Purpose-Driven Organizations Have a Competitive Edge

Does your organization have a purpose beyond profit? For those of us in the Credit Union Industry, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”, an answer that is apparently unique. According to a PwC research report, 79% of business leaders believe that an organization’s purpose is central to business success. And yet, 68% said that within their organization, purpose is notused as a guidepost when it comes to making decisions.

According to the same study, younger generations in particular are more likely to stay with a company when they feel a strong connection to its purpose. However, since the majority of employees are disengaged from their work, with only 33% draw real meaning from their employer’s purpose, it would seem that these organizations are somewhat hard to come by.

It’s not really a surprise that people prefer to work for, and are more loyal to, purpose-driven organizations. But, according to a consumer survey conducted earlier this year, customers prefer to buy from, and are more loyal to, purpose-driven companies as well. This suggests that purpose does more than make an organization a great place to work. Purpose-driven organizations have a distinct competitive edge because they are more aware of how they need to evolve, grow, and transform over time. In other words, they have a lighthouse.

How purpose affects culture and guides organizations towards the future.

An organization’s culture is often a reflection of how mature the organization is. Organizations focused on controlling the status quo and retaining their place in it are likely to have a culture submerged in power, hierarchy, and an intense focus on delivering results no matter what. Organizations with a more expansionary view and a multi-stakeholder perspective, will tend to have a culture that’s rich with innovation and an intense focus on not onlyadapting for the future, but of playing a part in creating it.

In other words, purpose-driven organizations have a culture of transformation. They are not only focused on the linear logistics of creating and delivering a product or service. Rather, they are focused on what their product and service does for the world – how what they do transforms and affects the world. Likewise, they are concerned with how working for the organization transforms and affects their people.

An example: Let’s imagine there’s a company that makes timepieces. On a basic level, their purpose includes making and selling accurate timepieces. On a higher level, their purpose might be to help people live a more balanced and congruent life. This purpose includes a focus on making and selling accurate timepieces, but also expandsthe meaning of what the company does to include the impact and influence it has on the lives of employees and customers.

Perhaps even more importantly, such a purpose might act as a lighthouse, keeping the organization moving in the right direction, addressing inconsistencies so that they can get back on track.

When you think about it, it’s not difficult to see how a purpose that goes beyond the delivery of a product or service can help steer organizations towards their greatest potential. Rather than only asking, “How can we be better at what we are doing today?”, purpose-driven companies ask , “How does what we are doing today help us increase our future impact and transform us into an organization that will thrive tomorrow?”

Back to the research described earlier: It’s likely that most organizations recognize the importance of purpose. But only a few of them use purpose as a goalpost in their decision-making. As a result, employees feel disconnected and disengaged, not understanding how their work connects to something greater than a paycheck.

In the book, Reinventing Organizations, author Frederic Laloux urges leaders to ask more questions  like, “Am I being true to myself? Is this in line with who I sense I’m called to become? Am I being of service to the world?” These are not easy questions. Yet, they are the questions we must be asking if we’re serious about creating purpose-driven organizations.

About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.


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