UPDATED 12 MAY 2023 . INSIGHTS
Credit: Stella McCartney
Today's business landscape underscores the necessity of a compelling corporate mission. With digital technology bridging the gap between companies and consumers, people are increasingly seeking brands that offer more than just products or services—they seek brands that offer perspectives and values. Much like avoiding a dinner companion devoid of interesting conversation, consumers are steering away from brands lacking a clear viewpoint. Brands authentically representing specific values, especially ones that resonate with their consumer base, are attracting more attention and loyalty than ever before.
However, many organisations are still hesitant to fully embrace the concept of a mission. Instead, they primarily focus on their business models, relegating their mission to a secondary role. While securing the bottom line may seem pragmatic, such an approach is no longer adequate. In today's interlinked world of mission and model, companies failing to invest in a strong mission risk alienating their future customers.
The corporate mission has evolved beyond being a mere marketing tactic; it now serves as an operational cornerstone. A McKinsey survey involving U.S. workers indicated that while 82% considered corporate purpose to be important, only 42% felt their current employer provided a meaningful mission. Managing a team devoid of a shared purpose can be a daunting task, a sentiment supported by statistics: employees driven by a mission are 54% more likely to remain with a company for over five years, compared to those driven only by a paycheck. As Millennials and Gen Z become increasingly prevalent in the workforce, this mission-driven approach will continue to gain importance. The World Economic Forum notes that Millennials prioritise 'sense of purpose' just behind salary when selecting employment opportunities.
Despite such compelling evidence, the commitment to mission within many organisations remains disappointingly lax. An experiment by Financial Times columnist Lucy Kellaway revealed this disconnect: while presenting to a group of executives, she read out brand values sourced from corporate websites, asking attendees to identify their own. Out of 24 executives, only 5 were able to correctly identify their company's values. Buzzwords like 'innovation,' 'challenge,' and 'diversity' abound in mission statements, but few companies can articulate how these translate into actionable initiatives. In essence, missions that lack operational depth are inconsequential.
The presence of a robust, integrated mission allows companies to adapt and respond more effectively to unforeseen challenges. Brands that superficially adhere to their mission often find themselves in choppy waters, attracting significant public backlash for actions misaligned with their declared principles.
Brands with steadfast missions tend to secure long-term consumer trust, even in challenging times. Take, for example, Patagonia and its unwavering stance on environmental issues. The brand has consistently upheld its mission through continued support for its workforce and sustainable consumer practices. Similarly, Pret a Manger garnered national attention in the U.K. for extending support to healthcare workers, a move in perfect harmony with their social values.
Not all missions have to be grand or revolutionary. What's essential is that they are authentic, inspiring, and executed with meticulous care. This involves considering all stakeholders—from employees and customers to suppliers—and infusing the mission into every business operation. Companies like Gucci have even instituted 'shadow boards,' comprising younger employees, to keep their mission relevant and effective.
Every organisation needs to undergo a personalised journey to establish its mission, a process that we at Design & Build facilitate for our clients regularly. Once that mission is in place, it should be ingrained throughout the organisation, serving as a guiding light for both employees and strategic decisions. In a world evermore defined by direct consumer relationships, a well-executed mission may just be the most powerful tool at your disposal.
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