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The Future and Purpose Are Indispensable To Each Other

By Nishith Jain

Over the years, I have been trying to delve into these questions: ‘Why do we work?’ ‘What are the motivations and aspirations that drive people to work and to contribute to their organization’s success?’ The answer I eventually landed with was the essence of ‘Embodying a Shared Purpose.’

In his 2017 Harvard commencement address, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said, “Purpose is the sense that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are needed, that we have something better ahead to work for. Purpose is what creates true happiness.” A company’s purpose is more than a vision or a mission statement. Fundamentally, a company’s purpose is a bold articulation of its reason for being in business.

According to a study published in 2016 by the EY Beacon Institute and the Harvard Business Review, 89% of executives surveyed agreed that a purpose-driven organization will have employee satisfaction, and 81% agreed that purpose-driven firms deliver higher-quality products/services. But identifying a company’s purpose is not the end of the line. Once the purpose has been defined, it must then be clearly communicated to everyone within the organization. The study showed that 58% of companies that clearly articulate their purpose to their stakeholders show a topline growth of at least 10%.

An organization’s purpose should not be limited to financial gains but should also make reference to its brand and culture. Purpose helps to engender trust and respect. A clear purpose anchors an organizational identity for its stakeholders and is the first step toward customer loyalty. It also acts as a beacon to attract the right talent to the organization, talent that will be aligned to the company’s purpose, feel highly engaged, and derive meaning from work.

Gallup finds that when it comes to communicating an organization’s purpose, actions matter the most. Actions reaffirm commitment. So, the way for leaders to make a substantive difference in their organizations is to incorporate purpose into their management approach. Leaders at all levels in the workforce need to live and breathe their company’s purpose. The purpose should influence their thought processes, decisions, and actions. Part of their promise to their employees must be, sincerely, a shared purpose. As Unilever’s CEO Alan Jope recently said, “Brands with purpose grow, companies with purpose last, and people with purpose thrive.”


This excerpt is from Nishith Jain’s chapter, “The Future of Work is Transforming—Are You?,” from The Center for Asia Leadership’s Rethinking Asia 7 – The Future of Work: How To Prepare For It. To learn more, please visit https://asialeadership.org/publication/.

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