19 April 2021

Q&A Call-Purpose-Driven Orgs

Stacia Garr
Co-founder & Principal Analyst

TL;DR

  • In this Q&A call Stacia Garr discuss our research on Purpose-Driven Orgs
  • What is purpose compared to everything else: vision, mission, values, and principles
  • How have employees and consumers expectations shifted towards purpose
  • What does purpose mean to HR elements such as attraction, enablement, development, and retention
  • How to connect the dots between organizational purpose and the employee’s purpose in an organization to improve human performance
  • Why purpose now
  • Will purpose remain a thing after the pandemic

Q&A Call Video

TRANSCRIPT

Introduction

Stacia Garr:
Great. Well, we're going to go ahead and get started. So for those of you that I don't know, I am Stacia Garr and I am co-founder of RedThread Research where human capital research and advisory membership. And we're excited to talk to you today about purpose driven organizations. So this is a one of our Q&A calls. So this is pretty informal. And if you have questions, please go ahead and just jump off of mute and ask them as we go along. We do love it if you're able to do camera, just because it's a small group and it makes it a little bit more informal. If you don't feel comfortable with that today, obviously totally understand. You can also use the chat function if that's more your jam today as well.

Who is RedThread

Stacia Garr:
Just quick station identification as it were. As I said, we're RedThread Research. We focus on a range of different topics. We're focused on people, analytics, learning and skills, performance, and employee experience to DEIB and HR technology. This topic of purpose really kind of covers the much broader range of what, you know, it's really kind of a super topic if you will, because it has impacts across all these different areas. If anybody wants to know more about what we do go to redthreadresearch.com.

Our journey to understand purpose

Stacia Garr:
So as I mentioned, this is kind of a super topic for us, and we began this, this journey to purpose. It's actually kind of an interesting origin story in that our team every year comes together and says, you know, what are we going to focus on in the coming year? And a few years ago, I guess about 18 months ago, one of our team members came together, came to this meeting and said, I think we should really focus on organizational purpose. And Dani and I kind of went really like, are you sure?

Stacia Garr:
And you know, just cause we hadn't been here, we'd been hearing some about it, but we weren't, you know, we weren't convinced and this team member made an incredibly compelling case around why purpose was so important in how he was gaining traction and all this other stuff. And this was in September of 2019. So over the course of the next month or so this team member convinced us that this was a great idea. And we decided to start the research in January, 2020. Obviously we had no idea what was going to happen as we moved through 2020 at that point and how, in some ways, prescient this topic of purpose really was. But the reason I share that story is because before we got to the pandemic, there was already a lot of interest in this topic of purpose. There was an I'll talk about this in just a minute, but the focus on the business roundtable on making the purpose of a corporation being much more broad being about stakeholder capitalism, not just about shareholder capitalism and the like, but so we had that already happening, but then the pandemic really kind of accelerated what was happening.

Stacia Garr:
And so we completed a study last fall called the Purpose Driven Organization and it really covered the three bullets that are here on this slide, what is purpose, why it matters, how HR can bring purpose to life and the role of HR tech and enabling purpose. One of the things that happened though, because we were doing this research in the midst of the pandemic is a lot of people were obviously focused on a range of things related to enabling their employees. And we found that we had some really good stories, but not that many great stories of people telling them that story themselves. So we've listened to a lot of podcasts. We did some, we did some interviews, we did a lot of reading of articles, et cetera. And that's what we based a report on, but we wanted to bring it more to life.

Stacia Garr:
And so as a result of that, we did a whole podcast series that kicked off last October and ran until actually just about a month ago where we publish stories of what organizations were doing about organizational purpose. And that podcast is on our website, it's called, is purpose working. And so that was kind of that formed the Genesis of many of the stories that we found with this research. So that was a lot of intro into, into what we did and why we did it.

