Do people really care about your purpose?

30 August 2022

There is a huge amount of noise about business and brand purpose, why consumers and colleagues are drawn to purpose (are they?), and how purpose-driven business and brands will save our planet – or at least our corner of the planet.

Fundamentally, purpose is defined as “the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists”.

Netflix tells us they want to “entertain the world”.  Okay, fair enough.

TED’s is simply to “spread ideas”. Brilliant.

Workday wants to “make and provide great products and services”.  Bless.

IKEA exists to “create a better everyday life for the many people”.  I can’t get the sound of a Swedish “better everyday” out of my head.

Meanwhile, Sky “believe better business creates a better world”.  Presumably, one game of football at a time.

And of course, Google are out to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.

Purpose is one of those things that businesses and brands can struggle with – moving from the downright dull (Workday) to the woefully worthy (Sky).  So how much do colleagues care about this?

At first glance, Cognizant’s “Purpose Gap” says that it means everything to young talent – and that there’s a real disconnect between what people want and companies offer.

However, on closer inspection, it’s interesting to see what really constitutes purpose.  In this report, it isn’t simply a commitment to a worthy cause, it is a triangulation of Passion, Work/Life Balance and Pay.

“The vast majority of millennial (aged 27-40) and Gen Z (20-26) workers expect employers to be highly committed to having a positive impact on the environment and on the wider society.  However, most centre their own purposes at work on far more personal objectives. More than half define purposeful work as being passionate about what they do and achieving a healthy work-life balance.”

So Purpose is not necessarily changing the world, solving poverty or combating climate change.  Yes, the company should have a positive impact.  But in many ways, Purpose is about purposeful work – together with Work-Life Balance.

And then comes the crunch.  The third most important factor in purposeful work is Pay.  Purpose and purposeful work is of course important; but it also needs the pay to go with it.

They are interlinked, and we should remember that it’s not about pursuing your own personal agenda or simply signing up for a worthy cause, but committing to a passion, as well as having the flexibility and pay to fulfil your aspirations.

So, in short, people do care about your purpose; but not as much as you might expect.  Like so much in our lives, it’s what is relatable that really counts.  People relate to what they and their colleagues do on an everyday basis – not necessarily the overall purpose or mission…

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