Technology facilitates global connectivity and real-time data sharing, and in light of the fast switch to remote working due to Covid-19, people are increasingly relying on digital platforms to communicate and connect. However, while productivity is important, it is crucial that businesses do not heighten the empathy deficit in the new virtual workplace we are currently operating.
As we have discussed previously with entrepreneur Belinda Parmar, many professionals are starting to lose the connections with the people around them, and consequently may feel disengaged at work. People want more meaningful relationships with the companies they engage with. At times of crisis, a connection to a company’s purpose is even more important.
In our recent, ‘Adapting is thriving in post-pandemic world’ virtual event, where we were joined by UK Government adviser and chief executive of the RSA, Matthew Taylor and Professor Jonathan Trevor from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, it was highlighted that there are really important questions that leaders should be asking themselves right now.

The questions that I think need to be asked are the same as they always have been. Number one, in the environment in which we are operating, what is our purpose? What is it that we do and why do we do it, and why is it more important than ever before?

Professor Jonathan Trevor

When searching for new opportunities, candidates are increasingly interested in understanding the purpose behind a role. Job satisfaction and workplace happiness are not just nice to have; they are crucial for employee wellbeing and productivity.

Through the use of a clear and well-defined purpose, you can better engage with an external audience, which will support you in connecting with your customers as well as attracting and hiring the best available talent. Employers that do this well consistently attract the talent they need to help realise their business goals and objectives. This is because people want to understand the purpose of the work that they do. To stay engaged in their roles, professionals need to find meaning in the tasks that they perform on a day-to-day basis.

 “Candidates want to understand the role of the organisation in society and what they're doing to enhance the world that they operate within. And I think that's very, very important. Once professionals land within an organisation, employees themselves want to know the same types of things. It is about coming to work with a sense of purpose and the difference you are making as a company.”

Nick Kirk, UK Managing Director, PageGroup

The commercial structure of a purpose-based business is completely focused on a simple and direct set of values. This then feeds into the structure of the organisation in terms of the people, the types of products offered, the types of promotions that are run, the processes to deliver tasks, and the investment of profits made. When the purpose is clear and the structure of the business supports it, the people who are inspired by the business purpose will also be determined to achieve it.  

Boosting engagement in a dynamic business world 

If employer branding is aligned with business purpose and a strong external communication plan is in place, then there is a unique opportunity to build positive relationships with both customers and potential employees.

On the topic of aligning purpose, particularly at a time of crisis, Professor Jonathan Trevor had this to say:

When we start to think about how we respond to a crisis in the short term, but even more importantly, longer term, it is important to not just simply ensure business survival, but actually ensure the business is thriving; doing better than before. Use this as an opportunity to realign aspects of that purpose strategy and organisation value chain so that we can be better, more high performing, more purposeful, more engaging organisations that than ever before.

Before the global health pandemic, the gig economy, interim contracts, and temporary contracts had all grown in importance to support employers during peak periods, bring in specialist skills for unique projects, and even cover absences. Looking forward, it will be interesting to see how working arrangements evolve in response to Covid-19, as interim support and flexible working arrangements are key in supporting businesses through periods of change and organisational transformation. 

However, regardless of the working arrangement – full time, interim, on-site, or off-site – ensuring that all employees are engaged with and believe in the business purpose ensures committed employees and overall job satisfaction. This will be even more crucial in increasingly remote teams.  

 “A company’s purpose should be the statement of intent that employees refer back to. So, whether you're working from home, whether you're working off-site, whether you're working part-time hours or more flexibly than that, it's the DNA that people return to”

Nick Kirk, UK Managing Director, PageGroup

If an employee has felt disconnected or as though they have been treated poorly by a company then it is highly likely that they will voice their grievances publicly. A bad reputation will be difficult to turn around and can make it challenging to attract talent in the future.

Recruiting with purpose

Although the drive for a sense of purpose and alignment with a company’s core values has increased as millennials have moved into the workforce, there is a cross-generational appeal and job satisfaction is a priority for all candidates today. Considering this, purpose should be a core focus for companies, especially at times of crisis. 
Matthew Taylor highlighted that:

“A lot of people have been through quite a lot of existential angst over the last few months. I think that quite a lot of people have been thinking about work; what work means to them, the role that it plays in their life, and the relationship between work and home.”

Continuing from this, he said that considering this, purpose is even more in the forefront of people's minds now.

Through a deeper understanding of the types of questions that candidates are looking for answers to, businesses can ensure that they effectively pitch their purpose. Our specialist consultants interview thousands of professionals and understand exactly what candidates are looking for. Before commencing a hiring process, be sure that you understand the benefits of working for your company and know how to sell your purpose. Consider the following questions:

  • Why should a candidate choose your company over another if the offer is similar? 
  • What management style is practised? 
  • What tools will candidates have access to that will make workflows more efficient, effective, and productive? 
  • What impact will this role have on the business? 
  • How does the business support employees in achieving their goals? 

  Candidates are going to be looking for a suite of things that they expect, whether it's the values, career opportunities or training. And within that mix will be the purpose. If you don't have it, then that is a mark against you. The question then is, does it resonate with them and does it link to your business? If you get it right, it can make a big difference.

Nick Kirk, UK Managing Director, PageGroup

A competitive salary and a good company name are no longer a strong enough sell to win top talent. While job offers that use these parameters do still attract applicants, interaction with standard form job offers is falling across all platforms. It is just as important for businesses to sell their opportunities as it is for candidates to sell their capabilities for a role. What is it like to work for your company? This is what candidates want to know in an interview - be sure you position this correctly to win the talent you need. 

RELATED ARTICLE: Employment experts advise: Don’t abandon your purpose in a crisis

Find out more about what Matthew Taylor and Professor Jonathan Trevor have to say about the role of purpose in a crisis.