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Leading with purpose

Michael Osbaldeston, City & Guilds Group.

Last week, one of London’s most historical financial institutions – Lloyds of London – introduced a drinking ban between 9am and 5pm, threatening the traditional liquid lunch for those working in the Square Mile. To many, this may sound obvious. But others say that the City’s drinking culture strengthened professional relationships, and others claimed ‘it was great for bonding.’

Earlier this year, we also heard that office ‘cake culture’ is becoming a ‘public health hazard’ with experts warning it should be stopped.

But it’s not just eating and drinking habits which form office cultures. There’s also the offices rife with sleep-deprived employees, working all hours to meet deadlines – even though by doing so, are doing more harm than good to the productivity of their company. This is an issue the world’s third-largest economy, Japan, knows all too well.

The purpose economy
Organisational culture can be defined as the way in which members of an organisation relate to each other, their work, and the outside world. And to define their culture, many organisations look to their purpose – essentially why the organisation exists in the first place and what ultimately matters in its work.

This mind-set means we are currently entering a ‘purpose economy’. In other words, we are prioritising other workplace benefits – relationships, development opportunities, working towards a cause – over pay cheques. One of the driving forces behind this change is down to the number of millennials in the workforce – Deloitte predicts they will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, and further research reveals they are driven by rewarding and purposeful work – not just money.

What’s particularly encouraging about this is that evidence suggests purpose-led organisations are more successful. Research by Great Place to Work shows that a strong values-driven culture is critical to the success of high performance organisations. Additionally, they are more likely to have better financial results, higher employee engagement and greater customer loyalty than their peers.

Further research from Deloitte shows that purpose-driven organisations are more optimistic about future prospects than organisations without a clear purpose (83% vs 42%). They’re also more confident about their organisation’s ability to out-perform competition (79% vs 47%), and more likely to encourage innovation (80% vs. 35%).

The good news is that businesses can take action and make changes in their workforce to instil a sense of purpose and build and effective working culture.

Take Ginsters as an example. The company was struggling with high staff turnover and often saw a blame culture among its people, which resulted in a lack of motivation. With the threat of the competitive retail market also looming, the company decided it was time to change its culture and create a sustainable business with a can-do, resilient workforce.

So, it implemented an organisation-wide initiative, focused on educating employees on the structure and roles within the organisation. This ensured that everyone had clearly identified roles, as well as the right knowledge, skills and behaviours to fulfil those roles. The award-winning programme created a learning culture across the business, which improved personal and business performance, staff retention and stability, and resulted in significant financial savings.

And of course, it isn’t just about retaining and supporting existing staff – it’s also about attracting new employees. Because when companies have a purpose-led culture, it attracts like-minded individuals.

Business impact
But creating a purpose-led culture also has to have support from the senior team members too. Research by Harvard Business Review and EY highlighted how executives view the power of purpose; it showed that 89% of executives said a strong sense of collective purpose drives employee satisfaction, whilst 84% said it can positively impact an organisation’s ability to transform.

So support at executive level is crucial to an organisation’s culture. Business leaders have to be a driving force in changing culture – not just through implementing plans and initiatives, but by inspiring their people too.

This doesn’t always come naturally to leaders, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be taught. Take Wakefield Council for example. It needed to secure and sustain performance improvements against a backdrop of cuts. To do so, it instilled a training programme focused on equipping managers with a different set of leadership behaviours and attitudes to improve performance.

The new programme was developed based on a model of input, peer review and further coaching. It created a culture shift, which drove a change in employee values and behaviours – and also led to an increase in collaborative working, staff motivation and confidence in managing performance.

Changing culture through training
When organisations lack purpose, or a strong, positive culture, it can significantly impact on morale, growth and confidence among employees. It’s not always easy to turn that culture around, particularly during difficult or uncertain times. However, one way that businesses can make a difference is through training.

Training isn’t just about enhancing skills but also improving cultures. One example of this is The Oxford Group’s ‘5 Conversations’ programme, which empowers managers to develop more trusting and successful relationships at work, and transform individual and business performance.

What’s more, training can receive royal recognition. As a result of the training programmes that Ginsters and Wakefield Council implemented, last year, along with 31 other organisations, they received a Princess Royal Training Award from HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony at St James’s Palace.

The Awards, delivered by the City & Guilds Group, recognise organisations who successfully link their skills development needs to improved business performance – whether that means financial performance or a more effective working culture. Now in their second year, the Awards are open to all businesses and are free to enter.

Changing a culture requires an investment of time and potentially money. But the outcomes are certainly worth it.

For more information about the Princess Royal Training Awards, please visit

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