It’s no secret that a clear company purpose is an important driver of employee engagement and thus contributes to improved organizational performance. However, what may not be as evident to busy leaders right now is the role a defined purpose can play in change management.

During moments of crisis and chaos, when uncertainty abounds, it’s easy to overlook the long-established guardrails that are designed to keep a company on track, specifically, the stated purpose. Indeed, when leaders are wrestling with decisions about cash flow, service models, and what the new normal looks like for their business, it’s easy to understand why purpose might take a backseat to other priorities.

While the purpose statement is never a platitude, during a crisis, it becomes the North Star that frames decisions, provides strategic clarity, determines prioritization, and gives important context to change. Unsurprisingly, in the chaos of our current moment in time, the role purpose plays in aiding change management, and making strategy stick is top of mind in the business press.

Less clarity, more conflict 

In a Harvard Business Review article titled “6 Reasons Your Strategy Isn’t Working,” the number one hidden barrier to organizational effectiveness is a lack of clarity around values and the resulting conflicts in priorities. Without a defined and clearly communicated strategy and values to guide organizational behavior, conflict over priorities and resources will arise, slowing progress, and blunting performance.

Wield your greatest strengths 

Assess the impact on your various stakeholders: employees, customers, suppliers, owners, and the wider community. From parents juggling working from home and homeschooling to customers striving to keep the doors open, almost all are being met with new challenges, and as a result, many new needs.

“Bring your greatest strengths to bear,” advises the McKinsey article, Demonstrating Corporate Purpose in the Time of Coronavirus. “What strengths does your organization possess that you can apply to make the biggest difference for your stakeholders? Resist going it alone. Collaborate closely with your ecosystem of suppliers and customers—they might identify strengths you didn’t even know you had.”

If your organization doesn’t have a defined purpose, this will be a truly defining moment. And if the company has developed a purpose, it will be underscored and strengthened. Either way, your employees will have new clarity and purpose for their own roles, important factors in both employee engagement and performance.

The bar is being raised 

Another element of purpose is coming to the forefront, and that is the sense of belonging a strong and connected purpose provides employees. Deloitte, in the recent article Creating a Culture of Belonging, sums it up well:

“Organizational efforts to foster belonging have historically and primarily focused on making every individual feel respected and treated fairly in an inclusive work environment. While this remains foundational, leading organizations are forging a stronger link between belonging and organizational performance by strengthening workers’ connections with their teams and fostering their sense of contribution to meaningful shared goals.”

No better time than the present 

If your organization hasn’t defined its purpose, or, if upon reflection, the purpose rings hollow, seize the moment to establish a new purpose at the heart of your company. The authors of In a Crisis, Companies Must Know Their Purpose, published via the PwC site, Strategy + Business, make clear the opportunity at hand:

“This moment in history provides an opportunity, and a spur, for all organizations to ground themselves in their purpose — that is, to focus intensely on the core questions: Why do we exist? Why are we here? Whose needs are we here to meet?”

The rewards for doing the work are rich. According to our founder and CEO Stefan Wissenbach, a clear, shared purpose has a connecting effect within the business, creating common context and understanding. “Everyone in the business feels connected to and excited by the organization’s ultimate purpose, goals, and how the business will achieve them,” he writes in his book, The Engaged Organization.

We spend quite a bit of time talking about purpose here at Engagement Multiplier because we have found (in our experience) that a clear and powerful purpose is a sustainable driver of employee engagement over time. This is why we encourage all of our clients to take the step of defining the purpose for their companies (a step we have found many have not previously taken.) A great way to get started is to first take stock of where your employees stand. To help you out, we’re making our full benchmark assessment available free of charge to business leaders. See below for details.

Survey your team: free & no strings attached

Engagement Multiplier is offering free access to our Benchmark Assessment employee engagement survey, along with a special question set designed to help business leaders get the insights they need to plan a successful return to normal operations. Learn about the offer.