Purpose and Culture: How to Align Them in the Workplace

May 9
As they head home after a long week on the job, how do your people really feel? A bit like an invisible cog in a wheel? Or do they feel a sense of pride in being part of an organization that cares about them as human beings?

Recent research from McKinsey revealed that the top two reasons employees cited for leaving their jobs were a feeling that their work wasn’t valued by the organization (54%) or no sense of belonging at work (51%).

Yet too many senior leaders still make the mistake of delegating the issues of “purpose” and “culture” to their human resources teams, putting strategy at the top of their agenda.

But this is an ill-advised approach. In the current, tight labor market, employees have more choices than ever about where they work, and many will naturally be drawn to employers with a warm and welcoming culture and a purpose beyond profit.

In 2022, the most successful leaders will start with purpose and culture and then align them with strategy.

In this article, we’ll explore the concepts of organizational culture and purpose, how to align them, and why it matters.

What Is an Organization’s Culture?
An organization’s culture is an expression of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs that guide employees’ behaviors in all aspects of a business. It defines the “how” and “why” behind people’s behaviors in their day-to-day work.

When a company’s culture is strong, people act in ways that advance the organization’s goals while feeling that their interests and well-being are being taken into account – it’s a win-win outcome.

Studies point to a direct link between the strength of a company’s culture and its success in the marketplace.

Take a read through this article for a deeper dive into the concept of company culture and the different types of organizational cultures that exist in businesses today.

Why Cultural Alignment Matters
Businesses, where strategy and culture are aligned, tend to see greater levels of employee engagement.

When leaders, senior management, and employees share the same view of a company’s culture, people are generally more committed and more likely to recommend the organization to their personal and professional networks as a great place to work. It follows that such individuals are less likely to quit or look for another job, which keeps your turnover rate (and recruitment costs) to a minimum.

Let’s not forget the all-important customer. Companies, where employees’ perceptions of culture are aligned with those of leaders, enjoy greater customer loyalty and better rankings for service quality. That’s because employees are highly motivated and enthusiastic – and this gets appreciated by the customers they interact with.

Identifying an Organization's Purpose
Now let’s take time to understand the concept of organizational purpose. First, it’s important to distinguish a company’s mission from its purpose. 

A company’s mission is a statement of what they do and for whom. An example might be: “To become the market leader and maximize shareholder value.”

An organization’s purpose goes deeper; it’s an expression of why the company exists.

Your purpose should act as the guiding force behind every decision you make as a business. It’s your “north star.” It’s the ideal you’re striving for to make the world a better place.

A good purpose statement should be to the point and written in plain language, so it’s simple for your employees, customers, and other stakeholders to grasp. An example of a purpose statement could be: “To provide people with the ability to purchase the products they need at a price they can afford."

To sum up the differences, a purpose is why the organization was founded in the first place. A mission is more goal-focused.

Creating a Purpose-Driven Culture
Building workplaces where people feel energized, engaged, positive, and free to be themselves makes a great deal of business sense.

But how do you go about building or improving a purpose-driven culture? Here are some techniques to consider:

Define Your Culture and Purpose
Every employee in your organization needs to embody your company’s culture and purpose. This requires that everyone has a solid understanding of them. So, define them clearly and reference them often.

Many companies enlist the support of culture change consultants in undertaking this critical first step. These professionals will sit down with you and your teams (often through a series of workshops or focus groups) to understand what “great” looks like from your perspective and precisely define your desired company culture and purpose.

Set the Tone From the Top
Leaders are businesses’ most powerful and influential people. They can make or break companies’ cultures and influence whether the organization stays true to its stated purpose.

A culture change consultant can work with and coach your leadership team, ensuring they understand how their behaviors, leadership styles, and manners of communication impact the rest of the organization.

Measure Your Progress
Use digital tools to gauge whether your purpose and culture are central to "how work actually gets done" – rather than a vague or peripheral notion that doesn’t translate into the behaviors you’re seeking.

Your measurement tools could include traditional employee satisfaction surveys and retention and attrition metrics. Informal, confidential pulse surveys are an excellent means of garnering feedback from your people regarding their level of satisfaction with your workplace.

Taking Action
Don’t make the mistake of deprioritizing culture and purpose in your business – the cost of failure can be high. Purpose and culture can help your organization stay on track and progress steadily towards your ultimate goals when thoughtfully developed and effectively implemented.

Ideal Outcomes helps organizations like yours create a roadmap for getting employees aligned and engaged and optimize purpose/culture/business strategy alignment. If you’d like to find out more or speak to one of our team of seasoned company culture consultants, please get in touch.


By Jason Richmond, Founder, Ideal Outcomes Inc.