Why Your Organization’s Purpose is Important to Your Culture

Why Your Organization’s Purpose is Important to Your Culture

Purpose. It’s a trending topic for businesses today. A quick Google search of the phrase “company + purpose” produces a whopping 1,030,000,000 hits. Harvard Business Review has published literally dozens of articles on the subject in the past 12 months alone. And leaders across the country – and the world – are paying attention; working to figure out what role purpose should play in their organizations and in their cultures, because this topic is becoming increasingly near and dear to their employees’ and customers’ hearts.

To work, being purpose-driven must be a way of life. It must be central to your culture and embedded into how you run your company – not a strategic initiative or a flavor-of-the-month campaign crowned by a nice purpose statement that can be marketed. When purpose doesn’t have a true connection to a brand, it will be transparent to employees and customers alike.

Humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow tells us that belongingness is part of one of the major needs that motivate human behavior. And when people feel connected to their organization’s purpose, when they feel they belong, work becomes more than just a methodical, financial-based transaction. It becomes a place where they can go on an adventure and have a sense of belonging, meaningfully contributing and investing their true selves to accomplish things they never could on their own.

The secret of success is constancy to purpose.
-Benjamin Disraeli

Sometimes the purpose of a brand can feel a bit nebulous, but if an organization is living its purpose in its culture and actions, customers will see it, feel it and believe it. As an example, a few years ago I was on a business trip in rural Connecticut. One morning, I went to my rental car and found it was not working. I had about a 20 minute drive and my meeting with a new client was starting in 30 minutes. I went to the front desk’s general manager (this was pre-Uber, obviously) and after making some calls, I was told that the closest taxi was 30 minutes away and the hotel shuttle was already out. Seeing my desperation, the general manager made the very unconventional move of calling the competitor hotel across the street to ask if its shuttle was available and if they would be willing to help out. Certainly, this was not in her job description and likely even broke some rule in the rule book. Luckily, the competitor’s shuttle was available and I made it to the meeting after all. Needless to say my view of that GM, that hotel and the brand overall went up significantly.

What defines this particular hotel chain is how they are able to activate their strategic ambitions through their culture. Team members focus on “the little things that make a big difference that create stories worth sharing” for guests. And they are given significant leeway to activate that statement and leverage their own strengths and creativity to make that happen. I happened to be the beneficiary of that philosophy that day, but it is also what had made this particular brand an industry leader for many years in its category.

Purpose Matters – Internally & Externally Too

Today’s workforce and shoppers are made up of people who are more in tune with what the companies they buy from and work at stand for. They want to know the reasons why they are doing something – beyond that it bolsters the bottom line. Companies that can articulate this, integrate it into its culture, be authentic about it, and help people connect to it will benefit from attracting the best workers, the most loyal customers and sustained success.

This isn’t just speculation. Employees are paying attention to what companies are saying and doing. If given a choice, they’re going to want the job with the company that aligns with their values. Take this blog from famed investor Mark Cuban. In it, he explores the whole idea of socio-capitalism, essentially saying that socio-capitalism IS capitalism to the Millennials: “…[they] don’t want to just make a profit, they want to make a profit and share their success with those less fortunate.” Think Tom’s Shoes one-for-one program and Warby Parker’s similar disruption of the eyewear space.

Shoppers care, too. Customers want their hard-earned money to go to brands that do something good for the world or that do things “the right way.” According to a Trendera study from October 2014, 50% of people said that social/ethical responsibility was the most important consideration when making a purchase. That increases to a staggering 75% for the 25-to-34-year-old female demographic (who coincidentally have a lot of spending power).

Cuban goes on to say that 20-something consumers actually EXPECT a social component from companies with whom they do business. And it’s arguable that this expectation goes well beyond just Millennials, making the discussion of purpose so critically important.

So if you don’t know why you’re doing what you’re doing or articulate it to customers and employees, then it’s time to figure things out … or prepare for resignation letters and customer drop-off.

Perfecting Your Purpose: Make sure it is compelling, authentic and avoids any sort of business speak

Leaders need to realize the importance of taking people on a meaningful journey. Purpose is the goal of that journey. When people feel connected to purpose, well then, that’s where authentic engagement comes from! Yet, many leaders miss the mark by leading with marketing-speak rather than plain English. Often this is because they doubt their purpose is valiant enough and overcompensate with exaggerations and elaborations.

