Radley Yeldar’s Michael Dunmore reflects on the findings of the agency’s research into purpose within organisations ­– and internal communicators’ role in ensuring employees make an emotional connection.

14th September 2017

Purpose has become fundamental to the success of multiple organisations. More and more are placing it at their core to enhance trust, reputation, performance and employee engagement. But what does this mean for internal communication practitioners and how they engage colleagues with it?

We recently held a roundtable discussion, jointly hosted by Radley Yeldar and IoIC, where we looked into the pivotal role of internal communications in placing purpose at the centre of why an organisation exists and how it creates and sustains value. We have just published our findings from the discussion, titled Winning with Purpose. This white paper focuses on the steps IC practitioners should take to help their organisation advance their purpose journey.

There’s lots of evidence for the positive impact of purpose on employee attraction, engagement and retention. From the roundtable and our own experience, we have seen a number of common themes emerge. For example, purpose can often be confused with vision. Additionally, many organisations are ‘feeling their way’ on their purpose journey and IC practitioners are interested in learning from the experience of others.

The why and what of purpose

We live in a rapidly changing world where macro-trends ­– such as technology, consumer awareness and activism, sustainability and changing expectations about leaders and work – are forcing organisations to think deeply about what they stand for and how they behave.

In response, many are placing purpose at their core to bolster their reputation, including their employer brand. Unilever is a great example of this.

At RY, we speak about brands with purpose being those that use their unique position, expertise and capabilities to deliver things that provide a wider social value – beyond making money – to individuals, society or the planet.

We believe the most compelling purpose statements put a social or human need at their heart, and that the best organisations are using it to inform their strategy and decision making, as well as to engage multiple audiences. For example, Lloyds Banking Group’s is ‘Helping Britain Prosper’, with the aim of going beyond business as usual to play a part in making Britain a more inclusive and thriving country.

For employees, a purpose should be an energising rallying point that brings people together with a common goal. It should be something that connects people emotionally with an organisation through their daily work.

Crafting a purpose statement is the first step. But it does not qualify an organisation as ‘purposeful’. This requires measured action that aligns your purpose with consistency in what you do and how you do it. This is where IC practitioners have an essential role to play. In a nutshell, it’s about working in partnership to connect people with purpose. We believe there are six essential steps for achieving this.

The essential role for internal communication

The statement must be inspiring, believable and ownable for your people. This means senior IC practitioners must have influence when it's being discussed and agreed, ensuring that it resonates with employees both rationally and emotionally.

Practitioners then have an important role in supporting leaders and managers in making the purpose a part of their communications, connecting it with the daily work of all employees. All participants in our roundtable discussion spoke of the importance of dialogue and using real-life examples to demonstrate the purpose in action. This means that that people can see how their work contributes to achieving it and celebrate successes.

Longer term, it’s about working with colleagues to embed the purpose right across the employee experience. IC practitioners who have worked with HR colleagues in implementing successful employer branding programmes will have great insight into how this can be done.

If you’d like to learn more about how internal communication can help your organisation win with purpose, download Winning With Purpose.

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