Many companies plan to reinvent themselves by adding meaning to their business activities. But how can companies ensure that their ambitions are not just well-meant words (a frame), but become tangible reality?
Today, many companies are striving to distinguish themselves as being purpose-driven. Next to the purpose or raison d’être (the “WHY”), firms need to create tangible evidence that fuels their purpose through products or service offerings (the “WHAT”). Furthermore, firms need to think about ways to activate their brand purpose (the “HOW”). Here, the purpose must be illustrated tangibly and sincerely most of all to employees and consumers, to win their minds and hearts and to make them the foundation of a meaningful transition. Internally the purpose needs to be truly embedded in operational and organizational structures and business activities.
Probably the greatest challenge of topics mentioned above is the activation of the purpose. Here, the question arises how the purpose is brought to life and continuously inspires people. Here, firms need to reconcile business with meaning and make their products and services differentiating assets while being natively purpose compliant. Furthermore, the purpose can be embodied through storytelling as Capgemini’s social impact firm purpose shows. Additionally, firms need to activate their brand purpose from within, by making their employees part of the purpose-driven enterprise.
But why do firms need a purpose? In addition to existing altruistic motives, a well-defined purpose (in line with the Sustainable Development Goals defined by the UN) gives companies and their brands charisma. At best, customers, partners, and employees find themselves in the purpose and support the company stronger than before. Eighty seven percent of consumers believe that companies have a larger role to play in society – as the Capgemini Research Institute has found out. The fact that 94% of consumers consider a purpose to be important, but only 37% think that it is clearly and strongly present in companies’ ways of working, shows that there is a great need for optimization.
To develop an authentic, realistic, and inspiring purpose, CMOs and Brand Communication Execs must first act inclusively right from the start. It is advisable to involve stakeholders (especially employees and customers) in defining the purpose. Joint workshops and voting sessions are a good way to understand needs and requirements to develop a tangible and inspirational purpose. During the realization of the purpose, employees and customers can also manifest the purpose as purpose champions. They act as purpose advocates by explaining and defending purposeful actions when business pressure might be a barrier for complete purposeful actions. Additionally, purpose champions ensure that top management keeps track of the way the organization feels about the purpose. The advantage of this approach is that all participants are activated from the very beginning and the first tangible actions are already living the idea of inclusion. The purpose should then be operationalized and manifested. Clear and tangible goals and KPIs make the achievement of the purpose understandable and verifiable.
It also helps to quickly follow words with external actions (for instance through a comprehensive sustainable packaging strategy Capgemini Invent recently created for a European food retailer. to maintain momentum in the realization of the purpose. Managers should embody the purpose and also develop themselves in this respect. To do so, every manager needs to define which activities within her or his area of influence can boost purpose activation. Furthermore, the fit to purpose should also play a role in the hiring and promotion of employees. At Amazon, for example, there are 14 leadership principles (not all linked to the purpose of course), which are included in the hiring process as well as in every promotion. Employees should also have the opportunity to know their contribution as well as their options for shaping purpose. This will drive employee satisfaction and improve the purpose activation momentum. Furthermore, companies with a strong purpose and action plan are more likely to attract and retain talent.
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Senior Manager, Capgemini Invent.