People just turn up to work to get paid – right? Some might do it because there’s an acute need to pay for basic securities – a roof over their heads, food, bills – whilst others might be working towards putting a payment down on that Audi TT and a new build in Slough but, at the end of the day, very few people donate their time to an organisation without want of financial remuneration.
Yet, many in HR know that there are many other motivating factors that drive individuals to their get work done or, alternatively, want to join their firm. If an organisation offers adequate compensation for staff to feel secure – how does the business motivate and engage them beyond this? For many companies, the answer is to create a sense of greater purpose. However, that can be difficult. If you’re a financial firm involved in esoteric trading suddenly telling staff, many of whom may have been there for a substantial period of time, that the driving business motivation is now to save the whales. At best, it might seem ludicrous; at worst, demotivating.
However, on an employment landscape which is increasingly competitive, when it comes to trying to secure top talent, and with UK productivity generally considered sluggish, many are turning to purpose as the silver bullet that could both engage employees and attract star hires. However, for HR departments that are considering either trying to find a purpose or communicate their purpose more effectively there are several things to consider.
Why is communication important?
If purpose is communicated effectively, it can provide an upswing for staff. “It’s really important for people today that they feel more purposeful in their job, it helps them to feel satisfied and much more motivated, it’s a great way to connect to people,” explains Laura Plaxton, Head of HR at FDM, a global professional services provider.
Suzanne Hughes, CHRO, Santander UK agrees that communication is key – especially if your purpose is expressed via values or behaviours. “What’s really important is that people, if you have values or behaviours, see they are expressed in very simple language which resonates with them and isn’t corporate jargon.”
Hughes has seen this at Santander. The bank recently overhauled their values – gaining buy-in from staff by going around the country, with the CEO, to get staff to share their opinions on what the new values should be. As Hughes believes that corporate purpose is often easy to understand but difficult to action, she wanted Santander’s evolved sense of purpose to be communicated as nine separate behaviours – described in the language staff themselves used and easy to perform.
“Having the buzzwords of the moment easily lose impact and I think that’s the reason our words have worked so effectively, they are the words of our colleagues,” she says.