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The purpose advantage

"Purpose drives profit by galvanising employees to work together in their commitment to achieving something bigger and more impactful.”

In the modern business landscape, a transformation is underway. More than profit margins or market dominance, organisations are embracing a deeper ethos – one centred around purpose.


This shift isn’t about ticking boxes or good public relations; it’s a strategic move redefining success.


A compelling purpose represents the heart and soul of an organisation. It should articulate why they exist and what they stand for.


Yet it should also be aspirational, acting as a guiding star for everyone in their decision-making. Steering actions around who they serve, how they go about their business and forming the basis of internal culture and behaviour.


The growing impetus for organisations to be purpose-driven has been fuelled by the events and cultural shifts over the last decade.


Those which led with purpose cultivated resilience; navigated hybrid work models following the pandemic; developed flexible workforces capable of embracing rapid technological change and built trust with the public who increasingly demand brands align with their values.


More impact


And the business case for purpose is strong. Research shows purpose-led organisations make more money, attract and retain more talent and forge better relationships with their customers.


Purpose drives profit by galvanising employees to work together in their commitment to achieving something bigger and more impactful.


At last year’s Purpose Conference on Gadigal Land in Sydney, more than 1,000 people came together to learn from industry leaders and join in conversations about reimagining business and embedding purpose as a part of corporate DNA.


While many organisations talk about priorisiting purpose, speakers unpacked how to be authentically purposeful and how leaders can put purpose into practice.


Here are four takeaways for organisations to blend purpose into their operations and ultimately, make greater impact.



1.    Employees must be connected to purpose to drive innovation


An aspirational purpose guides conversations on what more can be done. When employees understand their organisational purpose and their role in contributing to a shared goal, they are more willing to invest their energy into new ideas.


Louise Tran of OzHarvest, a leading organisation in food rescue and education, spoke of their purpose being plastered across office walls to encourage employees to dream big and make an impact.


This culture gave rise to OzHarvest Ventures, a division focused on disruption and scaling solutions to environmental and social challenges.


2.    Be playful, grow imagination and better storytelling


A shared purpose fuels innovation, but big change requires the freedom of big imagination.


Andy Miller, CEO of alcohol-free beer Heaps Normal, says play is critical to unlocking imagination. A culture of “unserious” play is grown by telling better, humorous stories which disrupt the norm, establish new rituals and ultimately, deliver “serious” impact.


Organisations which lead with purpose should not underestimate its power. Roya Azadi of strategic design agency PaperGiant reminded us: “what we imagine today will be the future for the next generation”.


In the case of Heaps Normal, this play mindset allowed them to reimagine – and shift – the dominant public narrative on drinking culture in Australia.


3.    Purpose-led impact can be fast moving


While purpose involves planning, things do not have to be perfect.


Jess Miller, former Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney and Director of A New Normal Sydney, emphasized the importance of shifting from ‘thinking’ to ‘doing’. An ambitious vision means not “working in timelines that are beyond the realm of conceivability”. Waiting is no longer an excuse.


A New Normal wants to transform cities to run on renewable resources and Miller says limitless possibility is driven by imagination, collaboration and bravery.  


4.    Senior leaders must drive purpose-led change


There is often a misalignment between what leaders believe their purpose is and how they behave.


Matching actions with rhetoric requires leaders to embody organisational purpose,  including modelling big imagination and play and encouraging teams to ‘just do’.


Co-founder of the Aoeteroa-based online investment platform Sharesies, Brooke Roberts, spoke of the importance of a ‘what if’ mindset – fostering an aspirational culture where employees want to create great things and long-term success.


ANZ launched its own purpose seven years ago – to shape a world where people and communities thrive. The choice of words may have been new, but ANZ has focused on unlocking opportunities this way since the 1830s, financing commerce and facilitating trade.


Purpose is not something new, but rather something enduring. And this means there is always more to be done.


Along with other organisations leading authentically with purpose, ANZ is on a journey of learning and unlocking new opportunities which will deliver more value to the communities in which we operate. 


Julia Ford is Purpose Engagement Manager at ANZ

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