Purpose Driven Employer Brands

Posted on Mar 28, 2016

Work without purpose is like life without love. It's not surprising that organizations are increasingly choosing purpose-driven employer brands. People feel more passionate about what they do if they feel they can make a difference, and purposeful companies like charismatic people draw attention and command greater respect and loyalty. But beware the kind of vanilla statement that sounds more like a 'committee resolution' than a compelling statement of intent. Collins and Porras ('Built to Last') suggested that your statement of corporate purpose need not be unique, but it should be “broad, fundamental, enduring and serve to guide and inspire the organization for years”. Unfortunately, in many cases, corporate purpose statements are broadly generic, fundamentally uninspiring, and endure for years only because people have forgotten that they’re there. The archetype (combining elements from a number of different corporate purpose and mission statements) runs as follows:

Our guiding purpose is to be the world leader in our industry. We seek to produce financial rewards to investors as we provide opportunities for growth and enrichment to our employees, our business partners and the communities in which we operate. And in everything we do, we strive for honesty, fairness and integrity”.

Does that sound familiar? This kind of statement ticks all the right boxes, but is very unlikely to inspire and motivate. Here are a few alternative examples, which I’m sure you will agree are a great deal more concise and compelling.

The LEGO Group's stated purpose is to: "Inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow". LEGO Bricks have always been far more than just a playful distraction for children. As the Company explains: ‘Our ultimate purpose is to inspire and develop children to think creatively, reason systematically and release their potential to shape their own future’.The developmental qualities of LEGO Bricks have been widely recognized, and the Company is proud to number many celebrated engineers and innovators who ‘grew up’ with LEGO Bricks, among its fan base. These include Sergei Brin and Larry Page, who built the casing for the first Google server out of LEGO Bricks, and George Lucas, whose support has continued through the sustained success of LEGO Star Wars. This statement of purpose provided the cornerstone for the Company’s first Employee Value Proposition developed in 2007 when the organization was turning itself around from a decade of under-performance. The Company's renewed sense of purpose can no doubt be seen in the nine years of double digit growth that have followed.

Google is similarly purpose-driven as an employer with its employer brand call to action: "Do cool things that matter". More specifically the company's stated mission is to: ‘Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. As Helen Edwards and Derek Day stated in their book ‘Passion Brands’: “For Googlers the motivation to break records, improve and invent, has to come from something other than purely commercial considerations, something loftier than adding a few more dollars to the share price. That ‘something’ is the all-pervasive belief at Google that what the company does really, really matters”.

You don't have to be running a huge company or saving the world to define a compelling purpose. How about this purposeful statement from the UK drinks company Innocent: “To make natural, delicious food and drink that helps people live well and die old“. This call to action appears in bold at the top of their career page leaving potential candidates in no doubt that there's more to working at Innocent than mixing smoothies.

So - purpose can provide a strong positioning for your employer brand, but make sure it's credible, punchy and distinctive. In other words, boldly go, or choose something else.

Written by: Richard Mosley

Richard Mosley is widely recognized as one of the leading world authorities on employer brand development and management. His first book, ‘The Employer Brand’ (Wiley) published in 2005 has become a global best-seller, and the sequel: ‘Employer Brand Management: Practical Lessons from the World’s Leading Employers’, published by Wiley in September 2014, tracks the evolution of the discipline over the last 10 years, highlighting the latest best practices and trends that are likely to shape the future of recruitment, employee engagement and HR / talent management

Richard’s thinking draws on over 25 years’ experience in both brand management and HR consulting, and has led global employer brand development projects for a host of leading companies including Bacardi, BP, Coca-Cola, Ferrero, GSK, HSBC, Lafarge, LEGO, L’Oreal, JTI, Met Life, Nokia-Siemens, PepsiCo, Santander, Unilever and Verizon.

Today Richard serves as Global Vice President of Strategy at Universum and Senior Advisor for the Employer Branding Academy.

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