people to return to the office after restrictions, which has not happened, so employee concerns and employer expectations have shifted further apart.

Another shift has been that during the pandemic, employers really had to listen to their employees and engage them in different ways, and about issues that really mattered to them.

Employees became genuinely hungry for trust, social cohesion, and purpose and this desire has not changed. Many firms are realising that they need to catch up. Employees want to feel they are being listened to, that their contributions are being recognised and that their firm is truly collaborative. They want to have a purpose, and they expect the firms they work for to want the same. They want their personal purpose to align, or at the very least they want to be invested in their firms’ purpose.

It is therefore more important now than ever before, for firms to define their purpose or their intention. Having a clear and meaningful purpose can help you to align your journey with your employees’ journeys, and it can help to set you apart from your competitors.

If you would like a chat about any aspect of this or if you need help defining your purpose or vision and values, just drop us a line!

Email Kate or call us on 0333 7722 061.