Core Values and Purpose are Alive

January 5, 2021 Maddie Grant

Part 8 of an 11-part blog series on the Rockefeller Habits for Associations.

Imagine this: you run into one of your employees and ride the elevator to the office floor together. If you were to ask this person to tell you what the core values and purpose of your organization are, would they hesitate? Would they recite the one-liner on culture that you have framed and mounted on the walls? 

That’s a start. But to create real impact and inspire your teams to bring their best, every day, that is not enough. 

When we see organizations that aren’t really functioning at their best, one of the telltale signs is that people don’t know the culture. And that starts with knowing the difference between two culture terms that are often interchanged but have very different meanings—values and purpose.


Values and Purpose

In recent years organizations have become more intentional on creating a culture within their workplace and communicating that culture to their employees. It’s likely that you’ve spent time carefully crafting that cultural section of your employee handbook. Still, there’s a chance (like a lot of other organizations) that your culture hasn’t ever left the page. 

You see, having a cultural ideal is different than creating a purpose and core values for your organization. One is a very static concept of what your culture should be, while the other concepts are driving elements that can be (and should be) felt in every decision at every level of your organization. 

  • The purpose is the heart of the organization. Sometimes also called the mission, an organization’s purpose perfectly defines the big why behind their existence and hard work. It goes beyond financial gain. It goes beyond scaling up. Purpose drives decisions and goals throughout the lifespan of the organization. 
  • Following a genuine purpose, comes a set of core values. These are the soul of the organization, and in many ways stand as a professional moral compass. Values dictate the behaviors, principles, and beliefs that support an organization’s purpose.

Related Article>>Creating Meaningful Goals that Actually Matter

The Role of Values and Purpose in Business

It’s a nice ideal, right? But how does this concept translate to the realities of running an organization? 

In a recent survey from BetterUp Labs, researchers found that more than 9 out of 10 workers are willing to give up a percentage of their lifetime earnings in order to have a job that is more meaningful. This isn’t just millennial workers, mind you, although that demographic has been shown repeatedly to champion ideals as a central part of job satisfaction. Workers across all age groups and areas of expertise said the same thing. 

The research also showed that: 

  • 80% of respondents would rather have a boss that cared about them than a 20% pay increase
  • Employees who find work meaningful are 69% less likely to quit their jobs
  • Most respondents said that their work was only half as meaningful as they’d like it to be
  • Based on job-satisfaction-to-productivity ratios, increasing meaning for employees can generate more than $9,000 per year, per employee

This kind of meaning is not created by passive platitudes mounted on your break room wall. This is the result of conscious effort to build values and a purpose that everyone knows and that is fully integrated into the daily lives of your organization. 

Integrating Values and Purpose Every Day

Integration and implementation is where the magic happen. Once you have clearly defined the core values and purpose of your organization, you have to put it into action, and that’s where many organizations fall down. 

Taking your purpose and values from a passive piece of information to an active component of your daily habits will instill employee purpose and fulfillment in their role within the organization and involvement in the larger purpose. But how do you do this on a daily basis, especially if this kind of focus is new to you? Here are some key concepts to focus on as you make the transition to having a more meaningful organization. 

  • Create a Communication Plan

Your values and purpose statement should be at the core of all your decisions, actions, and goals, from the C-suite to the person who takes out the trash. Make these steering concepts a daily part of your communication as a part of your email signature, a reference in your meetings, and a driving force in conversations. They should not just be front-facing, but internalized by everyone at every level. 

  • Share the Top View When it Comes to Impact

A lot of your employees don’t have the chance to see how your organization is making the world better because they don’t have the perspective that you do. Clearly write down and define your impact. Then, regularly update your employees about new, tangible examples of this impact for good that they have personally contributed to. 

  • Develop Routes of Meaningful Connection

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, creating communication chains that connect leadership with every level of your organization are crucial to unlocking potential. But truly effective organizations go further than this, developing opportunities for meaningful connection and making that a clearly stated goal. People don’t leave jobs, they leave people they don’t connect with. Actively develop this through one-on-one meetings, team-building activities and retreats, and an open-door policy, so that your team feels comfortable, connected, and heard. 

Be Inspired to Act

Clarifying and integrating company purpose and values will cultivate a culture that inspires intrinsic motivation in all employees as everyone works towards similar goals for the industry. Our coaches at PROPEL take on this challenge with association leaders and facilitate building the structure of a culture infused organization, so that operations and culture do not continue to be separate functions and focuses. 

Your strategy is not cookie cutter, and your culture can’t be either. Learn more here about our work implementing culture as the driver behind organizational operations and success.

Photo by Alek Kalinowski

Maddie Grant

Maddie Grant, CAE, is an expert culture designer and digital strategist who focuses on helping organizations unlock the power in their culture and navigate culture change. She has specific expertise in digital transformation and generational differences in the workplace. She has explored the language of workplace culture for several years through her books, co-authored with her partner in business and life Jamie Notter, including Humanize: How People-Centric Organizations Succeed in a Social World (2011), the Amazon category best-seller When Millennials Take Over: Preparing for the Ridiculously Optimistic Future of Business (2015), the Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement (2019), and Culture Change Made Easy, coming out in Fall 2023.