Stacia Garr:
Let me tell you a little bit more about the study and what we found. So when we talk about organizational purpose, this is our definition of it. So we say it's clear and concise statement that inspires people to deliver value to these multiple stakeholders. And so what I think is interesting here is in our list, as well as in most of the lists that you see, for instance from the business roundtable, shareholders are at the bottom of this list. So they are still an important part, but these other groups are a much more important part than they have been. Historically

Stacia Garr:
I think I saw someone maybe come off of mute. Did someone have a question or a comment on this?

Stacia Garr:
Okay, I'll keep going.

Purpose vs everything else

Stacia Garr:
The other thing that we get asked about is what is purpose compared to everything else? And so the way that we see it is this, that purpose is really about why I, or we do this. Why do we do this thing? This work that we do this focus for the organization, why do we do it? There are a lot of other important concepts, like as we show here, vision, mission, values, and principles but as we see purpose though purposes, the underlying kind of mega trend if you will. And these other factors are components of it. And ways that purpose is actualized, but Purpose is the fundamental key point.

Understanding purpose businesses

Stacia Garr:
Another thing that we learned through the research was about what purpose businesses are. And what I mean by that is there is an easy tendency to think that you know, there's deliberate impact that an organization is making and that's just their primary focus versus kind of market forces. So almost like a profit versus a purpose perspective. And so, but what we find though is, is that purpose actually extends much farther into kind of some of the organizations you might think of as do-good-er organizations then than you might expect. So a charity or pure NGO. Yes, that's, that's very purpose-driven and it is designed for a very deliberate impact, but with even social enterprises, often they can be for profit. And, you know, we've got all these businesses going to the right-hand side that are, that are for-profit.

Stacia Garr:
So one of the big findings that we learned through both the study, as well as through the podcast series was that profit and purpose are not necessarily at odds with each other. In fact, what we heard from, for instance, a venture capitalist, Debra Quazzo, who said, if a business doesn't have a clear purpose, and if its purpose is not big enough to be meaningful and inspiring, then you're probably not going to have a very good business, which I thought was a really powerful thought. So she would talk about how, when she is investing in businesses and startups, that if they didn't have a clear purpose, then, you know, she was probably not going to make the investment because the return just wasn't going to be good enough. And so I feel like that's kind of a different way of thinking about purpose certainly than what I was taught in business school. I was taught, you know, you need to get your return to shareholders and that's all that matters, et cetera, et cetera. And I think that the pendulum has swung back away from that perspective. I'll pause right there. Does anybody have any thoughts or comments on that?

Mission statement vs purpose

Priyanka Mehrotra:
I was just curious how businesses make the distinction between their mission statement and purpose. How has that distinction coming along and what, what did we see in our research on that?

Stacia Garr:
Well, I think practically speaking, I'm going to go back to that slide. Practically speaking, we see them tightly intermingled. So because organizations don't necessarily specifically articulate externally the difference between their purpose and mission, they tend in, people tend to understand what a mission is. I think we see the language being tightly mixed, but if you try to, if you kind of tease it out, you'll see that in many organizations, mission statement they'll have something that is much closer to a purpose statement. Like we do this and like, this is, this is the higher level of what we do. And then kind of the, the double-click down is the mission. Though they may call it all a mission statement. We were trying to pull it apart because the, what we do now in, in the future can change, right? We've seen that happen with lots and lots of organizations. But often the fundamental, underlying purpose of what we do is doesn't change. And so there's of the interesting interplay between the two concepts.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. Great question.

Stacia Garr:
Any other questions or thoughts that folks have?

Understand purpose businesses

Stacia Garr:
All right. I'll keep, I'll keep going. And I'll, I'll say usually our Q&A calls. I don't put as much content in them. They're usually much more discussion-based but there weren't a ton of questions in advance of this. And I figured that given that folks may just want to know what we learned about this work. So that's why I put a bit more questions in here, or a bit more slides in here than we usually do. Okay. Stacia Garr:
So 73% of, of people believe companies can increase profits and improve communities. So this is kind of a fundamental belief that we're increasingly seeing, particularly in the United States.

