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Purpose-Led Transformations: How Success Starts from the Top

In 2023, leading with purpose is no longer a choice, but a necessity. 

Genuine purpose-driven transformation should stimulate the very core of a brand’s ethos; guiding strategic decisions and responsibilities, nurturing employee engagement, and resonating deeply with customers.

Purpose-led transformations must be owned at the top within executive teams and senior management and feed into and inspire the entire fabric of the organisation. A true purpose-led transformation and strategy must consider the interests of all stakeholders.

Effective transformation is grounded in authenticity, transparency, and practicality. With today’s consumers and workforce more knowledgeable and demanding than ever, modern-day businesses must prioritise purpose and deliver real change regarding their Environmental, Societal, and Governance (ESG) metrics and goals.


The Power of the Individual

In today’s world, the individual has more power than ever. Consumers are more discerning about the products and services they choose to consume, and employees demand more from their employer. They want to work with and for a company they believe aligns with their personal values and is contributing to society.

People want to feel energised and inspired by the company they work for or the brand they purchase from. Whether it’s in their work or what they consume, the brands that people represent are an extension of who they are and who they aspire to be. Yes, employees want to be part of a thriving business with financial success and growth, but this must be responsible growth – with consideration of all stakeholders – partners, community, customers, and the environment.

According to a 2021 survey conducted by PWC, 83% of consumers think companies should be actively shaping ESG best practices, 91% of business leaders believe their company has a responsibility to act on ESG issues and 86% of employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about the same issues they do.

It is no longer an option for organisations to put purpose or ESG strategies at the bottom of the priority list, or to push back a corporate purpose-led brand transformation. It is quite the opposite – purpose must be at the centre of everything that they do.


Creating a Clear Corporate Purpose: The First Step

To successfully implement a purpose-led transformation, developing and solidifying a clear purpose is pivotal. To lead with purpose and incorporate it into every facet of your business – you need to establish a purpose that is authentic to your company, practical to implement, and inspiring for your employees.

A well-executed purposeful transformation starts with your internal teams and feeds into every element of your business, including partners and your supply chain. Transformation requires a shift in perspective and a buy-in from stakeholders. In the creation process it is important to engage and collaborate with senior staff and encourage every team to contribute to developing a clear purpose that will serve as the backbone or north star to everything you do say, act and develop.


It Starts at The Top: Putting Purpose at the Core 

True transformation starts at the top. To kickstart change and lead with purpose, senior leaders need to embody their organisation’s purpose and implement tangible projects and policies to elicit change, create an inspired and motivated workforce, and gain customer trust and connection.

With proper execution and a clear mission and culture from the outset, your purpose will become part of your company’s DNA. Putting the purpose into practice is essential. Your purpose must be evident in everything you do, from internal communications to staff onboarding and training, the coaching style of your managers, your company policies, and all your external marketing channels.

It must also feed into your hiring processes. To create a consistent culture aligned with your purpose, senior managers and HR teams need to approach the hiring process with this purpose in mind. Culture is the bedrock of transformation and change, so hiring new employees that can integrate and help build this culture and continue to put your purpose into practice is vital.


Common ‘Purpose-Led’ Mistakes That Businesses Make

A repeated mistake made by businesses is claiming to have a purpose but not operating in a way that represents it. A purpose statement is not enough. Consumers can see through false, grand claims with no substance behind them.

In recent years, we have seen issues and backlash in Australia and around the world with companies accused of ‘greenwashing’. A putting purpose into practice (PPiP) strategy and an Environmental, Societal, and Governance (ESG) strategy needs to support it. It is not about taking your operations as they are and spinning your communications to make people believe your company is sustainable. Consumers are not naive. They will see through the cracks of grandiose claims with no real action, which will only hurt you in the long run.

Honesty and transparency are fundamental in a successful purpose-led brand transformation that employees and consumers will support. Make tangible targets for your purpose and ESG strategies and communicate regularly with stakeholders. When people see real action and change, they know it is a company they can connect with and get behind.

How to Avoid Mistakes and Lead with Purpose

When transforming your company with corporate purpose, it involves a people-first approach that is logical and practical but also engaging, creative and expressive. You must empower your people to drive purpose and develop a strong culture from the core. Whilst it starts at the top, the purpose must be fed into every element of the business, with employees pushing it to flourish.

Your purpose should be clear from the moment an employee joins your company. From day one, there should be a clear understanding among staff of who your company is, what you are trying to achieve, and what each individual person’s role is in delivering your corporate purpose. To truly transform with purpose, it is vital to create a culture that allows people to take risks, and act decisively. Once your brand purpose is clear, it is much easier for employees to make autonomous decisions that align with the company’s mission and strategy.


4 Strategies for Executing Purpose-Led Transformation

Effectively leading with purpose to transform your business takes a delicate balance of leadership, collaboration, and strategy. With the right blend of these elements and putting purpose and people at the core of everything you do, you will achieve commercial success. Here are 4 of the best ways to execute a purpose-led brand transformation.

1. Engage senior leaders and collaborate to create the purpose statement

Success starts with a clear, practical, and inspiring purpose statement that accurately represents your organisation, where you want to go, and your values. It is vital to collaborate with multiple leaders, and teams to generate this statement and develop it with all stakeholders in mind. Every member of your C-suite and senior management teams must be involved and have ownership of the corporate purpose development.

2. Staff onboarding and training 

One of the most influential and practical ways to transform with purpose and solidify your culture is by educating employees and incorporating your purpose into onboarding and training. Today’s workforce understands the importance of investing in people and appreciates an employer that does so. Providing staff with regular, quality training aligns with a people-led purpose and provides a practical method to educate staff about the company’s corporate purpose, objectives, vision and values.

3. Recognition and reward of staff for putting purpose into practice

Whether it’s monthly or quarterly awards where the winners receive company-wide recognition for their efforts, or if it is done on a team-by-team basis, facilitated by individual managers – rewarding people who put purpose into practice is an incredible way to reinforce your company purpose and create a positive culture. Of course, employees like to be recognised for their achievements, but it also communicates to your entire staff what executing your purpose looks like.

4. Set KPIs, report on purpose and communicate progress

This is one of the most critical elements of a purpose-led transformation strategy. Without practical and achievable KPIs, it is hard for people to get behind your purpose or for your team to stay focused on the mission.

It is essential to track your progress, report on the KPIs that you set, and communicate progress to key stakeholders. One of the biggest mistakes we see companies making is setting unrealistic, vague, and unachievable goals. Make sure to create real change in your strategy and communicate to staff the difference they are making. Sharing this with staff creates momentum and encourages employees to incorporate corporate purpose in future projects and campaigns.


Final Thoughts

In today’s competitive business landscape – where consumers are more discerning than ever about the products and services they choose – putting purpose at the core is no longer an option but a necessity to survive and thrive. A corporate purpose-led brand transformation will deliver genuine results when it starts from the top and is infused into every facet of your organisation – from your products and services, branding and messaging, staff and structure, culture, business practices and ESG strategies.

When your organisation leads with authenticity and transparency and avoids virtue signalling and superficial claims – a purpose-led transformation will allow you to create not just commercial success but also to make a positive societal impact.