Organizations that identify their purpose or mission and activate values to support it establish clarity and direction. This clarity helps them navigate change and, ultimately, achieve their business objectives. Conversely, organizations face risks of misalignment when purpose, mission and values aren’t in sync.
Purpose and mission are vital to business success because they define why the organization exists. Purpose-driven companies exist for something more significant than profit and shareholder value (e.g., environmentalism and creating a more equitable world). Mission-driven companies exist to deliver impact to their direct stakeholder groups, including customers, employees and shareholders. Values are essential to activating a purpose or mission because they define what an organization believes and the behaviors its leaders and employees agree to live by every day.
Organizations face the following risks of misalignment when their purpose, mission and values aren’t working in support of each other:
1. Disruption during times of change
Change is a fundamental constant in today’s dynamic business environment. Technological, economic, environmental and political change is impacting how employees work and how consumers make purchasing decisions. Recent research from Gartner indicates that change isn’t going to slow down any time soon, with 73 percent of organizations expecting more change in the next few years.
Companies that attempt to navigate change without a clear purpose or mission to guide them and values to support them, can experience confusion, disruption and turbulence that may hinder business success. Both purpose and mission are effective frameworks that guide smart business decisions during change. They provide clarity and direction, helping organizations make critical decisions aligned to their reason for existence. Values that support activating the purpose or mission create accountability that encourages employees to adopt and even champion the desired behaviors, despite significant changes. Purpose, mission and values provide crucial clarity and direction during otherwise disruptive times of change.
2. Decreased recruitment and retention efforts
Employees expect more from their employers than ever before. They want more transparency from leadership, collaboration, flexible work arrangements, opportunities for learning — and to work for organizations with a purpose or mission in which they believe. Meaning matters to employees. A study conducted by BetterUp found that most employees (90 percent) are even willing to trade a percentage of their lifetime earnings for greater meaning at work.
Recruitment and engagement/retention efforts will stall if organizations aren’t clear on why they exist and what they believe. A lack of values makes it more challenging to attract and retain the talent required to fulfill a purpose or mission because the organization isn’t clear about the type of talent it needs or how to inspire them. Employee engagement suffers when employees don’t feel connected to and motivated by their work, and when they don’t have a clear set of values to guide their behavior. This can ultimately compromise retention. Organizations can enrich their employees’ work with meaning and create a more desirable place to work when they gain clarity on and communicate their purpose, mission and values.
3. Lack of accountability
If a company’s values are out of alignment with its purpose or mission, employees may lack clear expectations for behaviors and, in turn, leaders lack a framework for creating accountability. Employees cannot work together collectively to achieve business objectives and leadership can’t operate as one cohesive unit without values aligned to the purpose or mission. Conversely, when values do align, the speed at which the company can achieve the purpose or mission accelerates.
Values answer the question of how an organization gets where it wants to go and provide a filter through which employees can base their day-to-day decisions. Not every employee participates in executive-level strategic business decisions, but each plays a role in living the organization’s values daily, which helps it achieve its purpose or mission.
A company with a mission to drive innovation in their industry needs values to support this innovation. Innovation often requires behavior like risk-taking and collaboration. Incorporating these as values (or desired behaviors) helps the organization effectively pursue its mission. Organizations should ask themselves what behaviors will enable them to achieve their purpose or mission and how they want to show up in the world when determining which values are right for them.
Organizations that are clear about their purpose or mission and bring it to life through aligned values earn better results. Employees are more engaged, creativity and innovation thrive, and workplace culture improves. These changes lead to more productive, present and effective employees — all of which positively impact the organization’s bottom line. Organizations with purpose, mission and values misalignment risk creating confusion, showing up inauthentically and hurting important business efforts, like recruitment and retention.
About Nicki Gibbs, EVP, Strategy
Nicki is a positively brilliant strategist with a knack for inspiring clients and teams to think and act in powerful ways. Her favorite question is “What if?” Her ability to imagine what’s possible creates contagious enthusiasm that moves businesses forward. Nicki also is a ProSci-certified change management leader with deep experience applying research-based methods to drive measurable business results.