Big Debate Title

How to ensure your company purpose includes all employees

Mapping out a company purpose that aligns with each employee is not an easy task, so how can HR lead this initiative to ensure everyone is catered for?

Words by Jade Burke | Design by Matt Bonnar


Setting out a company purpose that is inclusive of each employee is no easy task. Every individual will likely hold their own values when it comes to topics such as the environment, equal pay or the use of sustainable energy. However on a landscape where it is becoming clear that employees want a work purpose outside of making profit – one 2019 study found that 75% of the millennial demographic wanted their employer’s values to match their own - HR teams have started to take note and ensure work is value-driven.

Inclusivity is impossible unless you’re willing to hear what employees have to say as well

This is reflected in stats shared by Covestro, which indicated that 71% of executives say employees’ desire for purpose is prompting HR to rethink certain work policies. It went on to add that 67% believe it’s compelling HR to work more closely with corporate social responsibility to help create policies and programs that give staff increased opportunities to get involved in social projects. The flipside if HR doesn’t is bad. Research has indicated that a lack of purpose could force employees to jump ship. In fact, data from OfficeTeam discovered that 12% of workers would leave their current job because they want to find an organisation with a higher purpose/stronger mission.

But getting a purpose that is inclusive of all employee values is difficult. Rachel Credidio, Group People and Transformation Director at housing association Aster Group, believes that creating a clear purpose or company mission can unite the workforce. She tells HR Grapevine: “A company is a community – that’s true whether it’s a housing association, a tech start-up or a major retail chain – so having something that unites that group, beyond just a pay cheque or a job description, is what sets the best organisations apart.”

Leadership is key

Without the backing from an organisation’s leadership team, creating a company purpose that aligns with its employees will be difficult to deliver. To ensure this is a possibility, HR teams must ensure that they are given a seat at the top table to emphasise the importance an inclusive company culture can have on team morale and productivity, which Jacqueline Rouse, People Director at British restaurant chain Prezzo is keen to champion.

She explains: “I think it’s (inclusivity) absolutely a thread that should come through and I think it’s about how leaders of that business therefore display those values which is obviously key, and it’s also about having a two-way process.”

While all of these elements are needed to build an inclusive culture, Hicks points out for this to succeed, HR must drill down into employee engagement, to make sure staff are as motivated as possible, particularly during this uncertain time, for them to be able to truly understand a company’s purpose.

He concludes: “Making sure employees understand the organisation’s mission, purpose and values have always been an important driver of employee engagement, but today’s environment makes it that much more important. Engaged employees make better decisions, are more productive and innovate more. With high levels of change, many employees feeling isolated, and others making sacrifices on the front lines, creating an environment where an employee can be their most engaged selves is critical to business success.”

‘The journey to inclusivity’

One of the first steps to ensure a company’s purpose aligns with its employees is by listening to them. Statistics from Sideways 6 found that over a third of employees (34%) worldwide think that their company doesn’t listen to their ideas for improving the business, therefore it is crucial to act on this and ensure that HR teams are actively listening to employees, particularly when it comes to a company’s purpose. This is supported by Robert Hicks, Group HR Director at the employee engagement platform Reward Gateway, who adds: “Inclusivity starts by listening as you need to understand your employees. And they are not a homogenous group, they are made up of different diverse elements with different needs, some of which overlap and some of which are different. Inclusivity means making everyone feel included, listened to, that they have a voice, that they are needed, wanted, and can contribute. Understanding this is the start of the journey to inclusivity.”

Prezzo's Rouse agrees with this. She notes that the coronavirus pandemic has actually heightened the need to keep employees in the loop with what the business is both doing and the values that are driving decisions – including involving those who are furloughed. She says: “Furloughed people are concerned about what’s going on in the business because they’re not so close to what’s going on, so one of the things that we are doing – despite the fact we furloughed the majority of our employees – is we are regularly in contact with them both by Teams calls.”

“I think it’s about not forgetting that those of us who are working, are working and that we understand what’s going on in the business. It’s very different for those people who are furloughed who probably feel a lack of general input in terms of what’s going on, so we are very keen and very clear that we try and communicate as much as we possibly can.”


How are companies making their culture inclusive?

Aster Group

Within the housing association, Credidio states that the organisation has been able to align its company purpose with its employees’ beliefs by introducing its charitable arm, the Aster Foundation. This, according to the HR head, has allowed staff to take part in various charitable initiatives to raise money.

She adds: “Ultimately, helping communities is the core function of a housing association, and giving our people a platform to support the causes that matter to them personally is an excellent way of encouraging engagement with that mantra. We do this through our charitable arm, the Aster Foundation, which saw colleagues raise £141,000 for a multitude of different community initiatives last year and volunteer a total of 167 days to causes close to their hearts.”


To maintain communication with the restaurant chain, particularly during this period of time, Rouse explains that the use of a company forum has been a lifeline for employees, as well as those who have been furloughed. This tool has allowed staff to continue conversations, while allowing the firm to also announce new initiatives and values that Prezzo will be aligning itself to.

“Before we locked down and closed our restaurants, we still have our company intranet which everybody can post on – it’s a very interactive site which we are encouraging people to use throughout this period of time,” Rouse continues. “But what we did have was we had a forum, so an employee forum essentially where we would ask people for their opinions on thigs, we would discuss it and we would seek feedback and understanding from people. So, it was very much a two-way process. And as we revert back into restaurants, we are hoping to do more of that as well.”

Inclusivity means making everyone feel included, listened to, that they have a voice, that they are needed, wanted, and can contribute


Engagement is core

Previous statistics and research studies have alluded to the fact that, in recent years, engagement within the workplace has taken a beating, due to excessive workloads, long hours and long commutes. That has been emphasised further during the current pandemic, where employees are working alone at home and finding productivity a struggle. For example, recent research has discovered workers face a slump every day when working from home, which takes place at 1.29pm, the time when most workers are likely to feel a dip in energy levels.

So, could an inclusive set of values that allow employees to engage with what’s important to them as individuals? Research from Covestro suggests that 83% of executives believe skills-based volunteerism could help employees satisfy their desire for purpose and hone their teamwork and or leadership abilities. Meanwhile, 77% claimed it would develop new skills or strengthen existing ones and 67% said it would lead to more engaged and productive staff. Similarly, Aster’s Credidio agrees that engagement from staff is vital to craft a company purpose that is inclusive of everyone.

She continues: “I fully believe that engagement from employees is the single most important metric for HR teams – being able to demonstrate that the values and purpose we’re communicating to employees are understood, believed in and acted upon across the business.

“But inclusivity is impossible unless you’re willing to hear what employees have to say as well. A huge part of our cultural development has stemmed from giving our people the opportunity to help shape what we stand for. This is all about giving them as many channels as possible through which to have a voice – from annual surveys and one-to-ones, to employee-led forums such as our colleague council and transformation network.”

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