Are we in business for the money? Are the numbers more important than the purpose? Are humans a means for production? Is all we do justified by the bottom line? Are brands mere constructs to sell more? Since when did business forget we are human?
These questions came to me while working recently for one of the largest charity foundations in the Netherlands. In their case, for two decades seeking funds became the main driver for success. Connection with society and internal passion for their good cause eroded gradually.
Also I observe that other organisations, such as larger medical institutions, are increasingly managed by their numbers. And by doing so, their dependency from the insurance financials is on the rise. In fact, in organisations where you would least expect to find a dominant financial and operational focus, nowadays it seems the contrary. This weekend I spoke with the head nurse of a large academic hospital in Amsterdam and she confirmed my suspicion that employee morale has never been lower. Her patients have turned into numbers and production is their deliverable. Also I recently discussed with a leader of a world famous medical institute in tropical disease, with a wealth of knowledge and employing practical programs actually saving lives in third world countries. Also in this case, it is money that drives the thinking with the consequence that morale is seriously in the black.
Increasingly I hear that people employed by these kind of organisations cannot cope any longer. They have lost their purpose, pleasure and flow. They are frustrated and suffer from stress. Sick leave is on the rise and burnouts are common. There seems to be a structural problem. How can suppressed culture and empathically neglected coworkers ever be successful?
How can a brand shine and attract customers if the people are down? How can customers be happy if the employees are depressed? Let's not forget that in a transparant world, people are the brand. Their morale, expressions and behaviour determines how the brand feels, not the communication or the visual design. From a psychological and behavioural point of view, it is naive to expect financial focus to lead to positive behaviour. People are highly emotional creatures and abstract numbers and performance indicators are meaningless, when it boils down to inspiration and motivation.
What's your purpose?
“Purpose is not just about social purpose, although a desire to improve the wellbeing of others is a characteristic of many entrepreneurial businesses. It means having a clear reason to exist that is above and beyond the pursuit of profit. It might be a desire to change how people live their lives or carry out their work; a desire to tackle a social ill or perceived inequality; or simply a desire to entertain, amuse and bring joy.” Maria Pinelli VP EY in Huffington Post
Although numbers are important to measure performance, it is by far not sufficient te create a happy workplace and reputation. It might even be counterproductive. That is why successful organisations embrace a compelling purpose. Something big and important enough to strive for and enjoy the rewards. Such companies have their purpose at the very core of their business.
It makes the difference between the one GVB tram conductor who sees his job as to sit his shift from nine to five by checking if all passengers payed their fees, and his colleague who smiles friendly upon entry, greets me happily and points out that I still have some shaving foam on my left earlobe. And he wishes me a happy day upon my point of arrival.
Purpose makes the difference between a forester who gives trespassers a penalty if they walk outside the official tracks and his colleague, who takes people along into the bush off the beaten track to show them a flowering field of wild spring gentians.
In short, we cannot create attractive brands, favourable reputation and happy people, without an emotive purpose. So we must insist from our clients that they are willing to invest serious time and money in discovering their purpose and translating this into action. If purpose remains lip service and money the sole business driver, than all our efforts are meaningless.
The collective quest for purpose is the start of creating a happy workforce with attractive brands and high customer satisfaction. The money will follow, in that order please.
Do you also want a purpose driven brand? Click here to see which organisations we have helped with creating a purpose driven brand. We are at your service.