PURPOSE IN A VOLATILE LANDSCAPE: WILL IT WEATHER THE STORM?
In a world fraught with uncertainty and upheaval, Purpose can be the constant.
The past few years have taught businesses many hard lessons. Among them, that business leaders must expect the unexpected and no issue is off-limits for organizational response. Consumers have become increasingly skeptical of green and Purpose claims, while employees have choice – and aren’t afraid to use it. So much has changed during this time, but one thing has remained constant: the Power of Purpose.
We saw Purpose help brands navigate the waters of a global pandemic to do right by employees and communities. It provided guidance and guardrails for companies responding to stakeholder demands around social justice commitments and delivered organizational direction and ambition for companies to approach their ESG (environmental, social and governance) goals and strategies. It has even given organizations direction when reacting to heated political conversations and responses during times of war and global conflict. Now, Purpose proves to be a panacea for another major business challenge: The Great Resignation.
The events of recent years have given us a lot to think about. For employees, this has led to a rearrangement of priorities, a pursuit of a higher meaning in their work placing significant new demands on their employers. With that, employees have left their companies in droves to seek opportunities that better align with their values or create a new path very different than their previous one. This has created a retention sieve at companies – and a thorn in the side of recruiters across industries. Those who remain in their current roles realize their new worth and are not afraid to push their employers for more.
Where does Purpose fit in? Purpose Under Pressure examines business professionals across industries and levels to gauge their understanding of Purpose within their own organizations – and their personal adherence to it. This study unpacks the benefits of a strong Purpose during turbulent times, its value for recruitment and retention – as well as some early red flags for Purpose practitioners – and tools to embed Purpose within organizations for maximum benefit.
While Purpose continues to weather the storm, the stakes could not be higher. Purpose is under increased scrutiny from consumers, employees, activist investors and others – and companies must do more to ensure it is authentic, omnipresent and actionable.
Paul Polman: “Coronavirus is an acid test for stakeholder capitalism.”
BUILDING ON THE PURPOSE PARADOX
Purpose Under Pressure builds on findings from the Purpose Paradox, a 2020 study conducted by Carol Cone ON PURPOSE and The Harris Poll to explore the influence and impacts of Purpose in business-to-business (B2B) companies. The B2B Purpose Paradox uncovered a critical gap: while 86% of companies had a stated Purpose, only 24% of those had fully activated it in their organizations.
Purpose Under Pressure broadens our exploration of the divide between stated and activated Purpose, adding business-to-consumer (B2C) companies as well as welcoming global PR firm Allison+Partners and sister agency Headstand to the research team. Our hypothesis about the growing prominence of Purpose–influenced by the pandemic and its impact on employees–was borne out by this new research. We felt that as more organizations shift to being human-centered, they will need strong data and insights to leverage Purpose across the enterprise at various levels and functions.
Ultimately, the companies that “win” with Purpose will be those that leverage their “why” to inspire, engage, and protect their most powerful asset: their employees.