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Why are you here?

Not you personally, but why is your organisation here? Does your organisation have a shared sense of purpose? The CIPD have just released research which indicates that, although there is not a direct link between organisational performance and having a shared sense of purpose, there are some pretty compelling reasons for developing one!

What they have found in their research (“Shared purpose: the golden thread?” December 2010), is that organisations with a shared sense of purpose outperform those with no sense of shared purpose on both soft and hard measures. They found that having a shared sense of purpose in your organisation improves employee engagement and as a result increases satisfaction – 84% of employees said they were engaged with their work versus 32% where there was no shared sense of purpose. They also found that organisations with a shared sense of purpose performed better against their key performance indicators than those without.

So, what do we mean by a shared sense of purpose? Well, it means having clarity on why the organisation exists and what its aims are and having this message shared throughout the organisation.

In some organisations the sense of purpose is financially driven and it is about maximising profitability. This may be a shared sense of purpose but it can have a negative effect on how employees feel about the organisation and their role in it. For example, 32% said “I feel demotivated that all my hard work and effort is going into the pockets of investors and owners”. Many people are now seeking a deeper sense of purpose in their work, a feeling that they are making a difference to society and “giving something back”.

Which is perhaps why the voluntary sector seems to be leading the way in terms of sense of purpose, goals and values. The research suggests that not only do organisations in this sector have a clear vision of where they are trying to get to, they also have clearly defined and aligned goals and shared values which drive motivation and engagement.

Another factor which is interesting is the impact that senior managers have on the sense of a shared purpose. Where managers are seen to be living and breathing that purpose and the organisational values, employees feel more engaged and more committed to the organisation. Where there is a disconnect between what is communicated via the company intranet and at induction and what managers actually say and do, there is much less evidence of a shared sense of purpose.

So, what does all of this mean? Unsurprisingly, you will get more commitment and engagement from your staff if they understand where the organisation is going and their role within it. The more clearly this can be communicated at all levels of the organisation the more effective it will be. Even without the CIPD research discussed here, if you look around at successful organisations, what is it that makes them successful? One thing is certainly that they know where they are going and their staff have bought into that journey 100%.

Can you define what your organisation exists to do? Have your staff bought into that purpose? Food for thought….

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