November 19, 2018
Purpose-driven companies have one thing in common, according to organizational consultant and thought leader Simon Sinek. “If you go to work in a purpose-driven organization, you are a happier person … and you will go home happier.”
The Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Report on The Business Case for Purpose described the landscape modern business face today succinctly: “Businesses face an accelerated pace of change as digitalization, disruptive business, and rapidly changing consumer expectations reshape their world.” The study recognized that a growing number of leaders are incorporating a strong shared sense of purpose to meet these challenges (if you have not read this groundbreaking study, we encourage you to do so). And when a company operates with purpose at its core, communicates it clearly, and aligns it with their decision-making processes, it tends to deliver revenue growth and drive innovation.
Patagonia, an exceptionally purpose-driven company, has their purpose in their mission statement: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.” Here at JOOL, our purpose is to help people, teams, and organizations fulfill their own purpose, and achieve shared success.
How does it work? Purpose-driven companies give employees something to stand for that is bigger than themselves, inviting everyone to jump-in and work together for a shared goal. They do a better job of seeing the big picture, and they typically prioritize long-term improvements over short-term gains. A convenient side-effect is that contributors feel more energized at work, are more resilient to change, and are happier at home.
Not surprisingly, it turns out that purpose-driven companies tend to have purpose-driven leaders. And research in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that when leaders connect to a purpose that is personally meaningful to them, their employees are also more likely to connect to a higher purpose.
Research supports the notion that purpose-driven companies experience better financial performance – better stock performance, ROA, and more. The acclaimed book Firms of Endearment tracked the financial performance of 18 purpose-driven companies over the course of 10 years. These 18 companies had an average annual return on equity of 13.1%- 9% – higher than the average company in the S&P 500. The book also found that purpose-led companies outperformed the S&P 500 by an impressive 10 times.
Another study on this topic from the Harvard Business School noted the importance of clarity regarding purpose. Management must have a clear vision and know the steps needed to get there. Additionally, they must communicate this vision to their employees effectively. This research found that an increase in clarity of organizational purpose can increase ROA by as much as 3.89% per year.
Organizations with a clear sense of purpose also perform better in the stock market: the Harvard study above found they consistently outperform the Fortune 100. The book Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies did further analysis on this topic. The research discovered that value and purpose driven organizations outperformed the market 15:1.
It’s hard to pin down just one concrete reason that explains purpose’s impact on financial performance. There are so many ways that purpose impacts other business outcomes — both directly and indirectly — that can all explain the positive relationship between financial performance and being purpose-driven as a company.
The innovations created by purpose-driven businesses contribute to better financial performance. A powerful purpose like Patagonia’s helps inspire employees to work harder and more creatively, leading to further innovation. According to Deloitte, companies driven by purpose have 30% higher levels of innovation, and studies show that more innovative companies exhibit superior financial performance.
Purpose-driven organizations give employees a north star to follow. Because of this, employees are often more personally committed to their organizations. They are able to see the connection between their own work and the company’s overall purpose, motivating them to work effectively and enthusiastically. This motivation has real impacts on productivity. In fact, one study discovered that when employees have a sense of meaning behind the work they do, their performance increases. This improved productivity is one factor that contributes to purpose-driven companies being more financially successful.
Of course, there’s also the mountain of evidence surrounding the health benefits of purpose. Some major benefits include healthier aging, better sleep, more energy and willpower, repairing and protecting DNA, decreasing risk of heart attack and stroke, and a better immune system. To see more of the health benefits of purpose, click here to get access to “The Science Behind JOOL”. Healthier workers are more productive and have lower healthcare costs, both contributing to superior financial performance.