The Win-Win-Win of a Purpose-Driven Culture

What organization comes to mind when you think of companies known for great workplace cultures? Now, ask yourself… are they also purposeful in their culture? To answer that question, we need an understanding of purpose-driven culture and its benefits to a company and to society.

A purpose-driven culture is one that takes a stance for something larger than the products and services the company offers. It can be environmental, social or even political. Whatever the company chooses, its goals, strategic initiatives and even day-to-day business align with that cause.

The Benefits of Benevolence

Does an organization have to be driven by philanthropy to have a great culture? The answer is no. Plenty of successful company cultures are not tied to a cause. However, there are some significant benefits.

First, a purpose-driven culture attracts and motivates employees. Employers already struggle for talent and are doing their best to keep current staff from leaving. Employers need any edge to vie for talent, and a purpose-driven culture can provide that competitive advantage.

Meanwhile, prospective and current employees (specifically younger generations) are looking for environments with good intent. They often factor a company’s impact on society or the community when considering job openings. They want they make a difference and will stay motivated  (as well as productive) if they’re aligned with a cause.

A purpose-driven culture also benefits your company’s growth. The Harvard Business Review cites some telling statistics:

  • 52% of purpose-driven companies experienced over 10% growth. This figure was just 42% for companies not following such a model.
  • They also had greater rates of global expansion (66% compared with 48%), more product launches (56% compared with 33%) and better success in restructuring, strategic changes and other major initiatives (52% compared with 16%).

Additionally, having a greater purpose can further enhance workplace diversity—a proven way to encourage collaboration and new ideas. An important principle in this practice is helping everyone feel like they belong regardless of their background, age, culture, etc. Having employees work together to support a common cause goes a long way in this effort.

Finally, there’s the obvious public relations benefit. When a company’s actions benefit the community and society at large, they’re seen as motivated by more than profits. And that’s attractive to consumers. According to Fortune, 64% of U.S. adults say a company’s main purpose should be “making the world a better place.” And per a 2018 study by consulting firm Accenture, 52% of respondents were more likely to buy from brands that stand for more than what they sell.

Altruism Can Have Drawbacks

Although a purpose-driven culture provides clear advantages, it can also introduce some complications. If you choose a particularly polarizing cause, for example, your good intentions can lead to negative consequences. Imagine that you align your company with a religious cause or politically-tinged movement. You might be helping a worthy cause, but you also risk alienating customers and employees who disagree. This could also shrink your talent pool, since candidates who oppose your position are unlikely to apply to your organization.

Additionally, you risk putting your company under the microscope. Once you announce your intention to support a cause, the public often watches to make sure you’re backing up those words with meaningful action. While this helps with accountability, it can backfire if your commitment only consists of vague statements of support.

This scrutiny also comes into play with your leadership or your company’s operations. For example, say your organizational stance is sustainability and reducing the company’s carbon footprint. However, your CEO chooses to travel by private jet (even for short distances). This perceived contradiction can cause major backlash, driving potential customers and candidates away.

Instilling a Purpose-Driven Culture

So how do you transform your current culture to serve a meaningful cause?

Identify the purpose you want to associate with your brand. If it correlates with what your company actually does, even better. For example, Bombas Socks donates a pair of its socks to the homeless for every pair it sells to consumers. It’s easy to see why they chose this cause, which makes that choice seem all the more genuine. But such a tie-in isn’t necessary; good intention is the bigger requirement.

Create a mission and vision about your purpose-driven culture. Clearly identify your intent in this initiative. What do you want to accomplish?

Get buy-in from everyone at your company, especially leadership. Employees look to their leaders to set the tone. If upper management isn’t on board, employees will follow suit and the purpose will be lost. Every individual must know how their role contributes to the mission and how they impact the end game.

Ingrain your mission in all messaging associated with your organization. The point of your purpose-driven culture should be visible both internally and externally. Include it on your website and other public materials, as well as in-house resources such as your employee manual or posters in your break room.

Make your commitment deliberate and impactful. Do more than make general public statements or share a charity’s social media posts. Actions speak louder than words. Collect and make donations, organize or facilitate volunteer time for employees, raise money or perform other tangible work.

You should also make sure your operations dovetail with your cause. Let’s say you’re a manufacturing company, and your purpose-driven culture encourages environmental responsibility. Reinforce this by using environmentally-friendly methods and materials when producing your products. You can also establish recycling programs for cans and bottles, collect papers for shredding and reuse, etc.

Transparency is key. Make your work and its impact known. An annual report on your efforts with quantifiable results, for example, can illustrate how far your reach goes. It could include dollar amounts given to selected charities, number of hours your employees have volunteered, pounds of food donated to food banks, pounds of recyclable materials recovered internally, etc. Employ social media as well to document your work in photos and words. Tell your authentic story without being boastful. The goal is to reassure your employees and customers about the genuineness of your commitment.

Adopting a purpose-driven culture benefits society, your company and your employees. With careful planning and thoughtful action, you can take advantage of this win–win–win scenario.


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