Higher Purpose HR: Driving Engagement

by Michael Haberman on May 17, 2012 · 2 comments

Does having a higher purpose than profit help drive employee engagement and retention?

It has long been known that organizations that identify a “higher purpose” for their existence engender more loyalty with their constituents than do other. Obviously religions, revolutions and political parties know this and try to define their “higher purpose” in order to drive engagement.

According to a recent survey done by Calling Brands, and reported in the Herman Trend Alert, “Corporate ‘Purpose’ is emerging as a powerful new driver of attraction, retention, and productivity.” The HTA says:

According to “Crunch Time: The Power of Purpose”, working for an organization with an underlying spirit that goes beyond commercial and operational goals—ranks ahead of many other factors such as level of responsibility in a job and even career progression. This research reveals a fundamental shift in employee attitudes. Being defined as a key driver of effort and loyalty in existing staff members means that people are willing to work harder and stick with a business longer—-if they see Purpose in action.

I think we have seen this trend developing for a while though the recent economic troubles undoubtedly way-laid some of the attention on the importance of “purpose.” After all when you are happy to have a job, any job, that is your “higher purpose.” But now that the job market is showing some signs of growth some people can be more selective in their employment and for some of them the “higher purpose” the company is exhibiting becomes more important. Herman Trend Alerts concludes with “Purpose will be increasingly recognized by corporations as an important driver of engagement.”

      • How many of you feel you work for a company “…with an underlying spirit that goes beyond commercial and operational goals”?
      • What is that spirit and how is it inculcated into the culture?
      • Does it help retain or attract people?
      • Or is this just a bunch of hooey?

If you want to read the Herman Trend Alert, you can visit here.


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Melany Gallant May 17, 2012 at 9:37 am

I don’t think this notion of higher purpose is a bunch of hooey at all. If an organization is all about the bottom-line, it’s a cold-hearted approach to business. And since customers build relationships with people, not brands, it behooves organizations to cultivate a culture that attracts people to it (by people I mean, customers, job candidates and existing employees).

I think it’s the responsibility of leadership to communicate the higher purpose and ensure it is reflected in the values, competencies, and even strategic direction of the organization. That higher purpose needs to be discussed regularly within the organization and activites/projects/goals, etc assessed against it.

Hiring for organizational fit comes into play here too. You need to attract and retain the employees who can help your organization achieve the higher purpose. That way they’ll be committed to it, which increases engagement. And high engagement can drive performance and lead to organizational success.


Michael Haberman May 17, 2012 at 9:49 am

Excellent points Melany. One you make in particular is that “higher purpose needs to be discussed regularly within the organization and activities/project/goals, etc. assessed against it.” This is the accountability that is quite often missing. Thanks for your comment.


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