By Saul Whitton, Senior Director, Talent Acquisition – EMEA, DocuSign
Purpose beyond profit is increasingly important in business. But what is it about purpose that helps organisations, and its people, to succeed?
Companies that offer purpose outperform the competition
A few years back, I read some interesting research from Harvard Business School revealing that purposeful, value-driven companies outperform competitors’ stock price by a hefty factor of 12. The primary reason? That a singular, well-articulated purpose means employees can better identify with their employer and what they are trying to achieve. This in turn leads to greater engagement, helping employees to acquire new skills and even feel more confident to take reasonable risks.
Millennials with a strong connection to the purpose of their organisation are over five times more likely to stay
The drivers behind the growing importance of purpose are linked to broader social trends. Modern consumer and B2B customers want brands to be socially conscious, before making purchasing decisions in their favour. Likewise, the millennial generation prioritises purpose-led organisations when job hunting. So businesses with a purpose that’s based on a strong set of values get first pick of the best candidates. Crucially, purpose also helps to retain that talent. A PWC study found that millennials with a strong connection to the purpose of their organisation are over five times more likely to stay.
Creating purpose-centric company culture
While it’s clear that a strong sense of purpose creates business benefits, what’s less obvious is how a company identifies and communicates it in the first place. Latching on to the latest CSR-friendly trends just doesn’t cut it. Brand purpose must be authentic, meaningful, and reflected throughout an organisation at every level. For most businesses, a culture shift needs to be driven from the top down.
In DocuSign’s case, CEO Dan Springer and his leadership team recognised early on that while the company’s primary offering helps simplify agreements processes and accelerate business, it’s also about helping organisations to reduce waste. Wasted time, wasted resources, and most notably, natural resources in the form of the wasted paper. Since 2003, DocuSign and its customers have replaced billions of sheets of paper with digital processes, saving countless trees in the process. That’s why it made sense for the business’s purpose to be rooted in environmental sustainability.
DocuSign’s support for the protection of the world’s forests
Today, our purpose is lived out in campaigns like DocuSign for Forests, supporting non-profits doing critical work to protect the world’s forests. As well as significant financial commitments, the campaign includes employee volunteering, and an environmental impact calculator allowing senders and signers to quantify waste reduction and the positive impact that their paper reduction efforts could have on the environment.
By prioritising purpose, firms can adopt a policy of only employing the best candidates.
Aligning purpose with product to deliver real customer benefits in this way is essential. But more needs to be done if purpose is to become a part of company culture. Employee buy-in is key, and means explaining how that broader business purpose relates to each employees day-to-day role. One way to do this is by building it into performance assessment processes. This requires individuals to set objectives that align with purpose and measure success accordingly.
Another approach is to allow employees the freedom to choose how they engage. The DocuSign IMPACT initiative, for instance, focuses heavily on employee volunteering, giving staff paid time off to participate in worthwhile causes. Importantly, they’re encouraged to take action in their own communities, helping causes close to their hearts.
With markets like the UK, Ireland and Germany showing almost full employment, and skills shortages common across industries, purpose can be a big differentiator. We’ve experienced this firsthand in a crowded tech space where lots of companies vie for the same talent. By prioritising purpose, firms can adopt a policy of only employing the best candidates. This naturally leads to a better employee experience, which tends to result in employees becoming your best ambassadors.
An authentic, purpose-driven brand is critical in an age of extreme transparency where anyone can make instant reputational assessments using news and digital media. And, in an environment where digitisation is disrupting business models, purpose provides management, employees and customers with a valuable sense of continuity.
As Senior Director of Talent Acquisition, Saul Whitton is building and scaling DocuSign’s EMEA operations, hiring top performers for all business units in London, Dublin, Tel Aviv, Paris and Germany.