With a clear purpose and vision, our life and business can soar and happiness can be at the core.
In Part 1 I shared my personal vision statement as we dove into the importance of being clear on our purpose and its relation to happiness and success in life.
Just like individuals, a company’s success is rooted in a clearly-defined purpose and values. It helps ensure employees are working toward the same end game. A clearly defined purpose can give a company its North Star. When a company defines a higher purpose beyond short-term financial goals and puts employee happiness at its core, it’s a tremendous win-win.
Let’s start by looking at how purpose can be defined.
Defined purpose and core values
Companies should set a vision statement and define their purpose. Without a clear purpose, organizations can fall into patterns of reactivity and short-term thinking. They can lose their path to long-term, sustainable success. Thinking only of current year profits is a dangerous approach for a business, especially in today’s ever-changing environment.
When defining a company purpose, the same process can be followed as for individual’s defining our core purpose, as outlined in Part 1 of this blog series. Companies can ask these key questions:
- What are our company’s core values?
- What character traits do we want our company and employees to be known for?
- What differentiates our company from others?
- What is one thing we do better than anyone else?
- What impact would we like to have on the world?
- What are our most fundamental beliefs?
- What is the greatest thing we want to achieve?
These questions can force a company to think longer term about where it wants to go and who it wants to be.
With a clearly defined purpose it will be easier to attract and retain employees that have compatible values and goals. When working towards a common purpose, the business succeeds through the successes of its employees. It can be a beautiful symbiotic, mutualistic relationship that benefits both the company and the employee.
Now more than ever, customers and employees are interested in understanding companies’ core values. They want to work with ethical, environmentally and socially aware companies. Therefore, when developing a corporate purpose, it’s wise to think bigger picture and go for a higher purpose. What can the company offer to employees and society beyond the basic product(s) or service(s) it provides? A higher purpose is one beyond just profits and immediate business results.
Higher purpose and culture
Zappos is an intriguing example of a successful company that discovered the power of defining its higher purpose. At the center of Zappos’ higher purpose is its culture, which is defined by happy, growing, creative, empowered employees. Zappos’ employees define/capture the company culture through the creation of an annual Zappos culture book.
Due to Zappos’ culture of growth and innovation, the vision of the company has evolved. At Zappos’ inception in 1999 its brand promise was having the “largest selection of shoes”, but it slowly evolved to “delivering happiness” in 2009.
“Delivering happiness” is a good example of a higher purpose for an online shoe company.
Having a robust company culture means living by those values and that mission each day and encouraging your teammates to do the same. A strong culture produces employees with a well-tuned sense of direction and helps create common definitions of success, so your company can grow as a team.William Craig, 8 Ways Company Culture Drives Performance, Aug 2017
Zappos not only defined a higher purpose, but in the process it discovered the win-win of happy engaged employees with business performance and success. This leads me to another key link to a truly successful company – happy employees.
Alignment – happy people and business performance
As I was going through the process of defining my purpose, one of my fundamental beliefs surfaced – happy people and high performance go hand-in-hand. Therefore, it’s a huge win-win for companies and their employees when those employees are happy!
This belief has taken shape over the course of my career. From business school to more than twenty years working with banks and insurance companies, I see the impact people have on a company’s results. Financial services companies’ biggest asset and cost is their people. If employees are performing at their best, the company has a great chance of success.
As discussed in Part 1, peoples’ end game is happiness and studies show that happiness leads to success. Therefore, making happiness part of a company’s purpose and culture is a powerful win-win. When considering some of the key things that make people happy, and thus engaged (e.g. purpose, balance, connection, growth) it’s easy to see how workplaces can actually contribute to an individual’s happiness. Unfortunately, old corporate paradigms don’t always seem to naturally align work with happiness. These outdated perceptions can and should change though. Which is why a key message in my corporate speaking engagements is that the workplace is a great place to cultivate happiness.
For companies, it’s not only smart to pay attention to employees’ happiness, but there’s a high cost to ignoring it.
The cost of ignoring happiness and culture
In Part 1, we discussed “the great resignation”. There are numerous studies that have put a cost to employee disengagement resulting from poor cultures. One study found that 53% of Americans feel disengaged at work. Another study found that unhappy workers cost the North American economy $350 billion in lost productivity per year.
Happy employees tend to be engaged and stay with their company. Unhappy employees cost organizations in a number of ways, including:
- 37% higher absenteeism
- 18-20% lower productivity
- 15% lower profitability
- higher customer complaints/poor customer service (hard to measure but impacts profitability directly and through poor reputation for the company).
- 60% more errors and defects
- 49% more accidents
- higher turnover (cost of hiring someone is 50-200% of their salary)
In addition to the costs above, there are immeasurable costs from the negative ripple effects when unhappy employees go home to their families and communities.
Therefore, when considering your company’s purpose, think about its higher purpose and also how employee happiness can fit into the equation. It will be a win-win for employees and for business success.
Go for the win-win
If you’re an employee or a leader, consider your company’s higher purpose. Is it clearly defined? Does it resonate and inspire you? What role does happiness play in the purpose and culture?
Consider the studies of how happiness leads to success and how you can use the science of happiness to benefit not only your own life, but also your business.
If happiness is everyone’s ultimate goal, wouldn’t it be great if we could change the world and get everyone and every business thinking in that context and that framework?Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness
What can you do to better align purpose, values, culture and happiness to benefit you, your company, and the broader community? We all have a role to play. Perhaps the starting point is simply sharing this article.
The positive ripple effects are overwhelmingly worth going for the ultimate win-win of people and performance.