Positive Impact – The New North Star for Enlightened Organisations

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

PURPOSE is inspiring, and it’s a sentiment that’s fast starting to resonate in offices around the world. What’s clear is that the world of work is changing, and one of the changes affecting organisations and their people, centres around purpose and impact. And while purpose as such isn’t a new concept, it’s becoming a defining part of many organisations.

In the 2023 company landscape, there's a growing emphasis on the importance of purpose. It’s a guiding principle that gives direction and meaning to an organisation's activities, and it's becoming increasingly important for companies to define their purpose to progress and succeed today's competitive marketplace.

Our research with certified Top Employers for the World of Work Trends Report 2023 emphasised a growing number of organisations making a clear commitment to create a purpose statement that not only explains why the organisation exists, but also 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. Our Duch Top Employers scored 73% in 2023 for successfully incorporating purpose into their HR practices – clear evidence that they recognise the significance of aligning their values and actions to maintain a positive impact.

Perhaps even more interesting for organisations to consider as they embrace the challenge of prioritising their company purpose internally and externally, is how employees themselves embrace this purpose. They want to ensure 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 with a clear purpose can differentiate themselves from their competitors and attract and retain talent, as well as create a positive impact in the world. Purpose and positive impact are interconnected, as a strong purpose can provide the driving force behind an organisation'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 – statistics which prove Top Employers commitment to this. In addition, they are actively encouraging their employees to reflect on their own sense of purpose and combine it with the company’s purpose.

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

Customers and investors also increasingly favour 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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The Benefits of Purpose

What are the key benefits of a defined purpose for an organisation?

Attraction and retention of talent.

  • Employees seeking new opportunities and those satisfied with their positions want to see themselves reflected in their workplace. 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 which align activities with a higher purpose. 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, and able to pivot if needed when market conditions change. This is a fundamental quality for organisations as they navigate uncertainty in the world of work.

Differentiate from competitors.

  • In a crowded marketplace, it can be difficult for a company to stand out, and this is where having a clear purpose can make all the difference. When customers and partners see that an organisation is committed to a higher purpose, it creates a powerful and 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 committed to acting in a responsible manner. This can include actions such as reducing environmental impact, treating its employees fairly, and contributing to local community. Purpose can help to foster a culture of responsibility within the organisation, ensuring it is focused on making a positive impact across all 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 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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Fostering a Shared Sense of Purpose in an Organisation

A strong purpose can attract and retain talent, differentiate them from competitors, drive innovation and growth, build trust and loyalty, and create a positive impact. But this is only possible if there is a shared sense of genuine purpose between employees and the organisation they work for.

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 levels of well-being than those who weren’t. They were also four times more likely to show higher engagement. This same research states that 70% of employees say work defines their sense of purpose.

To foster a shared sense of purpose in an organisation, it’s essential to translate the company's values into actionable behaviours. When values are effectively integrated into the daily actions and decisions of employees, it strengthens alignment and creates a shared understanding of purpose. Top Employers in Belgium demonstrate a strong commitment to fostering a shared sense of purpose, with 98% of values translated into behaviours.

To achieve this, it helps to share purpose success stories – something which Belgium Top Employers excel at. 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, and other stakeholders.

The Importance of Shared Purpose, and Key Pillars to Success

Key is engaging employees in the purpose journey and story. Decision makers within organisations can do this by helping workers recognise what’s meaningful to them and encouraging them to connect that to the company’s purpose. This can be through workshops, team meetings, and learning sessions. There are several ways 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 doesn’t stop there. Organisations need to actively involve leaders in the complete process, especially as they begin to engage and draw in other workers.
  • 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 experiences, not only in celebratory or exceptional cases.
  • Committing to a long-term strategy around purpose. It can be tempting for organisations to create a purpose and hope that it stays relevant, but this is rarely the case. An initial rollout, while important, is only one part of a long-term strategy organisations will need to leverage to evolve a well-defined purpose a lived purpose.
  • This includes:
    • Clarifying expectations.
    • Connecting each person’s work to the bigger purpose.
    • Embracing feedback.

In closing, employees who feel connected to the purpose of an organisation are more likely to be engaged and motivated in their work. This ultimately leads to better outcomes for the organisation, while meeting the individual needs of each employee. The result - a well-defined and lived purpose that becomes the driving force for organisational success.


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Positive Impact – The New North Star for Enlightened Organisations

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