By Executive Coach, Karen Nutter
There has been a lot of publicity lately about how employees don’t leave companies, they leave managers. And, when you consider the high cost of employee turnover combined with the high demand for quality employees, smart businesses are looking for ways to retain their people.
One of the key factors that promotes employee retention is Purpose. Having and exemplifying a solid corporate purpose is the glue that brings together a strong corporate culture, while also providing every member of the team a reason to engage in their job at a deeper level.
Think about the company you work for – what is the true purpose of the business? Why does the company exist? What problem does it solve for people? How does it contribute to society? What intrinsic value does it possess?
Every successful business has a higher purpose beyond simply making money for the sake of making money. Utility companies allow people to stay warm, cool, clean, fed, and healthy. Manufacturing plants produce items that may help create products that build transportation vehicles, make chemicals that reduce harmful bacteria, or develop healthcare equipment. To create a strong corporate culture, It’s important to identify your purpose and incorporate it into everything you do every day. And, don’t try to fake it – your people will know when you’re just hanging nice slogans around the office versus saying what you mean and meaning what you say.
The Business At Hand
I once worked with the CEO of a company who asked for help getting his team to work together more effectively. He wanted to change the culture of his company and thought some workshops and internal marketing would be a good start. We conducted 360 surveys on the leadership team, ran assessments on 2/3 of his staff, provided trainings on Emotional Intelligence, Communication, DISC, and Motivators, and offered one-on-one coaching to junior managers. He also put up signs in the office and warehouses that supported their mission statement, and told people “Our employees are #1.” And, within the first six weeks we started seeing results such as less sick days being used, 2 new accounts brought in, and a general increase in productivity. It was starting to work!
So, I was very surprised when during our 90-Day check-in he asked when the program was ending because he wanted everyone to “get back to the business at hand.” I explained that developing company purpose and creating a good corporate culture is a lot like dieting and good nutrition – you CAN see some benefits if you do it for a little while, but the real success happens when you make it a daily practice and change your lifestyle. Instead of ending the program, I suggested we start the next phase and incorporate monthly Town Hall meetings with each team to get input on how to continue improving the culture, and review people’s assessments and their job competencies to better align the right people in the right positions with the right responsibilities. He declined, stating he didn’t see how this would change his corporate culture, and a year later I heard that his business had folded.
You have probably heard the story about the janitor who, when asked by John F. Kennedy what he did at NASA he said “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” When we feel we are actively contributing to a good cause, we are more likely to find our personal purpose and take responsibility and pride in the job we do. Employees with purpose feel important, and as such are more engaged in their job, more fulfilled, and less likely to leave. Personal purpose gives our lives meaning – maybe that’s why so many people are searching for their true purpose.
An article in the Harvard Business Review (November, 2018) shared studies indicating “9 Out of 10 people are willing to Earn Less Money to Do More-Meaningful Work.” And, most said they would give up 23% of their future earnings if they could have a job that was meaningful. When you recognize that a company’s success relies on the contribution of every employee, the importance of personal purpose becomes clear.
Not only do team members need to recognize and uphold the company purpose, they need to feel recognized for the job they are doing and the purpose they serve. While this culture starts with buy-in at the top, and must be integrated into every level of the corporation, the real change-agents are the employees who incorporate the culture into their daily lives, and, like the NASA janitor, take pride in what they do as part of the team.
Taking The Next Steps
So, how does a company build its purpose while giving employees a sense of purpose and meaning?
People are less likely to leave a company if they see its value and feel like a valuable part of the team. If it costs an average of $85,000 to replace one employee, and your company loses 5 employees a year, investing in a Purpose/Corporate Culture program could save more than $2 million dollars in five years.
Can you think of any better way to increase productivity and profitability while creating a great work environment and corporate culture? If so, share your ideas with us!