Our research on the connection between strategic purpose and motivation

The power of strategic purpose

Many people — not just millennials — want to work for organizations whose missions resonate with them intellectually and emotionally.

Yet many enterprises struggle to define, let alone live, their purpose. Purpose statements often contain generic goals or high-minded but vague aspirations; they fail to answer the question “What value are you delivering to your customers that others can’t?” and therefore miss the heart of what drives a successful business.

A truly powerful purpose statement achieves two objectives: clearly articulating strategic goals and motivating your workforce. These are important individually and synergistically: When your employees understand and embrace your organization’s purpose, they’re inspired to do work that is great and delivers on your company’s promise.

The motivation crisis

PwC’s Strategy& conducted a survey with 540 participants from across industries, regions, and levels to better understand how people feel at work and how to better engage and motivate them to bring their best to work every day in order to further the company’s agenda. Here’s what we found:

People don't feel good at work

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Employees aren't connected to the organization

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Purpose holds great potential to inspire

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Test yourself: Are you using your purpose to motivate your workforce?

If you want your firm to create strategic clarity and motivate employees, you must define a powerful purpose statement and build an organization that delivers on it. Consider the following questions to see how well your enterprise is doing:

Have you defined your company's purpose as your promise to customers?
  • Is your stated purpose relevant to a set of customers or users with the potential to buy your products or services? Is it clear whose lives or businesses you are improving in some way, large or small?
  • Is your purpose unique? What hole would be left in the marketplace if you disappeared?
  • Are you the rightful owner of your purpose? Do you have or can you build the capabilities required to excel at it? Can you fulfill it more effectively and efficiently than your competitors?
Do your structure, systems, and resourcing equip your employees to bring your purpose to life?
  • Are you a magnet for the right talent? Are you hiring and retaining world-class talent that allows you to excel at the capabilities needed to deliver on your purpose?
  • Do you connect with intention across boundaries? Are you breaking down organizational silos so people across the organization can work together to achieve its purpose?
  • Do you invest in your purpose? Are you putting your money where your purpose is?

Defining your company’s strategic purpose – how to get started

How to determine a winning purpose for your company

When we help clients determine their strategic purpose, we often follow a “supercompetitor” approach:

  • Identify the big ways in which value is going to be created five to 10 years from now.
  • For each of these value propositions, identify the key capabilities that a potential supercompetitor playing that way would need to be great at.
  • Determine which of these supercompetitor ways to play fits your company best, given your capabilities or those you could develop — and consider it as an option for your future strategic purpose.

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How to get feedback from your top employees as to how they perceive the company’s purpose

Use Aperture, the annual strategy scan. Aperture allows you to check in on your strategy — just as you check in on your people — and make strategy the topic of an ongoing dialogue that leads to real action.

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