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Trying To Identify a Corporate Purpose? You Don’t Have To Save the World

Trying To Identify a Corporate Purpose? You Don’t Have To Save the World

Identify the right purpose to elevate your business strategies and operations.

It’s easy to declare yourself a purpose-driven organisation. It’s much harder, however, to identify just the right purpose to elevate your business strategy and operations. 

Many companies are driven by stakeholders’ demands to stand for more than just profits. The belief that building a compassionate corporate culture helps to attract people, from partners and customers to employees, often drives organisations to align their business strategy closely to their company’s values. It is the primary way that companies build trust with their employees and customers.

So how do you identify and activate a purpose? Or decide on just one? Sustainability, diversity, equity, poverty, and upward mobility are all noble causes, but no company can effectively address them all. 

Defining your purpose

To identify a purpose, leaders need to consider what their stakeholders (both internal and external) are passionate about, what is needed in the community and the world, and what the company is uniquely positioned to deliver.

Leaders need to look at what they’re already doing (a new product, service, partnership) and ask themselves how to use it as an opportunity to elevate and align it with a societal issue their stakeholders care about. They can then begin to articulate and fulfill their purpose in a more fruitful way.  

Consider these examples, which are clear, precise, target real societal issues, and apply what each organisation does well to address them: Genius Group’s purpose is to build a successful community of purpose driven entrepreneurs, while The Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations (SFCCA) aims to preserve cultural traditions and connect new generations with their ancestral heritage. When trying to identify a corporate purpose, ask yourself these questions: How do we make a difference to our customers and our market? How do we do it differently? What do our employees love about their job? 

Answering these questions helps organisations take a broader view while ensuring their purpose is not reduced to a marketing slogan or so exaggerated that it does not address precise needs.

Activating and elevating your purpose

Once you have articulated the unique “what” and “why” you do what you do, the next step (and indeed the bigger challenge) is activating it throughout the organisation. Mobilising every employee to march to the same beat and incorporating the purpose into their daily jobs are essential for a successful activation.

Business leaders need to be knowledgeable of business practices that undermine the credibility and integrity of their purpose. When stakeholders see a gap between what you say and what you do, you lose trust. But if you make a bold strategy move to align with your purpose, even if it requires a short-term cost, it’s an enormous boost to building trust and confidence in your organisation. 

The company’s stated purpose can feel disconnected from its operations and strategy when values are not properly aligned with business strategy. Thus, the purpose becomes nothing more than empty words, and trust is either never gained, or worse — lost. 

The goal is to drive employee behaviour, not parrot the company tagline, by communicating how each person’s job helps the company achieve its purpose. 

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Stay true to your purpose for trust with employees

The pandemic has accelerated many organisation’s purpose-driven initiatives. In recent months, the Great Resignation has driven business leaders to motivate their workforce with clarity of purpose. When you consider the importance consumers and employees place on trust and living your purpose, it’s easy to see why. 

According to a global “Strength of Purpose” study by Zeno Group, consumers are four times more likely to trust and purchase from a brand with a strongly-articulated purpose. Moreover, they are 4.5 times more likely to champion the brand, and six times more likely to defend the brand in a challenging moment. In the State of the Connected Customer report, customers expect businesses to act responsibly. Eighty-five percent of customers say their purchase decisions are swayed by how companies treat employees and sixty-eight percent of customers around the world trust companies to act with society’s best interest in mind. 

At the same time, employees, emboldened and empowered by the tight labour market, prefer to work for purpose-driven organisations.

Business leaders should ask themselves if their structure, systems, and resourcing equips employees to bring the organisational purpose to life. Specifically: 

  • Are you a magnet for the right talent, hiring, and retaining people that allow you to excel at the capabilities needed to deliver on your purpose? 

  • Do you connect with intention across boundaries, breaking down silos so people across the organisation can work together to achieve its purpose? 

  • Do you invest in your purpose, putting your money where your purpose is? 

A company that’s meeting all three criteria could position itself more authentically to job candidates, bring teams together for better collaboration, provide customers with a more connected experience, at the same time, allocate a percentage of its profits to underinvested communities.

Stay true to your purpose for trust with customers

Stakeholders, in particular customers, need to know and understand your purpose to develop trust. Have you defined your purpose as a solemn promise to your customer? Remember, the world may not need more software, sofas, or soap, but it does need companies to use their unique strength and passion to address real problems. 

Not too long ago, a company’s trustworthiness centred primarily around protecting customer data, and its purpose was to sell products customers wanted. Not anymore. Customers have unparalleled choices, access to information, and a massive platform to share their opinions. Company values weigh more than how it used to be with 66% of customers stopped buying from a company whose values didn’t align with theirs — up from 62% in 2020.

If organisations can establish and constantly demonstrate their commitment to living their brand purpose to customers, trust will follow. 

This post originally appeared on the U.S.-version of the Salesforce blog.

Lisa Lee

Contributing Editor Lisa Lee is a contributing editor at Salesforce. She has written about technology and its impact on business for more than 25 years. Prior to Salesforce, she was an award-winning journalist with Forbes.com and other publications.

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