Introduction Purpose has gone mainstream

Stacia Garr:
I've mentioned a few times this, this concept of the, what the Business Roundtable wrote in August of 2019. And the reason that this is important is that the business roundtable, you know, is an organization that a good portion of the fortune 500 are a part of it is part of the way that they kind of communicate where at least American businesses are going and for decades, they've said that the shareholder was primary.

Stacia Garr:
And this really ties back to the work that someone like the folks like Milton Friedman did in the 1970s that said, look, you know, the purpose of a business of a corporation is to return value to shareholders and that's it full stop. What's interesting is two things. One is, is that, you know, like I said, by 2019, the Business Roundtable updated this statement on the purpose of corporation focusing on these concepts of customers, employees, suppliers, communities, and then shareholders. But what's perhaps even more interesting is that this focus on shareholders was in some ways an anomaly in time. So if you look at some of the research and you look at what companies were writing about in the 1930s, forties, fifties, et cetera they were much more focused on the broader good if you will, of the good, the good of the community, et cetera.

Stacia Garr:
And it was only with the introduction of folks like Friedman in the seventies that we saw this very strong movement towards the shareholder. And in some ways that made sense, because it was a lot easier to measure. I'm going to talk about measurement in a few minutes, a lot easier to measure the value that the corporation was creating. If you only have a single stakeholder to whom you're trying to benefit in this case, the shareholder, and it is a lot more complex and messy if we have five different share stakeholders to whom we are trying to deliver value. But I think that it's interesting cause it feels like the pendulum is kind of coming back to what, where things were historically and versus, you know, the, you know, whatever 50 years that it's been very much so focused on on shareholders.

Employees expect businesses to act

Speaker 2:
Part of the reason this shift is that really employees and consumers expectations have shifted. This is some data from the Edelman Trust Barometer, where they were talking about the types of broader societal actions that they want businesses to take. And you can see here that, you know, 80% want brands to help solve society's problems is what this is. 64% want companies to help set an example as to what they should be doing when it comes to diversity. And 71% said that they trust employers to do what is right when it comes to social justice. But what is interesting on that last point was that was is especially true for small businesses.

Stacia Garr:
It was actually not true for large corporations. So they want companies to take action. They want them to do things that are in the better interest of society but they don't necessarily trust large corporations to do so. And this I think is, is part of what's driving so much of the CEO action that we're seeing. Like for instance, I don't know if you all saw today a significant number of CEOs signed onto a advertisement that was run in many major newspapers, talking about voting rights here in the United States, that they supported the broad extension of voting rights. And this is all kind of part of this reaction to employees and consumers expecting brands to take action that has really come about in the last five years, if you look at the data. So we're seeing this, my point is we're seeing this manifest in a lot of different ways. That's just one that happened to have happened today.

Introduction Purpose = good business

Stacia Garr:
The reason that we're seeing this is that purpose is generally seen as being pretty good for businesses. So we saw that for the last financial crisis. So the 2009 financial crisis, 64% of B Corp's were more likely to survive the last financial crisis than just pure for-profit companies. So if a company was a B Corp, it was more likely to survive. And, and I should say, if you don't know what a B Corp is, a B Corp basically has multiple, it has built into its legal structure, that it has an obligation to serve multiple stakeholders. And so it's, it's kind of the codification, if you will, in some ways of a triple bottom line concept, but it's actually built into the legal construct of the organization. For the next one data shows that 67% of consumers are more likely to forgive a mistake made by a purpose driven organizations.

Stacia Garr:
So if consumers think that a company is generally trying to do the thing, but they make a mistake, they're more likely to forgive them. 89% of leaders thinks purpose drives employee satisfaction and 84% of execs think purpose impacts an organization's ability to transform. So, you know, in addition to kind of all the good things that are a result of, of purpose, there's also a lot of data that shows that there's some benefits to doing it as well. I'll go ahead and pause again here. Any questions or comments on any of this?

