As the pandemic continues to disrupt our lives, both at home and work (Oh wait, home and work are the same place…), one major casualty is company culture. We hear this a lot. Every day is an endless stream of Zoom meetings, slack notifications, texts, emails and phone calls. Add to that to the juggling act of having kids home “distance learning,” and this is our new reality. The fabric of what used to make work actually “work”– the coffee, the lunch, the private debrief after the big meeting, the team activities, the unique conversations, the asides, the dinner with clients, the drink with colleagues – have been slipping away. The job is no longer the human experience we remember it to be. And though there’s ample evidence that some aspects of remote working DO work, there are other signs that tell us we’re less engaged with each other, and that businesses are starting to lose the energies that make them unique and engaging.
A strong brand purpose can help keep an organization’s culture intact during these challenging times. But just having a purpose isn’t enough to ensure it has an impact on culture. Organizations have to cultivate purpose in a way that makes it part of your company’s fabric. Here are three keys to making a purpose that’s strong enough to help hold your company together in tough times like these.
What we see frequently is that brand initiatives are the province of the marketing department. They, along with one or two people from related areas, do the job of developing the brand, its purpose and positioning. And not surprisingly, they are the only ones in the organization to have any stake in the brand purpose. They operate in a cloistered, even secretive environment, emerging one day to present the fully-formed brand purpose, message and campaign to the rest of the company. And then they wonder why the response is a collective yawn – or worse – a collective, “Huh?”
The brand’s value and purpose must derive organically from the people who will embody it, including the most senior members of the team. They must have a stake in its success. As we’ve shown before, purpose can enhance the company’s peformance and increase employee loyalty. When it’s embraced, purpose drives the entire company. It’s why the company exists and why that matters. Something so central to an organization can’t be created in one department. No one will embrace it. The company will drift. Working pandemically, they will drift even faster. The brand purpose focuses your people, makes a difference for customers and creates meaning and fulfillment for employees. When the entire organization buys into a purpose, people internalize and disseminate it. Everyone has helped to build it and understands its value and importance. This purpose gets cemented into the culture of the organization.
Operationalize Your Brand Purpose
Even with a clear, meaningful purpose, developed by a representative group from your organization and its leadership, it’s still common that your brand purpose never becomes part of the culture. Purpose has to be operationalized. What does it mean to operationalize a brand purpose? It means ensuring that the purpose becomes part of a business’ everyday functioning. Too often, the new purpose gets sent around as swag, or in a nice video from the marketing department that explains it. It might get a mention at the next all hands meeting, or be touched on in a departmental meeting. Or seen on the company’s social media or in a tagline. And never be seen again. That’s the death knell for a brand purpose.
Marketers must engage with the HR team to ensure that the brand purpose becomes part of the onboarding process. Purpose must be front and center in identifying which new hires are compatible with the company’s mission. New team members must learn the importance of purpose as they get oriented to the organization. Companies should promote and reward the behaviors that support the purpose. This can be done in simple ways – using apps like Bonusly or Kudos to recognize people who demonstrate the company’s purpose and values. One client of ours encouraged their team to recognize values-driven behavior on the company’s LinkedIn page, and it was a resounding success. Plus, making purpose a clear part of each department’s goals and evaluating each team member’s contribution to the purpose as part of performance appraisals clearly shows that it’s not just empty words. The company is serious about purpose.
Persist With Your Brand Purpose
Finally, businesses need to stick with their purpose. It can’t be a flavor of the month. It needs to live day-in and day-out and embraced and adopted by the team. Purpose needs time to marinate. When management demonstrates that this “purpose thing” isn’t going away, and they persist in talking about it and operationalizing it, it will stick. Look for ways to reinforce the message regularly, and build on it. Be purposeful about purpose.
Brand purpose is the foundation on which a company is built. When people buy in to something larger than just doing a job, it drives performance and loyalty. This builds a culture that can survive downturns and major challenges like a pandemic.
A business with a purpose-built culture can adapt and find ways to evolve – new behaviors and traditions – that reinforce and promote its reason for being. If you want to develop your business culture with brand purpose, reach out to us on social media or at Tom@fundamentalbrand.com