Positive Impact – The New North Star for Enlightened Organisations

9 minutes read
By; Juliëtte van Rees, Marketing Assistant Benelux & Nordics, Top Employers Institute

Purpose is inspiring. That is sentiment is resounding in offices across the globe. 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 there is finally 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.

Purpose goes beyond profit-making and encompasses the desire to make a positive impact on society and the world. In 2023 a staggering 81.40% of our Belgium’s top employers successfully incorporate purpose into their HR practices, it is evident that they recognize the significance of aligning their values and actions to maintain a positive impact.

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.

Employees, in particular, have higher expectations for purpose-driven organisations. They are attracted to organisations that align with their values and offer opportunities for personal and professional growth. Companies that prioritize purpose are more likely to attract and retain top talent, leading to a more engaged and committed workforce.

Customers and investors also increasingly favor purpose-driven organisations. They want to support businesses that align with their own values and contribute to a sustainable future. Companies with a clear purpose have a competitive advantage in the marketplace, as they can differentiate themselves and create emotional connections with customers.

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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.

Enhanced Organisational Resilience

  • A clear and lived purpose can contribute to organisational resilience, particularly in times of adversity or uncertainty. When an organisation has a well-defined purpose, it serves as a guiding light during challenging times, providing a sense of stability and direction. Employees are more likely to rally together and navigate obstacles with a shared sense of purpose, ensuring that the organisation stays focused on its long-term goals. Purpose-driven organisations tend to demonstrate greater agility and adaptability, making them better equipped to navigate change and seize new opportunities.

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.

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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.

In order to foster a shared sense of purpose in an organisation, it is essential to translate the company's values into actionable behaviors. When values are effectively integrated into the daily actions and decisions of employees, it strengthens the alignment and creates a shared understanding of purpose. The Top Employers in Belgium demonstrate a strong commitment to fostering a shared sense of purpose, as indicated by a high percentage of 98% of values being translated into behaviors.

One way to do achieve that is to share purpose success stories. One notable finding is the high percentage (84.88%) of the Belgium top employers that have purpose success stories. This demonstrates the significance placed on recognizing and sharing the positive outcomes of purpose-driven initiatives within the organisation. By showcasing success stories, companies can effectively communicate the tangible impact of their purpose, inspiring and engaging employees at all levels. These stories serve as powerful examples of how the organisation's purpose has made a difference in the lives of customers, communities, or other stakeholders.

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.

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. Ultimately, a well-defined and lived purpose becomes a driving force for organisational success in the present and future.


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Positive Impact – The New North Star for Enlightened Organisations

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