Priyanka Mehrotra:
Okay. I had a comment about the previous slide. So we've seen that employees are of course pushing and expecting more from organizations, but I think we're starting to see that from shareholders two increasingly like for example, I remember reading just a couple of days ago, a story in the news about how big shareholders asked Google, oh sorry Alphabet to look into there program and protections for employees and there also increasingly hearing about shareholders pushing companies to do better on D&I, especially. So I think we're starting to see a lot of movement from that front as well.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah, I think that's true. And it's in the reason for it, I think is, is this right? Is that if, if you truly believe these numbers that, that, you know, these businesses do better, if they do these things you know, shareholders are what their businesses to succeed and return better investments, no matter what, what the, not, hopefully not, no matter what, but, you know, they, they would encourage them to take these actions as well. Not just some of the traditional ones. Yeah. And I think the, the other component of that is the SEC reporting guidelines. You know, we've talked about that quite a bit. So with those new reporting guidelines on human capital you know, a lot of companies are asking themselves one, what should we report? But two, it just indicates the higher level of interest in human capital data and what people are, what organizations are doing with their people. And so, and that's pushing them to say, you should be doing the right things.

Speaker 4:
Yeah.

Purpose as a self reinforcing system

Stacia Garr:
Okay. So if we go on one of the most interesting things we found from the research was this concept, that purpose is really a self-reinforcing decision. So the point being that you, it is harder to achieve impact if you just have one part of the business focused on purpose. So if, you know, if you just have a corporate social responsibility group over here on the side, focused on purpose but the rest of the business is not it's hard to kind of create the level of impact that you would want to that said organizations that saw and really put purpose front and center to what they did. They basically were able to constantly reinforce that purpose. And it created this nice flywheel effect. So a very practical example of that comes from one of the podcasts that we did, which was with Medtronic.

Stacia Garr:
And so Medtronic is a medical devices company, you know, is in the last year, is the need for ventilators was front and center they increased the ventilators that they produced by something like 200%. I mean, they're just a very purpose driven organization. And just in terms of where the industry is, that they're in. But what was interesting was when we interviewed Jeff Orlando at Medtronic, he talked about how they had a, basically a purpose statement or a purpose charter, if you will that their leader or one of their founders had had written in the 1940s and how that was one, it was like a sacred document that he talked about it like it was almost like a constitution. But second, he talked about how it wasn't a dead document. It was a document that they used to actively help them make decisions about directions that they should go investments they should make with their people, et cetera.

Stacia Garr:
He did make the point that like the constitution, there was a lot of interpretation. So some, there were some strict constitutionalist and some people who are a little bit more flexible, but he said that made the conversation richer and help them make better decisions. And so he said, you know, it was very much so in a situation where that decision, the intentional decisions were a result of the purpose, and then it just continued flowing around. So that's just one example.

What that means for HR

Stacia Garr:
What we did in the study was we looked at this from a perspective of what this means for HR and specifically looked at the different parts of the talent life cycle. So what does this mean from an attraction perspective, enablement, retention, and development.

In summary: Attract, Enable, Develop, Retain

Stacia Garr:
And what we found essentially here is this, first that with attraction attraction in many ways is the most important, because it's all about, do you get people into the organization who aligned with the purpose of the organization?

Stacia Garr:
And so making sure that the elements of purpose and with organization's purpose and how that translates to an individual is present in all aspects of the recruitment phase. The second component of enablement is really about creating the conditions that enabled that focus on purpose. So organizational culture, I just gave that example of what Medtronic does. It's in the culture that anyone can raise their hand and say, well, does this align to our, our purpose or there's no organizational hierarchy around that? There's certainly an element of wellbeing, which is so important right now with regard to, how does our purpose translate to the wellbeing of our employees and then the wellbeing of all those other stakeholders as well. This is specifically focused on employees here, but it's important to note that there's often this broader component and then volunteerism.