When President Kennedy stated, “This nation should commit itself to put a man on the moon and return him safely by the end of the decade,” he made the purpose of the NASA program so direct and clear that this single idea motivated the actions of millions of people for a decade. In the early 1960s, a janitor employed by NASA was asked to describe what he did for a living. His answer? “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.”

Interestingly enough, the modern version of the space story now rests with Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal and Tesla. He has created an equally ambitious yet simple statement for his space engineering company, SpaceX, by declaring its purpose is to make life multi-planetary. And everything the company does from sea launches and landings to building re-usable rockets is in service of that larger goal of eventually inhabiting the planet Mars.

Unfortunately in business, most people are not as eloquent or skilled at “straight talk.” Leaders tend to string catch phrases together, creating a disconnect from what they really intend to say. Consider what authors Chip and Dan Heath stated in their book, Made to Stick. They theorized that if JFK had been a CEO getting the benefit of current day management consultants, he would have said, “Our mission is to become the international leader in the space industry through maximum team-centered innovation and strategically targeted aerospace initiatives.” Is this as compelling as what JFK actually said? Not by a long shot.

Your organization’s purpose impacts the WHY, HOW and WHAT you do. Your culture is your way of activating and authentically living it. If you don’t know your purpose, or if it’s not fully baked, you can probably skate … for a while. But rest assured, eventually the competition will soar past you because they will be more in tune where demographic, customer and market forces are moving.

So, what’s holding you back? Invest the time now and you can be at the forefront of your industry – leading with heart. I welcome your thoughts and comments on social media.

It’s a FACT. Hampton’s culture movement is a winner.

The hospitality industry is competitive. And when similar offerings like updated suites, complimentary breakfasts, pillow-top mattresses and deluxe showerheads are found in hotel after hotel after hotel, how can a brand differentiate itself in order to create loyalty among its guests? How can it draw in new customers—pulling them away from competitors offering comparable amenities? It comes down to one thing that can’t be replicated or copied—the service experience.

Hampton is an example of a brand that went “all in” on creating a culture that was committed to creating a differentiated guest experience. And it paid off.

2015 marks the fourth time in five years that Hampton ranked number one on Entrepreneur‘s Franchise 500 List, proving that the brand’s commitment to cultivating its ‘Hamptonality’ culture is a winning approach. While most hotel brands create advertising campaigns featuring their property’s facilities, Hampton has gone a different route entirely, promoting the one thing that makes its brand completely unique: the guest experience provided by Friendly, Authentic, Caring and Thoughtful (FACT) team members.1

The FACT acronym was created to reinforce Hampton’s core values throughout the company. It’s a phrase that is both easy to remember and practical—helping team members decide in an instant if an action is a fit for the brand.

And it’s not just the guests who love Hampton…the franchisees do, too. Hampton boasts industry-leading returns for owners. Franchisee Mitch Patel was quoted in Entrepreneur magazine saying, “Someone always asks, ‘If you had a vacant piece of land and could choose any hotel brand you want, what would you build?’ Unanimously, the first brand anyone talks about is Hampton. Nothing’s even a close second. That’s how strong the brand has become.”2

The Entrepreneur piece also included this comment from Mitch: “You can sense the Hampton culture, which we call ‘Hamptonality,’ from property to property. It’s not hard to create a culture when a company owns all of its hotels. But when you have hundreds of franchisees and thousands of units? It’s much harder, and Hampton’s done a phenomenal job of spreading that culture to all the owners in its brand.”

We explain the idea of purpose and its importance to the ‘Hamptonality’ culture movement in this clip from the Ultimate Culture Conference. To enjoy the full video, sign up and join our Ultimate Culture Community.

