In the ever-evolving world we live in, an organisation’s purpose serves as a distinct and defining factor that sets it apart in today’s hybrid and distributed landscape.
Drawing from my extensive experience as a leading Australian workplace strategist with over two decades in the field, I have witnessed firsthand the profound impact that a clearly articulated purpose can have on an organisation’s success.
An organisation’s purpose extends beyond mere profit-making; it revolves around understanding the reason for its existence and the positive impact it aims to make in the world. This is not just a feel-good notion, but it also makes solid business sense. Purpose-driven organisations are renowned for having healthier, more resilient employees who exhibit higher levels of work effectiveness.
Purpose permeates through every layer of an organisation, shaping and guiding its direction. It informs the desired experience that an organisation wants its stakeholders to have when they engage with it. To make purpose tangible for employees, it is crucial to connect it to their daily tasks, enabling them to see a direct link between their individual contributions and the overall mission of the company. Studies have shown that when employees understand their organisation’s purpose and their role in fulfilling it, they are more motivated, engaged, and productive.
However, as organisations evolve over time with growth, acquisitions, mergers, and changes in leadership, it becomes necessary for leaders to rediscover and reconnect with the organisation’s purpose, aligning “what we do” with “why we do it.”
In my book, ‘The Next Workplace: Designing Dynamic Environments that Inspire Human Potential,’ I explore how organisations can leverage their physical workplaces as an investment and a tool to align the organisation and its people. By doing so, organisations can motivate and empower employees, thereby enhancing performance, productivity, and ultimately, profitability. Nevertheless, before we can create an inspiring workplace, we must first reconnect with our purpose to articulate our unique story.
To assist organisations in finding their purpose, I propose the following steps:
1. Engage with the Leadership Team: Collaborate with the leadership team and inquire about their perception of the organisation’s purpose or the “why” behind what they do. While different opinions and priorities may emerge, you are likely to identify a common thread that weaves through everyone’s perspectives. Capture these words, phrases, and thoughts, and craft them into a statement that reflects the essence of the story.
2. Communicate the Story Back: Share this narrative with the leadership team, seeking their feedback and observing their reactions as they receive it. By harnessing the power of collective creation, iterate, evolve, and refine the statement until it feels right for the organisation. Connecting with an organisation’s purpose can solidify its identity—it becomes its story.
3. Uncover Other Aspirations for Social Good: Often, uncovering an organisation’s purpose reveals additional aspirations for positive impact and social good, further strengthening the organisation’s identity. This becomes a powerful tool for attracting and retaining employees who share the same values and beliefs as the organisation.
Case Study: Hall Chadwick
As a workplace strategist, I had the privilege of working with Hall Chadwick, an accounting firm with a rich history spanning four decades and deep ties to Western Queensland. For years, the firm operated from an office spread across two separate and disconnected floors, failing to reflect their company’s essence or provide clients with a cohesive experience. Years of business growth had resulted in a segmented culture, due to the ill-fitting office layout.
The original workspace of Hall Chadwick lacked distinction, featuring typical high-screened workstations, perimeter offices, and piles of files scattered around. The kitchen was small and devoid of natural light, while the reception area comprised a basic setup with a desk, armchairs, and branding on the wall. However, through close collaboration with several directors, we recognised that Hall Chadwick needed a strategic vision for their new workspace—one that embraced their heritage while projecting an exciting future.
To achieve this goal, our aim was to convey Hall Chadwick’s deep connection to Western Queensland and their longstanding relationships with agricultural clients in the area. Additionally, we sought to communicate the company’s values of camaraderie, hospitality, and commitment to supporting clients through challenging times.
By embracing the brand experience and history of Hall Chadwick, we designed a workspace that incorporated elements of rural life, utilising natural materials, warm colours, and earthy textures. The design paid homage to the company’s origins in Western Queensland, subtly incorporating nods to their history and culture throughout the space. Notable features included an alfresco patio structure over the kitchen and breezeblock walls creating various work zones.
The new workspace not only reflects Hall Chadwick’s culture but also reinforces it, creating a sensory experience that attracts the right team members, clients, and partners. By infusing their brand into every aspect of the physical environment, Hall Chadwick has established a filtering mechanism that attracts employees who align with their values and goals while providing clients with a welcoming space to enjoy. The redesigned office of Hall Chadwick serves as a tangible representation of the company’s story and vision, reinforcing their sense of identity and purpose.
In conclusion, discovering and connecting with an organisation’s purpose is crucial for success in today’s rapidly changing market. Understanding your purpose informs the brand experience that you wish to deliver to your stakeholders. This connection to purpose and values strengthens the organisation’s identity and fosters a sense of meaning and fulfillment among employees, motivating them to contribute to making the world a better place.