Last week I was hearing Peter Betzel, Managing Director of IKEA India talk about IKEA’s history and ways of working. IKEA, the world’s largest in furniture and home furnishing says that they create a better everyday life for the many people. They look for people who are keenly interested in home furnishing. That set me thinking about the hundreds of companies we hire people for.
Another such experience that came to mind was Decathlon, global major in sports goods retailing. Their mission statement says, Decathlon makes sport accessible for the many. While recruiting, they look for people who love sports and lead an active life. One can understand this as a qualifying criterion for customer-facing functions. However, you wonder why a person in functions like finance, supply chain, IT or HR must be sport-loving to be a good employee.
Do these practices serve all organisations well? Why should one do this?
They work intuitively
We know the impact when the musicians in an orchestra play harmoniously. They not only work hard in rehearsals but must bond well with one another to stay in sync as a natural process. It is more likely than not, they produce a symphony easily. Great results are seen when minds and hearts are in sync.
When an organisation’s purpose is clearly understood by all its stakeholders, its employees intuitively relate to their roles and visualise the course ahead. They do not need much guidance and coaching on the course of action when challenged with difficulties and debacles. Their managers do not need to counsel and keep showing them the way ahead. They are often self-directed and motivated. They turn out to be very effective employees and co-create the organisation’s future.
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How do you check the alignment with the organisation’s purpose?
Organisations publish statements describing their mission, purpose or spirit. They hope to motivate their employees along their mission statement. Also at the same time, they hope to communicate their uniqueness to their customers, suppliers and partners through this statement. A job aspirant can easily access this statement and prepare oneself to establish the alignment with this statement. We need skilled assessors to check if the candidate has an intrinsic leaning towards the purpose.
We have to hold exploratory and probing conversations with a candidate to understand one’s aspirations, likes and dislikes. If we speak to people who know the candidate well, we can get a good idea about the candidate such as the triggers for taking up the role, preferences, ambitions and strengths.
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Is the purpose working well?
It is important to have a statement that is well-understood and at the same time, the organisation must assign adequate resources to make sure that the purpose is lived each day through the systems and processes.
Else the purpose statement remains lifeless on the walls and serves as a joke for the watercooler conversations.
For example, it is not enough to talk about innovation in the mission statement or purpose. The organisation must have a culture of innovation, the structure must have roles to pursue innovation, and the systems and processes must facilitate innovation. They must reward the employees showing the desired behaviours and delivering superior results. They have to ensure that capable people are in the right roles to deliver the desired results.
Leaders have an important role to ensure that they invoke the organisation’s purpose in the strategic planning process and deliberate on this. They need to review the structure, processes and systems from time to time to check if these are serving the purpose appropriately.
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We need to articulate the purpose, build the enabling structure, systems and processes, and provide the right resources to ensure that the mechanism is working well. We need the right people in every role of the organisation to take the mission effectively forward.