How To Create A Culture That Inspires and Motivates

Here are four tips to keep in mind:

  • It’s not a program. It’s an ongoing journey. Creating a culture that truly inspires and motivates people to give that little bit extra so the company can find success can’t be done overnight. It’s a long-term commitment, not an initiative. Hampton began its Hamptonality-based culture 10 years ago—and efforts to sustain it are continuous.
  • Throw out all the marketing speak. To create a culture that resonates with people, move away from carefully crafted mission statements dreamt up by corporate executives and creative agencies in a boardroom. It’s not an effective way to connect people’s minds and hearts.
  • Frame a new identify by crowd-sourcing. Want your people to feel connected to the brand? Ask them for their thoughts! Embrace their strengths and the values they believe in! Hampton’s current brand values of Friendly, Authentic, Caring and Thoughtful were identified through employee focus groups. Hampton still leverages this technique and recently crowd-sourced the content of its annual conference for 2,100 general managers. It was the most successful conference to date.
  • Make trainings about people and their real, authentic personalities – not about the brand. Provide tools and resources that come straight from the field. Instead of relying on static presentations, team members can share real-life experiences that embody your service model so others can learn what is working best. All Hampton training videos feature real employees—further emphasizing the brand’s focus on authenticity.

How Is Your Culture Unique?

Hampton does things differently to ensure that 60,000 team members working in 2,100 locations in 18 different countries feel connected to its values of being friendly, authentic, caring and thoughtful. And it begins during the hiring process. Questions asked to candidates are not focused on past hotel experience, but on how well they represent the FACT core values. The goal is to hire people who are already a culture fit and then train them on the hotel skills.

Harnessing the individuality of its team members is a core belief at Hampton. During onboarding, new hires learn about their strengths and are encouraged to draw upon these innate skills when interacting with guests. So while most people working in customer service are expected to stick to the script, Hampton’s front desk team members aren’t asked to repeat the same greeting verbatim. Instead, they’re trusted to create memorable experiences for guests by letting their personalities shine through. And that’s when self-actualization and authentic engagement become a reality.3

Hampton put a name to its culture 10 year ago. As you emphasize the purpose of your brand, how will you ensure that your culture is aligned? Good luck with your culture development—it’s well worth the time and effort.

Let us know how you do, and we welcome your stories, Tweets, and Comments via the social media buttons below.


1Entrepreneur Media. (2015). 2015 Top Franchises from Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 List. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/franchises/500/2015/1

2Entrepreneur Media. (2015). Why This Hotel Chain Is No. 1 on Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 List. Retrieved from http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/240722

3Root Inc. (n.d.). Hampton – People Powered by Strengths. Retrieved from https://www.rootinc.com/case_studies/hampton-people-powered-strengths/

Gain engagement and buy-in through a strategy launch

Gain engagement and buy-in through a strategy launch

Think of the last time you bought a product you were very excited about. Maybe it was the iPhone 6 with its sleeker look, improved features and screen size that forces you to buy pants with bigger pockets. Maybe it was the Lululemon yoga pants that are comfortable and stylish at the same time. Or maybe it was the new driver that you think will help your golf game and knock a couple of strokes of your handicap. What did you feel when you bought those items?  Probably a sense of excitement, a sense of anticipation and maybe even a sense of pride and emotional attachment.

Now, let me ask you how you felt that last time you were exposed to the strategy of your organization. Did it feel similar to some of the emotions triggered above? Or did it feel more like that class in college with the really boring professor … where you tried to retain just enough information to pass the test or sound intelligent if called upon? If it is the latter, you are unfortunately not alone. Engaging employees in strategies is simple not done well in many companies. Yet these same companies are often great at launching new products or services to their customers.

A lot can be gleaned by how we launch products and services effectively and applying it to how we launch and implement our strategies. I believe it is one of the most cost effective ways to improve organizational performance available to companies today.


Invest In ALL Your Launches

Launching a new product is a high stakes venture for most organizations. Significant dollars are invested in market research to determine the viability and market potential of the product. Many meetings are held and focus groups conducted to determine what resonates with end users and how the product should be priced, promoted and distributed. From the executive team, to the product development and marketing departments to the sales and digital teams – everyone has a role and a job to do to ensure a successful launch and sustained interest from customers. To get it right and give the new product the best chance for success, it’s all encompassing and all hands are most definitely on deck.