Stacia Garr:
So one of the podcast interviews that we did actually, I think it may not have up running, but one of the interviews we did was with Microsoft on their volunteerism program, this idea of enabling people to bring their own purpose to life through the company through volunteer activities. The third component here with development was really interesting in that we saw purpose being woven into the development opportunities that were being given. So, you know, making sure that people understood how they could connect their own purpose to the organization and doing that through, through learning opportunities. We had a great interview with folks from EY who talked about kind of the learning that they did to help people identify their individual purpose and make that connection. Similarly with leadership development, the folks that EY talked about, how they also teach their leaders how to bring out purpose in the, in the folks who work with them and how to kind of bring that element of purpose to their own leadership style.

Stacia Garr:
And then with career planning we saw that at Johnson and Johnson actually, organizations talk an organization that talked about how they set up a specific career planning effort to help people identify their purpose, and then to map it to career opportunities. And so when they were thinking about career opportunities and the language they use to describe them, the element of purpose and what J and J was trying to achieve was a critical component of that. And then finally retention. So we're seeing organizations looking to track the impact of their talent practices that aligned to purpose right now in all transparency, the primary space, we're seeing this as with diversity and inclusion or diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging that's where we're seeing the primary focus on tracking. Yes, we're seeing it within employee engagement, but in terms of the connection back to purpose DEIB is where we we're tending to see it. So, okay. This is the last of, kind of my prepared slides. So are there any questions on this or any comments or thoughts or anything anyone wants to contribute.

Connecting organizational purpose vs employee purpose

Speaker 1:
I will say something. So I work with organizations to improve human performance of the employees on the teams. So when I heard about this webinar from my friend, who is also here and thank you for letting me know I said, because I'm talking about how to find your purpose to and make the right behavior changes through behavior change, how you can improve your performance. And I'm just talking this with the organization. So this was interesting to see how the organizations purpose and the employee purpose. Those two dots are, how those two dots are connected to improve the employee performance. So when you said, yeah, it increases the employee satisfaction in one of the slides. Yeah. I can see that how it impacts the motivation of the employee and belonging to that organization feeling a part of that organization because they're aligning. So it makes it now wait clear in my head, the organizational purpose and the employee purpose, how they must be aligning and close attached to each other.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah.

Stacia Garr:
And this slide explains it very well, too. So.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. Well, it's, it's a wonderful question. I did include it down here. Let me just skip down. Here we go. So it did make it in.

Speaker 1:
Yeah. Thank you for putting it up last night when I was registering, I said, I think this is the area I really want to talk a little bit more about.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Well, so one of the things in, and I encourage you to to subscribe to the podcast.

Speaker 1:
Definitely. I will.

Stacia Garr:
And listen to that episode from EY because they have this concept of nested purpose, which I thought was really powerful. And the idea was that you have the organizational purpose here, then you have a team purpose and you have the individual purpose. And so in the important, and this is part of the reason that they put such an emphasis on enabling managers to understand purpose is that it's really that, that team purpose that connects people up to the organizational purpose. And so because that organizational purpose can be a little bit esoteric or feel a little bit disconnected, particularly, you know, if it's in their instance, a client service organization, but they don't have a a client service role, right.

Stacia Garr:
So it's like, okay, well, how do I connect? And so what they do is, as they talk about the role of managers in creating that nested purpose and helping individuals find their purpose and connecting it to the work they did. And in the podcast, there was a story that he told about, you know, somebody who is basically think 80% of her job, she didn't really want to do, but 20% she did and how they used the purpose framework to help them understand, okay, this is what I really want to do. And then it happened, there were some shifts that were being made in that person's in terms of what that team needed. And so they were able to help that person actually align and do, you know, pretty close to 80% of the things they want to do. They're still the 20% though, who is not glamorous, but so to, for all of us. And so they were able to make that connection, but via the purpose conversation by via this concept of connecting to the team.

