Brook Calverley, senior consultant at global brand consultancy Calling Brands, takes The Drum through the agency’s latest insights into the shifting relationship between brands and their employees - and explains why it’s time to create a reason to believe.
Brands are quick to claim their people are their driving force. In essence this is true, but in reality it’s only the committed, motivated and energised employees - the ones who care - who actually make a difference. Ironically, just when brands are relying on their people more than ever to deliver winning experience, there has been a big deterioration in the relationship between employees and the businesses they work for. Take your pick from austerity, lack of job security, a broader disillusionment with consumerism – whatever the individual trigger, employees are seeking more intangible benefits from their jobs beyond pay, benefits and career prospects – and they’re not sticking around for long with each employer to find them. In our work at Calling Brands we also find that poor corporate reputation is a big factor in the loss of trust. The perception of corporate misbehaviour means employees are more cynical about business than ever before - just when in-work engagement surveys point to the rising importance of alignment between personal and brand values.As a result, both employers and employees now find themselves in a less secure, less trusting, shorter-term relationship that makes genuine loyalty and commitment hard to obtain. Employees are increasingly demanding clarity around the back story behind the business: the provenance and meaning of their work. People want to feel their contribution is worthwhile.So what’s to be done? We believe brands need to give their people more to believe in: a deeper Purpose that energises, directs and differentiates. A Purpose that sets out why the brand matters and why it exists - far beyond the simple achievement of financial goals. It must be a sincere ambition to make a difference in the world, a positive impact on society. Knowing they are contributing to a bigger, positive Purpose is inspiring for employees and a massive driver of preference, productivity and loyalty.
We’ve been discussing the benefits of Purpose with clients for some time now, so we wanted to conduct a study to properly understand the impact it has on employees. After scrutinising existing research, we interviewed HR and Brand chiefs from brands including Unilever, Time Warner, Santander, Bupa and Harper Collins to get the business view first-hand. Then we surveyed 4,202 workers across the UK, US and Germany to understand what really matters to the modern workforce.What is clear from our report - Crunch Time: The Power of Purpose - is that brands need to think harder about what they stand for if they want to engage and retain their employees. The power of purpose“Purpose provides context and rationale. It helps people understand why the company is pursuing a certain direction. If they can understand why, then they are more likely to deliver on it.” Helena Christopher, QBE
Our survey uncovered three core factors that demonstrate the power of Purpose.1. Purpose inspires us to put in more effort
For service brands that rely on their people to create great customer experience, our first finding is particularly pertinent:
65% of respondents would go the extra mile in their jobs if they worked for a brand with Purpose.
A clear sense of Purpose will motivate people to push themselves in pursuit of that brand’s success. People want to work for a good business - they are ready to believe their work has a positive role in society because this in turns reinforces a positive self-image. All it needs is for employers to start acting on it.2. Purpose influences where we want to work
Respondents were asked to rank in order of importance when considering a new job: workplace culture, Purpose of the organisation, level of responsibility in their role, pay and benefits and opportunity for promotion.
After pay, Purpose was ranked as the most important factor - ahead of work culture, level of responsibility and opportunity for promotion. In addition, an average of 57% of respondents (64% Germany, 58% US, 48% UK) said they would favour joining an organisation that has a clearly defined Purpose.
The consequence for the employer is immediate and obvious: the talent everyone is competing for wants to work for a brand that has a strong sense of Purpose. This is more important to them than almost all of the promises that recruitment teams are currently offering and should force a big re-think about what brands promise to potential employees.“Employee expectations have changed. Pay and benefits are hygiene factors. Things like relationship to the co workers and contribution to society are now much more important.”
Mairi Doyle, BUPA3. Purpose creates loyalty
Purpose also has a big part to play in employee retention. This is crucial because the businesses that retain good people gain significant advantage from this commitment (through reduced recruitment costs and less time lost through training and induction).
On average, nearly two thirds of people in our survey (64%) said they would feel more loyal toward businesses that aim to do more than simply make money.
In general, corporate reputation has never been lower and both consumers and employees now begin from a starting point of cynicism and negativity toward the aims of business. By defining and communicating a Purpose beyond commercial goals, the organisation is better equipped to challenge this presumption.How businesses can find their Purpose
There is no doubt that businesses now pay more attention to employee engagement, but we believe most are not being nearly bold enough when it comes to tackling the more fundamental issues of trust and meaning. The findings in Crunch Time: The Power of Purpose show that employees and employers are united in the belief that Purpose can remedy this, helping brands find and keep talent. For something that unlocks such important business benefits, Purpose is surprisingly simple to implement. It does not require disruptive ‘business transformation’ or radical shifts in strategy. What it does require is for businesses to reflect, consider and then articulate the good they do.It is critical to get the initial definition of Purpose right for your business. It needs to be based on fundamental truths or convictions embedded in the organisational DNA or within the leadership team and it needs to provide clarity to all audiences, both inside and outside of an organisation, on why the brand is valuable to its customers, employees and society as a whole. “You can’t portray your brand as one thing and then have employees discover it’s something else once they join.” Paula Dunne, Santander
Our work with clients at Calling Brands has shown us that businesses which truthfully answer these demands harness the creative talent and energy of their people. They enjoy a huge commercial advantage over their competitors, driven by the superior performance of recruitment, retention and engagement of the best talent and the attendant commitment and productivity this brings.