So, my question to you is – why don’t we invest the same type of time, energy and manpower when we launch and implement a new company-wide strategy or a division initiative? The stakes in terms of financial impact are often just as high if not higher. But for some reason when the audience is our internal employees rather than our customers, we lose our intense level of rigor, passion and commitment. And yet we often wonder why “our strategy product” failed to sell and is not making the difference we hoped for.  What I’m getting at is that at most organizations a company-wide launch of a new initiative or strategy typically doesn’t involve nearly the level of planning, commitment and discipline that goes into a product launch. We don’t seek to understand our customers, in this case our employees, and determine how they think about the strategy, what resonates with them and what it would take to have them embrace and “buy it” like we would want customers to buy our product. To most employees, strategies come across as products that they either don’t fully understand, don’t have an emotional connection to or something they need to buy because it is their job. It feels to them like THAT college class where they simply want to pass rather than it being something they are proud to be associated with and want to contribute discretionary energy to bring to life. No wonder that more than 70% of most workforces in companies are somewhere between indifferent and disengaged.

Now think about the last time your company rolled out a new corporate wide strategy? What went into that rollout? How was your company’s culture considered in the rollout? And what about the many sub-cultures that exist in organizations? If it was like many of the strategy deployments I’ve been involved in at other companies over the years, it probably went something like this:

  • The CEO and leadership team signed off on a strategy – likely with the help of a consulting firm with a bunch of smart, well-educated consultants that look really good in suits.
  • The strategy is announced and shared in a town hall meeting or webcast. Most likely in a power point format preceded possibly by a 90 second video to fire everyone up.
  • Maybe there was a follow-up communication that went out to the whole company reinforcing some of the key points that the CEO discussed.
  • Some training was given to the department that was going to have the biggest impact on that strategy – in most cases, the sales team.
  • Then people were probably largely on their own and also ready to move past the launch to get back to their real jobs.

Now, there are varying incarnations of company strategy rollouts. However, in all likelihood, they don’t involve the time and effort that companies put into a product launch. Or more importantly, the time and attention needed to really make it work and achieve the results you seek.

A lot of brands work hard to ensure that their people understand the strategy, connect to it and build the skills to execute organizational objectives. But, they’re missing a huge opportunity to “market” the strategy to their employees. You only launch something once. It’s a critical time – the first opportunity for leaders to get their people behind the new strategy – to get their buy-in, drive excitement and ensure adoption of the strategy. It’s time to put on your marketing hats. It’s not just about a PowerPoint or company-wide memo … it takes more effort in order to make your strategy go from paper to reality.

4 Ways to Launch Your Strategy Like the Brand New Product It Is

So, tactically speaking, what can we learn from our product launches and apply it to our strategy launches?

#1: Understand your customers’ mindsets, desires and needs. Study and work with your employee base to understand how they think about the business, what they understand and where they struggle, what they are curious about and what would be helpful to them to better connect their jobs to the strategy.

#2: Segment your customers. You will likely find that the communication and engagement needs vary based on the function or seniority of your people. While there needs to be a common view all can share about where the company is going, are you clear on how you customize the message to maximize its relevance and adoption? Just like with a product launch, different segments likely value different attributes of your product and understanding that is a smart thing to do.

#3: Create emotional connections. Most customer purchases are not a perfectly intellectualized decision making process. The willingness to buy is often driven by emotion. How do I feel about the brand or company? How did they engage with me? What do I feel when I associate with the product? These same questions apply when deploying strategies –finding emotional ways to connect is essential. This can be done through effective storytelling of the strategy and the impact it can have and creating opportunities for people to engage with the strategy in a meaningful way.

#4: Continue listening and refining. Like any good product launch, you study how much your product is being sold, who is buying it and who isn’t … and what messages are resonating and which aren’t. The same should hold for your strategy. As you deploy it, you have the opportunity to not only learn what does and does not resonate, but you will likely also get insight about what parts of your strategy actually work effectively and which should be refined.

Your ultimate goal is to bring the strategy to life and to sell it in a way that your employees actually buy it. To authentically embrace it. They can’t implement it just because it’s their job … if they don’t believe in your strategy, it’s doomed. On the flip side, if you’re able to apply these product launch tactics successfully to a strategy launch, you will see it positively impact business results, positively impact your financial objective and ultimately make a profound impact on the success of your organization.

Have you applied any product launch principles to your strategy launch? I’d love to hear about it!  Please comment on social media and share this content with others.