A recent Price WaterhouseCoopers study reveals a striking gap about the role of "purpose" in corporate America: Although 79 percent of business leaders surveyed said they considered purpose central to business success, just one-third of leadership teams were actually using it when making vital business decisions.
Think about your own business. You started with the vision, excitement and drive to make it happen. You worked crazy hours, took on challenges and came out on top -- more often than not, anyway.
But, since your company began firing on all cylinders, why has purpose seem to have fallen by the wayside? Isn’t there more to life, you might be asking, than watching your company’s earnings pile up?
If this describes you, then you’ve reached the tippy-top of Tony Robbins’ pyramid of human needs. You’ve ascended to and passed the steps to security, variety, significance, connection and growth. And now you’re at the pyramid’s peak: contribution.
To keep motivation high, according to human behavior expert Daniel Pink, you now have to work to contribute to and serve a cause greater than yourself. Once you’ve achieved liftoff, treading closely to your foundational mission will be what drives your passion and success -- benefiting you and your team.
For me, that mission involves helping Washington, D.C., students graduate from high school. But yours might be bringing clean water to communities in Honduras. Whatever it is, there's no substitute for the fulfillment that service brings.
Having a mission that excites you to your core nullifies the need for accountability or motivation -- your mission will drive your creativity and energy naturally.
A perfect time for purpose
For entrepreneurs who have achieved stability, generational shifts provide a reason beyond personal fulfillment to recommit to their company's mission.
One shift in particular: At the close of 2015, millennials officially surpassed baby boomers as the largest living generation, and are expected to comprise 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. Given their sheer mass, combined with their shifting professional goals, this generation is changing capitalism.
Thanks to millennials, a company’s "cause" has become as important, if not more so, than its profit-making potential. Almost all millennials surveyed -- 94 percent -- have said that they want to use their skills to benefit a cause. And more than half have said they’d actually take a pay cut to find work that matches their values. So, especially in the coming years, a company's "cause" will become a powerful factor for attracting talent.
That's why keeping a laser focus on your mission will likely pay off for you as never before, by bringing you loyal, cause-conscious customers. Ninety-one percent of millennials -- who are an exceptionally brand-loyal generation -- have said on surveys that they would switch brands to patronize a competitor that better aligns with their beliefs.
Especially with millennials calling the shots, purpose is what sets your company apart. It brings talent to the door, polishes your brand’s image and keeps customers coming back. But becoming a mission-first operation takes patience and practice. Here are three ways to put your company’s purpose front and center:
1. Bring your mission to meetings.
Shift every conversation away from transactional language to how you’re helping others and tapping into the mission. To kick off the meeting, ask everyone in the room to share a “mission moment” they experienced in the past week.
At lifestyle brand Life is Good, employees focus on using “I get to” instead of “I have to” statements as a way to bring the mission to life on a day-to-day basis.
When cause and talent come together, everybody wins. When Life is Good’s senior executives met to find a new company president, they looked to Lisa Tanzer, a longtime board member of Life is Good’s Kids Foundation. Tanzer’s stated focus is on the company’s philanthropic efforts, and her unique business background at Hasbro, Staples and PricewaterhouseCoopers gives her own “I get to” some bite.
2. Make social responsibility the new bottom line.
It’s not always easy to credibly live your mission, but some company priorities must top quarterly earnings.
My company, in fact, was recently forced to choose between team members’ well-being and the company’s bottom line. Thanks to a complaint, the federal government’s review process left 14 team members without work. If we’d looked only at our bottom line, we’d have let these employees go, but we chose to keep them on the payroll until the complaint was resolved. By keeping them on board and finding ways for them to contribute, we demonstrated our devotion and caring for our more than 200 employees.
Patagonia, too, does a great job of this. At its own expense, the outdoors company recently studied the number of synthetic microfibers released into the waterways as its jackets are washed. It found the annual impact to water organisms to be the equivalent of 11,900 plastic bags. The company is now on a mission to address the problem, helping to clean up both the planet and its environmentally conscious image.
3. Help employees make it personal.
Make employees a part of what you believe in by telling them your company’s story every chance you get. Then, offer them the chance to carry it forward.
Household products brand Method gives its employees three days each year to personify the company mission. Team members are encouraged to clean up their communities however they see fit, whether through litter pickups, food bank volunteering or other methods. To ensure employees all the way up the company ladder work toward its mission, Method has even reincorporated itself as a public benefit corporation and codified its purpose into its corporate governance.
Related: ‘I Am Millennial. Hear Me Roar!’
All entrepreneurs start their companies on a mission to make the world a better place, but the struggles of business make those dreams easy to forget. Isn’t it time you recommitted to yours?