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Building purpose from the inside out

Today’s brands are expected to do more than just provide goods and services. Consumers demand to know a brand’s core values. They also expect brands to prove that their goal is to achieve more than building their bottom line.

And many brands have delivered. From Warby Parker’s charity-based business model to brands such as Chipotle and Sweetgreen wearing their purpose on their sleeves (and on their menu boards), more and more brands are showing consumers that they believe in something larger than just making a profit.

The brands that succeed today do something very different than the ones who fail: They show the world an authentic purpose that stems from the people who make up the company. They live that purpose every day. When brands fail to gain the trust of consumers, it’s nearly always because they’re trying to adopt values from outside and bring them in. Instead, they need to be looking within at what uniquely drives their organization and illustrate that externally.

Values and purpose aren’t simply found in a focus group or determined in a C-suite meeting. They’re intrinsic to an organization, making up the DNA of the brand and its people.

At Dignity Health, our mission and history of service have long defined our purpose, and we are still driven today to heal with the power of human kindness. As the driving force behind what each of our employees does every day, we have united our 60,000 employees and 10,000 physicians under the banner of Hello Humankindness, which also serves to invite people to know us better. The dedication with which our employees care for their patients and each other has thus become our outward expression of our purpose.

But just understanding your organization’s purpose isn’t enough. It needs to be tended to every single day, in every interaction, in every communication. This is the only way to show people that your purpose not only exists, but that it’s real, and it comes authentically from inside.

Here is what I learned from our launch of Hello Humankindness that could help your organization channel its inner purpose and use it as a way to better connect with consumers.

Empower your employees to be your ambassadors. Employees are out there interacting with consumers; so, they are in the best position to spread the word about your purpose. Empower them by recognizing and rewarding their impact on your organization. Include them in your marketing efforts by letting them tell the story of your brand from their own perspective, and by highlighting and honoring them in your brand’s communications. Remind them every day that they drive your organization forward with their commitment to your values.

Listen and be accountable. No brand can know their purpose without first spending a lot of time listening to their employees. They will tell you what the strengths and weaknesses are in the business, what your consumers care about, and most important, what drives them in their work. We survey our employees frequently, not only to understand their needs and aspirations, but also to keep ourselves accountable to our purpose. If we’re not supporting them in the right and necessary ways, we need to know how we can do better and act on it.

Communicate your purpose loud and clear (and not just to consumers). Whether we’re putting out a press release, running a TV ad, or circulating an internal email, we communicate our message through the filter of our purpose. And while we want these messages to reach healthcare consumers, it’s equally important that we’re always communicating with our employees, as well. For a company of our size, the media is a great tool to reach everyone, at every level of our company, with consistent messaging. We often include our employees in those communications through real-life stories or as speakers, which has proven to be a wonderful way to empower them to share their experiences with the world.

By leading with purpose from the inside out, we’ve improved employee engagement as well as patient satisfaction. In line with our mission of service, we continue to engage with our communities in new ways to care holistically for our patients.

Our brand doesn’t need to instill purpose and values into our employees, because it’s already there. It serves instead to unite us under a common banner that connects us to each other and to our patients every day. The hard work is living our purpose — but at the end of the day, that’s why we’re here.

Mark Viden is vice president of brand marketing and advertising at Dignity Health

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