says new CIPD survey of over 2,000 employees

Most organisations do have a purpose and for many it tends to be ‘profit-based’, yet making profit for investors and owners does not seem to ‘fire up’ the workforce. In fact, those organisations with a profit base purpose tend to be less ‘in sync’ with their day-to-day operations. In a new Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey, over a third of respondents (35%) agree that their core purpose is detached from what they actually do.

Yet Shared Purpose: the golden thread?, conducted by YouGov of over 2,000 employees, shows that organisations with a sense of shared purpose outperform those with no sense of shared purpose. Among public and third sector organisations, there is even an indication that the greater the sense of shared purpose, the greater the perception that service delivery is more timely. Over a third (37%) of public and third sector respondents with a whole sense of shared purpose said delivery of its services were timely and efficient compared to 11% of respondents whose organisations had no sense of shared purpose. Thirty three per cent of private sector respondents with a whole sense of shared purpose believe their organisation’s market share has increased compared to 18% of respondents whose organisations had no sense of shared purpose.

And while over three quarters (76%) of employees agree that they know clearly what the core purpose of their organisation is, far fewer (28%) believe that the purpose is shared throughout the whole organisation.

The survey shows that alignment is the key issue. Alignment between an organisation's purpose, its values and its goals is more important than the specific purpose of the organisation. Respondents working within the voluntary sector (88%) were significantly more likely than private (66%) and public (78%) sector respondents to state that their organisation had goals — they were also more likely to have values and a whole sense of shared purpose.
In addition to improving performance, the research indicates that having a sense of shared purpose also improves employee engagement and understanding of the organisation’s core purpose. Respondents working for organisations where a sense of shared purpose exists throughout seem far more likely to be engaged (84%) than those employees who work for an organisation without a sense of shared purpose (32%).

There were also indications that respondents who were satisfied with their job were far more likely to agree that they know clearly what the core purpose of their organisation is than those who were not (+85 compared with +34)*. Lack of understanding around purpose can lead to de-motivation and detachment: a quarter (24%) of respondents stated not knowing clearly the core purpose of their organisation made them feel de-motivated, with one-fifth (19%) feeling as though they do not belong to the organisation (19%).

Claire McCartney, resourcing and talent planning adviser, CIPD, said: “The difference between simply having an organisational purpose and having a shared sense of purpose is that the latter is shared by all employees working for the organisation and often beyond, to include external stakeholders. That is why we insist that an organisation’s shared sense of purpose is ‘the golden thread’ to which its strategy should be aligned.

“The research has established that the alignment of an organisation’s purpose, values and goals has clear benefits. In an uncertain economic climate this becomes even more important. As the public sector faces mounting pressures, those organisations that are able to align their purposes, values and goals for all employees will have a clear head start. “

*Net scores are calculated by subtracting the percentage of respondents who say something negative from the percentage who say something positive.