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Purpose in Practice: dismantling 5 common myths about purpose in the workplace

Updated: Nov 29, 2021

Purpose captures the very essence of your business: it’s why you exist as an organisation. It unites the values, behaviours, and beliefs of your company - and speaks to both your employees and your audience. But for many businesses, purpose is all too often viewed as an outlying concept - separate from the core functions of the company and its day-to-day operations.


Last week, Dragonfish hosted an event which put purpose under a spotlight. One of the most interesting segments of the session involved dissecting some of the most common myths regarding purpose in the workplace. Below, we’ll give a run-down of some of our favourites and investigate the benefits of bringing purpose to the forefront of your business.




Common purpose myths


Myth 1: Purpose is only useful for recruitment

Your purpose is something which should be embedded within your business, but many organisations do not share this sentiment. The reality is, this perception could not be further from the truth! The Head of OD for Hampshire Hospitals NHS Trust, noted that many of the businesses she had collaborated with in the past did not consider purpose to be a fixed aspect of their business, often citing the belief that, “Purpose is just for the recruitment brochures, right?”


Your purpose should be ingrained into your business and evident in your day-to-day operations (here’s where a concise and well-defined purpose statement can really help). This is true regardless of which stage of the employee lifecycle your people are at, and doing so will ensure that your team feels motivated and inspired, and their work legitimised.


If you’re only utilising your brand’s purpose as a recruitment tool, your employees (as well as the customers and clients they serve) will see through it. People want to work somewhere that has a clear purpose, and where the purpose statements and actions taken consistently match up. If your people do not feel aligned with your purpose, then your service will fall flat.



2. Purpose is a new fad

Granted, while purpose has continued to mature and become a more recent staple of business models and thinking, purpose has long acted as a foundation for organisations. It could be considered that many view purpose only as a more modern trait because companies are now more vocal about their cultures - necessitated, in turn, by the advent of social media.


Niall Cluely, Dragonfish MD says that, “Purpose should be at the heart of your strategy.”

And now, living in a world that’s more interconnected than ever, your consumers will notice if you treat your purpose as a momentary trend. As will your employees - who may feel disconnected from their work if you treat the reason for their service as a fleeting craze.


Of course, a purpose is not inflexible - and should adapt with genuine intent to the evolving needs of the society in which we live (while, of course, respecting the previous iterations).


Your purpose is an integral component to your success - and for many businesses, it’s the very reason why they were established and serves as the foundation that holds everything together.



3. Purpose is an abstract concept and cannot be measured

One of the most common myths surrounding purpose is the notion that metrics cannot be applied to it nor can its success (or lack thereof) as a core component of your company be measured. Purpose is often viewed as an intangible element of a business. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In an era where KPIs and analytics are standard practices for most businesses, purpose has its own part to play and it will be evident in the data you collect.


For example, a strong and focused purpose will ensure that you are delivering an outstanding Employee Experience (EX) and that your people feel motivated and energised - factors which will be evident in the likes of eNPS and pulse survey results. Previous Dragonfish research highlighted that almost two thirds of UK employees (64%) didn’t feel their organisation had a clear purpose, and the same percentage didn’t understand what their brand stood for, or what made it different. Without this understanding, your people cannot promote the business in the way you desire. Your people will be among the biggest advocates (or detractors) for your business - choose wisely.



4. Purpose is just a marketing thing

In much the same way as using your business’ purpose as a recruitment aid, if your brand’s purpose is only mentioned in a marketing capacity, your company will lack authenticity - which will be felt by your customers, employees, and stakeholders. Rather, your purpose should be embedded in each aspect of your business - lived and breathed throughout the company.


Indeed, strengthening the sense of purpose often begins at the top with C-Suite members acting as custodians and truly connecting with purpose as an integral component to the business, so that their team might feel empowered to do the same.



5. It’s for the not-for-profit sector

While purpose is perhaps a concept most visibly employed within the charitable sector because it often connects to a raw necessity, purpose is something which should be embedded within every workplace. Moreover, purpose can be tailored to suit the needs of your company and its power harnessed to drive profit and growth (if that, of course, is your aim).


Indeed, purpose and sustainable growth go hand-in-hand. As we explored, by having a precise and well-defined purpose, the opportunity for your brand to connect with your people on every level leads to measurable success. Specifically, higher employee satisfaction will result in a higher quality of services, products, and other deliverables for your business. Moreover, a better EX and Customer Experience (CX) as a result of your stated purpose, will equate to brand advocacy, promotion, and growth.



“Businesses have to go on a journey to discover their purpose,” says the HR and Talent Director at Synaptiq Health. You can only deliver on your purpose if you have a strategy for it and the ambition to realise it.


The undeniable value of carefully positioning purpose within your organisation has never been more evident since the pandemic. Employees and customers alike are reevaluating the way in which they view the brands they work for and buy from. Those businesses with a clearly defined purpose will be best positioned to expertly navigate the changing terrain of a post-COVID society.


Purpose must be truly embedded within every business and realised by every employee, stakeholder, and customer.


To discover more about how you can become one of those shaping the future landscape of work, attend our next workshop event: Leading Culture on Wednesday 12th November 2021.