Speaker 2:
I find that really interesting, the organizational, the team and the individual and where it happens is at that team level with those leader conversations or the leader. And because that's where we're actually focused is that to make it so my background is around inclusion and inclusion happens as we often talk about at that team level. And if we focus at that team level, we'll get more traction and it's very much aligned because we're also trying to figure out how do we bring it down to the individual level, but at the same time, it connect those two things, organizational individual level. One question I have is we've actually done a like we've gone into the academic literature around the connection between leadership, business, performance inclusion, et cetera, and figured out like the, the strength of relationships between concepts like belonging and also purpose what we found was it wasn't a lot in the academic literature. There's a lot of confusion around purpose. Yeah. Okay. So, cause we, we dug in and, you know, that was the one area that was more limited than any other areas in order to get to those connections between and then create something more evidence-based around inclusion. Right.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah. I completely agree. So when we did our work, there was, you know, there's, there's some, some academic work this kind of know high level or whatever, but once you start to try to actually dig in and understand you're right. And so then for us, we then turned to some of the popular, you know, we're business press, or there's also some organizations that are writing about or who are purpose focused, I would say. And so we have some, some things that they've written, but in terms of just really good hard studies, not, not so much. So we this, our study was a qualitative. So based on the research that we reviewed and based on the interviews that we did we would like at some point to do a quantitative study on this we just haven't, haven't gotten there, but but part of the reason is there's, there's a great big hole.

Tight parallels between purpose, IT and D&I

Stacia Garr:
But I think you, you bring out an interesting point and it's one that we've actually talked about a lot not in the research, but kind of in other conversations, which is the incredibly tight parallel between purpose and how organizations are approaching it and D&I. So like what you said like that, you know, D&I happens at the team level purpose happens at the team level level. You look at the broader view of stakeholders. They almost exactly match what we see with, with D&I, you know, thinking about diverse suppliers, thinking about our communities, thinking about our employees, you know, there's just an incredible it's almost like the two are living in these parallel universes and doing the same thing. And so I think that there and we do see some organizations who are, forward-thinking on purpose, also being forward-thinking on D&I, but not all D&I organizations are forward-thinking on D&I are also forward-thinking on purpose and I think that's an opportunity that they're missing. So yeah, so there's, we see those connections too. We haven't explicitly pulled it out in that research.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah, absolutely.

Stacia Garr:
Any other questions or thoughts? We've got some more questions in here. Okay.

Speaker 1:
Okay.

Why purpose now

Stacia Garr:
So one of them am an actually I did throw in some slides here to answer this question. So let me go back. Okay. So the question was, what do you see is driving the interest and organizational purpose? So I kind of gave some high, some preface around the data and the like, but as we kind of stepped back and looked at this and our research, we always ask the question why X now? So in this instance, why purpose now? And we had about, I think, five different reasons that we think that purpose is really a thing at the moment. The first one is the rise of new technology. So if you think about all the language around automation and AI, potentially taking people's jobs, et cetera, et cetera I think there's been an underlying discussion of what is it that makes us human, what makes us uniquely people?

Stacia Garr:
And part of that is purpose. You know, this idea that we are trying to achieve something greater than ourselves. And, and that's not something that technology does. So I think that that conversation is heightening or strengthening the discussion around purpose that's one. The second is the rise of the gig economy. So in particularly during the pandemic, there has been a significant focus on what is it that why should I join an organization? Like what, what is happening with my contributions of my work? Because I could just, you know, drive for Uber and get, make some money and call it good. Or I could just be an independent contractor on Upwork and, you know, get the money I need and that's it. But the thing, one of the unique things that an organization offers is the power to achieve something greater together.

