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5 Hacks to Activate Purpose in the Workplace

Image Credit: Breather

It should come as no surprise that purpose — defined as your company’s aspirational reason for being beyond profit — plays a key role in the direction of your business on multiple levels. Purpose is an overarching “north star” that serves as a guidepost for decision making.

Not only does purpose help to recruit and retain top talent, create meaningful differentiation, enhance brand loyalty, build relationships, and establish trust with your customers and partners, but it also helps your business become more profitable. According to a Harvard Business Review survey entitled The Business Case for Purpose, companies that “harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage.”

While there are plenty of articles that show the statistics on how embedding purpose leads to better business, there are not as many that explain the how. Below, I’ve listed out easy “hacks” on how you can integrate purpose to start heading in the right direction.

1. Onboarding

Tell a clear story from the start. During the new employee orientation process, clearly articulate the why to each employee. Have your purpose story straight and make sure it aligns with your values. From there, show how the values ladder up to the business strategy. Zappos clearly defines its 10 core values which guide its culture, brand and business strategies for employees from day one.

2. Employee Development

Helping your employees realize their purpose within the organization is imperative to individual success and in turn, achieving company growth. Where to start? When developing goals for an employee, include purpose-based goals in addition to the typical performance-based goals as part of a yearly review. 

3. Reward

While doing the right thing might be seemingly obvious, much like Pavlov, sometimes incentives need to be put in place to keep employees motivated on purpose. Some examples include gifts, monetary awards, time off, appreciation lunches or drinks and purpose parties — you can implement whatever rewards program best fits your culture. The Society for Human Resources has a slew of programs if you need inspiration.

4. Lead on Purpose

Purpose is difficult from the ground up, so activating purpose should start with your company’s leaders. The same values, mission and purpose that were articulated in the first-day onboarding need to be reiterated through actions with leadership. In town halls and monthly brown bag lunches, leaders need to show how the company is living its values and how they are driving the business forward. In this article, Richard Branson explains how purpose is not an add-on or an initiative; it is a culture shift that never fully finishes. This mentality needs to come from the top and never stop.

5. Purpose Stories

While doing the work is more than half of the journey, telling the stories is what will motivate and inspire employees and leaders, as well as customers and communities. Make a concerted effort with your internal and external communications teams to make X% of all storytelling focused on purpose. You can highlight individual successes, team wins, or new product developments, so long as they align with company values and purpose. Choose the appropriate platform for the right story and tell the world. Make it contagious.

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Do you remember REI’s Opt Outside or Patagonia’s Don’t buy this Jacket campaign? We all do, and they are great examples of stories fueled by purpose. Take a look at our communications wheelto see how you can leverage various messages and channels to connect to each audience.

Figure out where an easy entry point for purpose is with your organization and get started now. Don’t forget to tell the story, we want to hear all about it.


Jonathan Hanwit is a founding partner and CEO of thinkPARALLAX, a strategic brand consultancy that works with companies to define and activate their purpose. As a branding, strategy, and citizenship expert, Jonathan helps companies articulate, communicate and activate their purpose… [Read more about Jonathan Hanwit]


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