5 reasons why your purpose isn’t working

So you’ve got yourself a Purpose (with a capital P, of course). Brilliant. You launched it and had the words emblazoned on your walls. It looks good. Let’s pat ourselves on the back.

But now what? Is everything working out for you as you hoped (as you were promised by the purpose gurus)? Are people more engaged, happier and delivering more for the business? Have people stopped leaving for competitors? Has business suddenly turned a corner?

Or have things gone back to normal? Did people say, “That’s great – now back to my to do list.”? Or was it worse? Were there complaints and dissent?

58% of adults don’t trust a brand until they have seen ‘real world proof’ that it has kept its promises (Trinity Mirror). That goes for employers too.


It’s very easy when we’re time poor and ‘experts’ at our brand (and branding, if that’s your industry) to assume we already know the answers. But a recent report by Trinity Mirror has shown how see how consumers are turned off by ‘ill-fitting purpose”. And guess what – those consumers are employees too, and they can sniff an “ill-fitting purpose” a mile off.

We take short cuts because we’ve already connected all the dots. We don’t take the time to unpick the truth from reality. We’re biased. And we forget about the primal human needs and desire for belonging that bubble under the surface.

Essentially ‘any old purpose’ has all the shine but lacks the substance needed to make decision making instinctive, empower your workforce by giving them meaning outside of transactional employee/employer relationship, and inspire your people to bring the best version of their selves into work every day.



1. Uncover the human truth and understand the State of the Nation. Your purpose – now matter how en point – will not capture the hearts and minds of your people if their fundamental needs are not being met. And the human truth can hurt. As independent consultants we’ve had to hold a brutal mirror up to some well-meaning employers. It’s difficult, but vital. And independent facilitators encourage people to be honest – even just getting things off their chest makes a big difference. Did you know there were rumours of the business failing – you should!?

Ultimately the truth matters: making assumptions on the state of your nation (i.e. your people) creates a gap of credibility and of showing that you give a f&$k.

2. Understand who works in your business. Not everyone in your business contributes to your culture in the same way. And that’s a good thing – everyone has a part to play in making a thriving community. And while all people should be treated equal, they are not all the same. Identifying the people that over index on behavioural influence in the business can make or break your culture. They are the people that, when they are happy, can spread their joy and enthusiasm and become cultural advocates. But when they feel disconnected, their latent negativity infects those around them unintentionally. These people can be a massive cultural asset or a Trojan horse. By identifying them and engaging with them, they will be your purpose ambassadors.

3. Co-create your purpose with your best people: if you’re a growing business, remember that a community is not just about the founding fathers. It’s time to inspire your fledglings. Involve the people that are your future so they feel ownership of the purpose.

4. Empower your people to live and breathe your purpose: you’re busy. We understand that. After all the whole point of you wanting a ‘purpose’ in the first was probably so you could step away from too much command and control. But simply launching it and walking away doesn’t guarantee it will do the job. In fact, more likely that it will die and you’ll find yourself thinking about creating a new purpose in a year’s time. That’s why it’s I important that roll out of you purpose doesn’t rely on you. You need your purpose to run through everything you do and it needs to ignite something in your people. Inspire your people to own it and target them on its roll out. After all what’s measure is what’s done.

5. Show your people proof of your purpose every single day: this isn’t about big showy events once a year. This is running purpose through every touch point with your people. From every process and decision from how and who you recruit, how you deal with problems, and communicate through to the office design and your attitude to wellbeing. Start ignoring your purpose on any of these points and the credibility gap will grow. Your people just won’t believe you; and you’re back to square one.



Ultimately, your purpose can fall down at any point. But do it properly, and you’ll only need to do it once as you’ll have created a purpose that is genuine and will grow with your people.

But you will have to live and breathe it every day and that takes commitment.

Are you ready?

JEN EVANS – TULIPHR EXPERT in Wellness Strategy & Business Culture

We are a group of like-minded experts who when individually or placed together make a business stand out above the rest. We create great businesses through inspired and engaged people by applying infrastructure that follows unconventional methods.

Get in contact to see how we can we can reinvigorate your ways of working to promote high performance and creativity, with human needs and wellbeing at its heart.