Stacia Garr:
And that ties us very directly back to purpose. And one of the questions that are in here is about purpose post pandemic. I think purpose will be more important. Post a pandemic as people have now kind of are slowly bewilderingly coming out of their social isolation and saying, what do I want to do? And what impact do I want to make in this new world? And I think organizations that are clear on that purpose will do much better in terms of attracting the talent that they need. So it gig economy a second one. The third one here is this concept of work as a source of trusted information fulfillment. And so what this comes back to is that, you know, there's a lot of data that shows that unfortunately a lot of our social institutions have been declining. So whether that's our churches, which is why there's a church on here, or there that's our community organizations, whether it's Kowanas or, you know, whatever other organization you might be, a part of people are participating in those less.

Stacia Garr:
And along with that, they also are attending to trust. What have historically been seen as trusted information sources? So, you know, this whole thing about mainstream media versus other, you know, places that people get their news there's highest levels of distrust in the government that there has been in a very long time, but companies people's employers are where people are trusting information from they're trusting that's a high quality source of data and information. And so if you think about, you know, an organization's purpose and being able to say, you know, we do these things and people trust us that I think is part of the reason that connection between the need for a place to trust. And a clear purpose, I think is emphasizing the importance of purpose for a lot of folks. The last two are probably a little bit more obvious.

Stacia Garr:
So the pandemic, obviously, you know, there was a huge focus on doing there has been and continues to be, we are not out of it yet. A huge focus on being giving more, not just looking to, to prosper financially, but do you have any more to humanity and to other people and being more generous and being more human? So we think that ties in very nicely with purpose and then similarly the social justice movements of the last summer this idea that we are not just, you know, corporate entities existing to make money, but that we are there to to have a broader purpose. So those would all be reasons that I think that purpose is a thing right now, in addition to some of the other facts I mentioned.

Health orgs only?

Stacia Garr:
So this was kind of an interesting one. So was purpose something only healthcare and other orgs focus on? I think it's easier for organizations that clearly have kind of a purpose that relates to humankind and making people's lives better. But it is by far not the only type of industry that we see purpose driven organizations in. So in our study we have a long list of organizations. And so like EY right, when we started talking to EY about being on the podcast, I was kind of like really like a consulting firm. Okay. Like, let's see where you all are. And then they have this amazing effort around purpose. You know, we, one of the most well-known organizations, purpose driven organizations is is Patagonia. We didn't talk to them for this piece of research, but we've talked to them for other pieces of research and, you know, they are incredibly purpose-driven to the point where, you know, you can, because their purpose is about, you know, I think improving the home, our home planet as the way that they describe it.

Stacia Garr:
And so it's about, you know, not, not buying things that you don't need, making things that last for a long time giving back to local communities and advocating strongly for the for the environment, et cetera. So they're there, you know, an example of a clothing company that, that has a purpose and, and the list goes on and on there's food companies and Ben and Jerry's is kind of one of the biggest ones. Unilever, you know, consumer packaged goods company. So lots of different industries. I think it just is important to understand what that purpose is, and to clearly articulate in a way that's true to the organization.

Will purpose remain a thing after the pandemic

Stacia Garr:
So I touched on this one a moment ago, so will purpose remain a thing after the pandemic? And I think that it will, through the pandemic has added steam to the focus on purpose. And maybe I'm overly optimistic here, but I don't think we're going to forget the lessons of the last year quickly. And so as people come out of this, as I said, are looking for what's, what do I need next? I think that that topic of purpose, what I'm trying to achieve life is maybe a little bit more fragile than I thought it was. And I should be focused on my contributions. I think that's going to hold true. The other part of this is that I generally really, really try to avoid generational statements. You know, this generation does this, or this generation does that, but in general, when you look at the data, it appears that the younger generations are more purpose-driven than, than older generations. And as we have those more, that those younger generations come into the workforce, I think it will feed this continued interest in purpose. I say that very delicately, knowing that those types of assumptions are a hard thing for a researcher, but by and large, it's what we tend to see. Any, any thoughts or comments on that one from others?

Speaker 2:
I'm curious around the, the industries. Did you, what about financial industries, banks, and stuff? Did you see any of the banks with strong purpose statements and purpose in their organizations?

