On day two of Spectra, the online conference focusing on reputation management, Deia Campanelli, Chief Communications Officer and Head of Sustainability at Wabtec Corporation, addressed the importance of purpose in driving culture.
Labelling purpose as one of the most powerful tools of organisation, she explained, “At its most basic level, purpose expresses what an organisation inspires to be or do. At its most advanced level, it becomes the expression of how an organisation intends to evolve or transform. I think that purpose is not passive; it’s not even linear – it is transformational and reaps such rewards when promoted in its truest form.”
Citing examples of how companies like Microsoft and Apple work with purpose, helping transform the world, she said, “At its core, Microsoft is helping every person achieve more and in doing so, they are fundamentally re-thinking the way that business and partnerships work. Apple started making PCs in the 1970s and today is arguably one of the best-known companies selling billions of mobile phones that we can’t live without. They have also become the world’s largest music store. These companies and so many like them recognise that disruption is everywhere.”
Campanelli further added how businesses are chasing technologies that are evolving at an exponential rate of change every day. It’s companies that view transformation as an ethos that will write and change the future.
Creating a purposeful culture
Campanelli explained the three key pillars to building a purposeful culture in an organisation:
1. Compelling story
Storytelling doesn’t exist for mere entertainment; it connects and shapes feelings, beliefs, and actions in one’s mind. “People are focused on conveying the message they want people to know, without tapping into purpose and meaning to cultivate empathy,” she elaborated.
Herein, she mentioned Starbucks, a brand that could easily be described as a coffee company but has become so much more than that. It wants to be the place between home and one that provides safety, protection and comfort, a place that is inviting, community-oriented and where everyone is welcome.
2. Committed leaders
“More than two billion search results show up for ‘leadership’ on Google,” says Campanelli, emphasising that leaders are facing a really difficult task – looking to bridge the gap between what a company says and does.
According to her, “That say-do ratio is so important when it comes to purpose. When a company says that it’s committed to innovation, then employees expect the leaders of that company to make time, space and investment to make new ideas, even during a downturn. When a company says that it supports collaboration, then employees expect leaders to support cross-functional relationships. And if a company wants to move at the speed of the world around them, then you have to expect leaders to remove barriers, not create them. It’s when you have that disconnect between the message and the messenger that confusion, resentment and resignation set in. In that very moment, purpose fails.”
3. Employee belief
Campanelli stated that the third leg for purposeful behaviour is employee belief, the importance of symbols and rituals in reinforcing a company’s purpose.
“Employees believe in the purpose when it is supported by symbols that show progress and rituals that change behaviour. Symbols are one of the most powerful tools we have to demonstrate the truth behind what we are saying,” she states.
She believes that if a company states that its purpose is knowledge, then it needs to make appropriate spends on training and development to create the best and brightest people. “Everything is based around symbols, whether it’s hiring practices, budgets and investment choices. Even your office design tells a story and communicates symbolic messages. Symbols exist whether you communicate them or not,” she said. Campanelli believes that a company should not only create deliberate symbols but should also avoid or understand accidental ones that could work against the vision the leadership team are building.
“The flipside is rituals. Rituals can be designed in anything – they can be part of your onboarding process, they can be about how you give bonuses, how you conduct training and development. This is an area where we can be fun and creative as communicators. A great example of this: innovation was at the core of my previous company’s culture, so much so that the topic of failure –a taboo in some companies – was openly discussed and in so many ways it was even celebrated. This is because the company knew that creativity and innovation had to co-exist,” she says, in as she finishes.