Does Everyone in Your Employ Know Your Organization’s Purpose?

We believe in our mission and values. We are a connected company and our engagement is strong. Our people believe in what we do. As a matter of fact, we have a leadership development session coming soon where we are bringing in a world class mountain climber to talk about being a leader.”

This was what I heard from a CEO who I had just met. I must say I was impressed — that is, until I met with their head of HR sometime later. She was incredulous and just shook her head.

That conversation came back into focus this week as I read a recent Gallup study titled A Company’s Purpose Has to Be a Lot More Than Words. I was informed that Mr. CEO I had heard from is the same guy who comes in every morning and walks through the workspace headed directly to his office without offering even the most basic pleasantry, “Good Morning.” He goes into his office and closes the door.

So much for being connected.

The big disconnect.

In the business of engagement there is always a disconnect between leadership’s view and their workforce’s view.  MetLife recently published their 2014 and 2015 Employee Benefit Trends Study benefits analysis for the Middle East and this stood out prominently:

  • 63 percent of leaders feel that their company is a great place to work.
  • But, only 43 percent of employees agreed with that assessment.
  • 65 percent of leaders feel they are loyal and engaged with their employees.
  • Only 38 percent of employees agreed with that assessment.

As the Godfather said, “How did things ever get so far apart?

That is why I applaud leaders that not only talk the talk but live it in any and every way possible. At a recent luncheon with a good friend who is the CEO of a progressive high growth company [Landmark Hospitality Group], we talked about how every communique in her organization is wrapped around the importance of their people.

Regardless of the announcement, the people factor is always a big part of it. She told me of how the founding CEO of her company is known for stopping in the lobby and approaching job seekers who are waiting to be interviewed and engaging them in conversation.  It is called walking the walk.

You can’t get away with it anymore

You can’t just boast about offering a good paycheck and figure that is going to do it. A company’s purpose has to be a lot more than words.

Companies today must demonstrate a strong commitment to purpose, which is necessary to build strong organizational identity. It is not cool today to be an arrogant organization. There is an  awareness among the employee base that has changed the dynamics of engagement.

Though most leaders can readily discuss their organization’s ideal identity, they often struggle with making the strategic decisions that reinforce the organization’s commitment to its purpose on an every day basis.

REAL leaders walk the talk

Trust in an organization originates from the tone that comes out of the C-Suite. Try and imagine a family structure where the leader of that family unit, whether it is a man or a woman, does not exude trust. That is the mark of a dysfunctional family.

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Are your leaders seen as realistic and consistent by modeling and reflecting the organizational values? If not, you have a huge problem on your hands.

Leaders that DO walk the talk know that the benefit of creating an environment that deepens engagement and involvement will have a profound impact on business results and performance. We know that people join organizations but they leave managers, so it is important that all of your leadership team truly understands this profound dynamic.

What is the currency in your organization?

Trust is the currency at the top of the organization. Every leader today has to understand the importance of this trust factor in establishing the tone and making sure that this is maintained throughout.

That is why internal communication is so important. How do you, as a leader, be clear about what you do and what you expect from your people?  This aloofness that so many leaders wear as a badge of honor is a long gone style that will never be resurrected. Leaders today simply have to connect.

I recall a conversation with an HR head that they were running an internal initiative and one of the winning “gifts” would be a dinner with the CEO. It was hard for me to keep a straight face on that one.

I could just imagine this poor soul realizing that they would have to endure a two-hour dinner with their leader. On the other hand, if this was the down to earth, connected and engaged leader, I could envision a joyful 2-3 hour meal.

One of the biggest barriers to successful change is poor communication and unclear priorities, so my advice to this leadership culture is that every morning you look into that mirror make sure your words and actions are in synch.

You can’t fake it anymore. The cat is out of the bag.

Ron Thomas is Managing Director, Strategy Focused Group DWC LLC, based in Dubai. He is also a senior faculty member and representative of the Human Capital Institute covering the MENA/Asia Pacific region.

He was formerly CEO of Great Place to Work-Gulf and former CHRO based in Riyadh. He holds certifications from the Human Capital Institute as Global Human Capital Strategist, Master Human Capital Strategist, and Strategic Workforce Planner.

He's been cited by CIPD as one of the top 5 HR Thinkers in the Middle East. He received the Outstanding Leadership Award for Global HR Excellence at the World Human Resources Development Congress in Mumbai, and was named as one of the 50 Most Talented Global HR Leaders in Asia

Ron's prior roles included senior HR positions with Xerox HR services, IBM, and Martha Stewart Living.

Board memberships include the Harvard Business Review Advisory Council, McKinsey Quarterly's Executive Online Panel, and HCI's Expert Advisory Council on Talent Management Strategy.

His work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Inc. Magazine, Workforce Management and numerous international HR magazines covering Africa, India and the Middle East.


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