Positive Impact – The New North Star for Enlightened Organisations in Asia Pacific
That sentiment is resounding in organisations across the globe. According to our research, 98% of Top Employers in the Asia-Pacific region have a social purpose in place, highlighting its critical importance It’s clear that the world of work is changing and one of those changes affecting organisations and their people is happening around purpose and impact. Purpose is not new, but it is changing. In 2023 it will be a defining part of many companies.
In 2023’s work landscape, there's a growing emphasis on the importance of purpose for an organisation. Purpose is a guiding principle that gives direction and meaning to an organization's activities, and it's becoming increasingly important for companies to define their purpose to succeed in today's competitive marketplace.
Our research for the World of Work Trends Report 2023 with certified Top Employers emphasised that organisations are making a clear commitment to create a purpose statement that not only explains why the organisation exists but also moves hearts while seeing how it positively impacts the world. The missing link remains in connecting employees to the company purpose, with only 66% of Top Employers in the Asia-Pacific region offering opportunities to employees to explore connection with the company purpose.
What is perhaps more interesting for organisations to consider as they embrace the happy challenge of prioritising their company purpose internally and externally, is how employees embrace this purpose. Involving employees in purpose no longer means simply engaging with the purpose of the company. No, instead they want to make sure that the why (the purpose) of the organisation is aligned with their own individual beliefs.
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How Purpose Informs (Positive) Impact
Organisations that have a clear purpose are not only able to differentiate themselves from their competitors and attract and retain talent, but they are also able to create a positive impact in the world. Purpose and positive impact are interconnected, as a strong purpose can provide the driving force behind an organization's efforts to create positive change.
In 2023 91% of Top Employers around the world have defined their purpose and 81% integrate their purpose into their HR practices. These statistics emphasises Top Employers commitment and towards purpose. What’s perhaps more interesting is how employees perceive their organisation’s relationship to purpose as we have seen that 63% of Top Employers ensure that their employees identify with the company purpose. Additionally, they encourage their employees to reflect on their own sense of purpose and combine it with the company’s purpose.
During our 2023 Top Employers Asia-Pacific Certification Celebration, Meng Hwee Teoh, Head of Talent, Asia at Sanofi, shared a compelling example of how to connect a company's purpose to its employees. Sanofi's purpose statement, "to chase the miracles of science, to improve the lives of our people, the communities and our own employees," is inspiring in and of itself. However, it became even more effective once the company made the connection with its employees. Before launching the purpose statement, Sanofi identified key behaviours that were aligned with their purpose and established a set of "play to win" behaviours. Furthermore, they redefined performance metrics to help employees focus on areas where they could make a meaningful impact and linked it closely to their everyday lives. As companies navigate the changing landscape of work, it's essential to remember that purpose isn't just a buzzword - it's a driving force for employee engagement, retention, and ultimately, business success.
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Benefits of Purpose
Introducing the topic of purpose may lead to questions about why organisations even need to bother placing so much energy towards it. What are the benefits of a defined and lived purpose for an organisation?
- Attraction and retention of talent.
- Employees seeking new opportunities and those already satisfied with their positions want to see themselves reflected in the places that they work in more ways than their output. When an organisation has a clear and compelling purpose, it can attract and retain top talent that shares those values. A strong purpose can also help to create a sense of belonging and engagement among employees, leading to greater job satisfaction and lower turnover.
- Create a positive impact.
- A clear purpose can help an organisation create a positive impact on the world. We can see this positive impact in organisations aligning its activities with a higher purpose. In this way an organisation can contribute to solving some of the world's most important challenges. Purpose driven companies can inspire and empower their employees, customers, and partners to make a difference, creating a virtuous cycle of impact and success.
- Drive growth and innovation.
- When an organisation has a strong purpose, it can provide a clear sense of direction and focus for innovation and growth. By aligning all activities with the organisation's purpose, companies can identify new opportunities and develop products and services that better serve their customers. Purpose-driven companies also tend to be more agile and adaptable, able to pivot quickly when market conditions change. A quality that continues to be important for organisations as they weather the uncertainty of the world of work.
- Differentiate from competitors.
- In a crowded marketplace, it can be difficult for a company to stand out. However, a clear purpose can help differentiate an organisation from its competitors. When customers and partners see that an organization is committed to a higher purpose, it can create a powerful emotional connection that sets it apart from competitors.
- Cultivates a culture of responsibility.
- An organisation that has a clear and defined purpose is more likely to be committed to acting in a responsible manner. It can include actions such as reducing its environmental impact, treating its employees fairly, and contributing to its local community. Purpose can help to foster a culture of responsibility within the organization, ensuring that it is focused on making a positive impact in all its activities.
- Build trust and loyalty.
