16 Mar Making a Difference In the World: The Purpose Revolution
Revolutions are funny things. We rarely see them until they have already happened. The quality revolution was like that. In the early days, there were some geeks in the basement using fishbone diagrams to identify the root causes. Within a few short years, the Quality Improvement revolution was taking root at almost all large companies across the globe and things like ISO certification became a norm. The early converts to the quality movement reaped great benefits while also making a difference in the world.
Employee engagement was like that too. In the mid-1990’s when I wrote my first book Awakening Corporate Soul, very few people were talking about employee engagement and companies making a difference in the world. But within a decade, all the largest companies in the world were measuring this heretofore esoteric idea that some companies had employees who simply gave more discretionary effort than others did.
Well, we are right now in the early stages of another revolution—one I call The Purpose Revolution. All over the world there is an emerging group of employees, customers, and investors who are motivated by purpose. In addition to meeting their selfish needs, they want their work, their buying, and investing to go towards making a difference in the world. Some demographers estimate this group to be as high as 37% globally. It cuts across all demographics including nationality, race, religion and social status.
A Revolution Just Starting
Like all revolutions, this one is just getting started. Many companies I work with tell me that the top talent interview them as much as they interview the prospective employees. Although salary and benefits are of interest to them, this emerging aspirational person also wants to know the “story” of the company. How will my work here make a difference?
The head of GE’s Ecomagination, which is a division of GE dedicated to creating environmental solutions for companies, recently told me that this division which everyone said would be a failure not only is massively profitable but has become an absolute magnet for engineering talent. A small courier company in Vancouver that focused on having an eco fleet but also shipping with minimum waste and efficiency has found recruiting new employees so much easier since they have focused on purpose.
Employees: Making a Difference in the World
Research shows that employees who see their job as a calling are more productive, less likely to call in sick and provide better service. One of the ways we connect people to purpose is to adopt simple practices that change our focus. As an example, we worked with one of the world’s largest banks to simply start every meeting in each branch with a story of how the bank had made a real difference for a client or customer. Engagement went up.
Customers care as well. Recently I was talking with the Chief Marketing Officer at Seventh Generation, an environmentally friendly soap products company. When they ran an ad in the NY Times encouraging congress to pass a bill on toxic waste, sales went up immediately. They had not even advertised their products, but when customers saw what they were advocating for they started buying.
Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of GE once said: “When society makes up its mind about an issue you better get ahead of it not be behind it.” And all over the world customers, employees and investors are saying “we care whether our work, our purchases, and our investments are harming the world and we want them to make it better.”
I have been helping companies and leaders drive purpose for over twenty years. In my keynotes and sessions on Leading with Purpose and The Purpose Revolution I will help your leaders or members see the power of purpose, understand the new drivers of employee and customer loyalty and take practical steps to connect them to your purpose. We are also developing strategies for companies to engage their employees through purpose and would love to work with you.
Be well and do good work.