One of the buzzwords of our time is purpose. We often talk about the purpose of our lives at a personal level, but businesses are increasingly questioning the purpose of their organisation at a strategic level and how well it aligns with the personal purpose of their employees and customers.

But what really is a purposeful organisation? And why is purpose so important to success?

To find out, we took part in CRF’s latest HR Leaders’ Forum, Building Purposeful Organisations,  an event that provided some fierce debate and challenging exercises around the delivery of purpose in business.

CRF’s director John Whelan highlighted research that reveals purpose and meaning to be key drivers of business success. This echoes our own experience and client findings: having a clear, well communicated purpose and meaning helps keep employees aligned during times of broad industry disruption and change.

Achieving this, however, takes effort from us all.

To understand the steps we need to take, Alyson Meister, professor or Leadership and Organizational Behavior at IMD Business School, challenged the audience to question why we do what we do, what contribution we make, and specifically how we contribute through our own work.

Critically for us, she also highlighted three specific pathways that can be used to realise purpose, all of which require alignment between our work and our core values and goals.

Our own approach to leadership and engagement with clients follows this exactly: we must fully understand the goals of individuals and organisations before we work with them to establish and embed their own purpose.

Presenters throughout the day took the discussion further, looking at wide-ranging issues that affect the overall sense of corporate purpose.

Aligning employee experience with corporate brand, establishing solid corporate mindsets and leadership behaviours (particularly in times of change), and the importance of balancing agility with stability, were all highlighted as critical contributors to establishing successful, long-term business purpose in today’s ever-changing world.

So, what can we take away as key learnings from such an insight-packed agenda? Too many to share here, but for us, there are three critical points that we as HR practitioners must never forget when it comes to truly understanding and communicating business purpose:

  1. Companies need to align their customer and employee propositions and ensure they are driving the right behaviors and business outcomes. Doing so results in excellent employee and business outcomes – from reduced attrition and increased engagement to higher share prices.


  1. To ensure purpose is understood and lived by all employees, it needs to be clearly communicated from the top. It also needs to be measured regularly to ensure continued success – and adapted quickly if things aren’t working.


  1. All listening initiatives (360, engagement surveys, pulse surveys), must be aligned to your organisational purpose and values. This not only ensures they’re maintained as the business grows, but also provides essential navigation in times of change.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. What do you believe a purposeful organisation looks like, and how does your business shape up when it comes to communicating purpose or modelling behaviours? Share your ideas or contact us today…

Michael Frantl / Associate Director