- A clear purpose can help to build trust and loyalty with employees, partners, and other stakeholders. When an organisation is transparent about its values and goals, it can create a sense of authenticity and credibility that fosters trust. Purpose-driven companies are also more likely to engage in socially responsible practices, which can further build trust and loyalty both internally and externally.
Connecting employees to your company's purpose is crucial as it enhances their engagement and emotional connection. At the 2023 certification celebration in Singapore, Kelly Tay, Head of Talent Leadership Organization for ASEAN, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand at Boehringer Ingelheim, emphasized that purpose is not a one-time event or training. According to Kelly, purpose involves actions from the past, present, and future, and it's essential to create events and opportunities for reflection to connect employees with the company's purpose. For example, during their "Valued Through Innovation Day," an artist was invited to speak about how she utilizes her purpose to create art, and employees were given the chance to reflect on their own purpose and create artwork that represented it as a team. This exercise assisted employees in emotionally connecting with the company's purpose and led to the sharing of meaningful stories.
Continuing the discussion on the importance of purpose, it's not just about connecting employees to a company's mission, but also effectively communicating that purpose to customers. Frédéric Barou, a commercial leader from Amadeus in Singapore, shared his experience of the challenge of communicating the company's purpose to customers while ensuring that employees can connect with it daily. Amadeus' original purpose was to "shape the future of travel," which has been updated to "create better journeys for everyone." This change reflects the company's commitment to making travel accessible to all and improving the overall travel experience. The purpose serves as a guiding principle for employees and creates a sense of connection to the company's mission, particularly during the pandemic when the travel industry was severely impacted.
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How to foster a shared sense of purpose in an organisation.
A strong purpose can attract and retain talent, differentiate from competitors, drive innovation and growth, build trust and loyalty, and create a positive impact. But that is only possible if there is a shared sense of purpose so that employees feel that the purpose of their organisation not only includes them but is something they also believe in. It must not only be for them to engage with purpose but for it to be truly lived.
A shared purpose is a common goal or mission that is shared by all members of an organisation, from top-level executive leaders to entry-level employees. According to research by McKinsey, people who said they were living their purpose in the workplace had five times higher well-being levels than those who weren’t. They were also four times more likely to show higher engagement. The same research shows how important purpose from work is as 70% of employees say work defines their sense of purpose.
Organisations can foster a shared sense of purpose by connecting employees to the company's mission and values. This involves creating events and opportunities for reflection to connect employees emotionally with the purpose. Communicating the purpose effectively to both customers and employees is crucial, as it serves as a guiding principle and creates a sense of connection to the company's mission. The Top Employers Institute's HR Best Practices Survey found that the top three best-performing topics were ethics and integrity, business strategy, and organization & change. The survey also revealed that this year's group of Top Employers positively impact the lives of approximately 2,574,089 employees in APAC, reflecting the importance of a world-class HR environment in fostering a shared sense of purpose.
The importance of shared purpose is undeniable and some of the key pillars to get there include:
- Engaging employees in the purpose journey and story. Organisations and their leaders can do this by helping workers recognise what’s meaningful to them, then encourage them to connect that to the company’s purpose. Whether this is through workshops, team meetings, or learning sessions. There are several ways that organisations can rally their employees to become an active part of constructing the purpose of an organisation.
- Aligning leadership around your company’s goals. Purpose begins at the top, but it does not stop in that silo. Organisations need to actively involve leaders in the entire process, especially as they begin to engage other workers as they will be the face of the organisation’s purpose.
- Embed purpose in your people’s everyday work experience. To create a shared sense of purpose it needs to be embodied across employee’s daily experience of their organisation and not just in celebratory or exceptional cases.
- Committing to a long-term strategy around purpose. It can be tempting for organisations to create a well throughout purpose and hope that it alone can maintain relevance, but it is not that easy. An initial rollout, while important, is only one part of a long-term strategy that organisations will need to leverage to make a well-defined purpose a lived purpose. That will include:
- Clarifying expectations.
- Connecting everybody’s work to the bigger purpose/picture.
- Embracing feedback.
Billy Elliott, our Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, shares his personal interpretation and experience of purpose: “The Top Employers Institute’s purpose is to accelerate the impact of HR strategies and practices to enrich the world of work. Our company purpose motivates me to bring the best version of myself to the workplace daily. It gives me great satisfaction knowing the work we do with our clients through the Global Top Employers Certification Programme is having such a positive impact on so many employees in the wider Asia Pacific region. Furthermore, I get to live and bring our purpose to life with so many fantastic colleagues from all over the world”.
Creating a shared purpose is essential for organisations that want to engage with their employees and succeed in 2023. A shared purpose can help to foster a sense of belonging and teamwork, align individual goals with organisational goals, provide clarity and direction, create a culture of accountability, and attract and retain top talent.
Employees that feel connected to the purpose of the organisation are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work. That can lead to better outcomes for the organisation while meeting the individual needs of each employee.