At Tony’s Chocolonely, everyone knows that every bar made, every wrapper wrapped, every box packed is a step towards eradicating slavery in the chocolate supply chain.
Empowering employees to understand, own and value their role in your business’s overarching purpose is inspiring. You start to operate as a team, less bogged down in day-to-day squabbles and more focused on the end goal.
To help your employees understand the part they play in that bigger picture, try these five steps:
- Measure everything you can. Look at your financial performance, the mood of your employees, your carbon footprint: whatever is relevant. This will give you a benchmark to measure how your purpose journey affects the business.
- Support your employees. Do they have enough time, confidence and skills to welcome the idea of purpose? What do they need to make this work?
- Listen to feedback. Don’t get bogged down in answering every criticism but do listen – and be seen to be listening.
- Champion your champions. Your business will have its own influencers. Find out what floats their boat and get them on board. If they work in sales or finance, give them the evidence in numbers. If they work in HR, tell them about staff retention or satisfaction. Then guide them and give them the tools and authority to spread the word.
- Integrate your purpose into jobs and agendas. Measure employee performance against their progress towards the purpose – not just against conventional measures. Make sure your purpose is an agenda point at every meeting: Have your decisions moved us towards our purpose? Eventually, it will become second nature and you won’t need it on the agenda any more.
Make your purpose shine
Keep your purpose alive and kicking by celebrating everyday examples. If you spot someone putting the vision into action, praise and share their actions. Give awards, send thank you cards, tell stories.
At the Co-op, they do this all the time. They call it ‘Being Co-op’. Because purpose was baked in from the earliest days of their 175-year history, their employees know exactly what this corporate shorthand stands for.
And they celebrate it – openly and unashamedly – in the internal-facing but publicly-available website, Colleague Stories. Written for and by other colleagues, the site unearths inspirational tales from the workforce, explains fresh ideas and encourages feedback and dialogue.
Tell the world
If you decide to share your purpose with the wider world, be bold but realistic. This is what you, as a business, have decided to champion. Own it, be happy to shout about it proudly on social media – and expect a reply. Remember, it’s a forum for feedback and discussion – not all of it constructive.
By definition, any opinion will rub up against opposition. It’s impossible to please all of the people, all of the time. But that’s OK.
The real power of purpose
And it’s OK because the real power of purpose is helping you to find your people, from a loyal, motivated workforce to customers who become brand advocates.
Unengaged and unchallenged employees or clients might be blandly satisfied with what you provide – but they’re never going to be ablaze with motivation. By nailing your colours to the mast, you might lose a few, but you’ll gain those who are meant for you. And together, you really can make a difference.