Stacia Garr:
Yeah, one of the strongest ones is Bank of America. Actually, and they talk a lot about a focus on the financial wellness of underrepresented communities and that aspect. So that's one, the other one is in this, in this, this, I think is actually a good example of how purpose is its specific purpose. Isn't broad goodness, let me say. And, and that is for JP Morgan. So JP Morgan is very focused on environmental issues and that's kind of part of their purpose statement. The reason I put a little bit of hesitation on that is that they were actually one of the few who did not sign the advertisements that went out today in the newspaper. And it was very, very prominently called out that they didn't sign it. So you know, so I just want to say purpose is not general. Like we support everything that seems kind of good. It's, it is very specific, but for them it's environmental. Like that's one of the things that they're very focused on.

Speaker 2:
Well, it's interesting. I actually just did a speaking engagement and talked about like pledges yesterday talks about pledges and the CEO's commitments around diversity and how we've been doing it for such a long time and what we say and what we do is, and so there may be some of that as well as like, you know, I don't really need to do this pledge because we're already doing the internal work, which is much more important than the other way around. I'm going to sign something, but I'm not really going to do the internal work around it. So there could be a lot of reasons for, for them not doing it. Unfortunately we go to judgment really quickly, too. Right.

Stacia Garr:
Yeah, yeah. We don't know. And that's the thing, is this like, particularly with some of these external reports, you know, you have to, are, they are marketing, unfortunately. I will say though, one of the people that I follow and get kind of the, his daily newsletter is Alan Murray, who is the CEO of fortune magazine and he is very, very strong on the purpose train. And so if you want to kind of stay up-to-date on what people are thinking about with regard to purpose he's a really good one to follow.

Speaker 2:
Awesome. Thank you.

How can I help my organization focus on purpose

Stacia Garr:
Okay. I see we only have two minutes left, so let me keep going here. What's my role as an HR leader in helping my org focus on purpose. So, you know, what I would advise folks is, is to kind of look at those four areas that we talked about with regard to purpose and to step back and say, you know, what, which of these things can I control and which of these things can I influence in the research?

Stacia Garr:
Actually, that's the way that we structured it in, in that long paper is for each of those talent areas. We identified the things that probably is within HR's control and which ones they influence, and then think about how can I infuse purpose in a meaningful way. You know, assuming that we have some understanding of what the organization's purpose is, how can I make sure that there's a connection to the team's purpose and that the leaders know how to think about that and how can, what kind of practices and approaches and daily behaviors, could we encourage that would enable a reflection on purpose? I think that's actually, is it so so before I get to that, are there any other questions in our last couple moments here about purpose that we didn't cover?

Stacia Garr:
Alrighty.

Conclusion

Speaker 2:
Well, cool. We'll then I'll just say that our next Q&A Call is in two weeks. We do these every two weeks, every Thursday at the same time, eight o'clock Pacific. And our next one is on a study that we published a few months ago on career mobility. We held off on this Q&A Call because my business partner, Dani Johnson was out on leave maternity leave for a while. So we were waiting for her to get back. And now she's back. So we're going to talk about a new study, where we identified five different models of career mobility and organizations and how organizations should think about using those different models. So that will be our conversation in a few weeks. And with that, I think I'll go ahead and say, thank you all for your, for your engagement and discussion and questions. And if you want to learn more about this, I strongly recommend going and looking at the podcast. That's on our website. You can get it in all the places that you like podcasts. And then we are hoping to do some more work on purpose here in the latter, half of the year, some more, at least another podcast season. So, all right, with that, thank you very much to everybody. Have a great rest of your day.

Speaker 1:
Thank you. Bye bye.

Written by

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

Stacia is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research and focuses on employee engagement/experience, leadership, DE&I, people analytics, and HR technology. A frequent speaker and writer, her work has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as well as in numerous HR trade publications. She has been listed as a Top 100 influencer in HR Technology and in D&I. Stacia has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

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