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Recognising the importance of purpose

Claire Bonenfant, country director for SThree in France, discusses the growing influence that purpose is having on organisations.

In recent years, many companies have started to place their purpose statement at the heart of everything they do. Whether that’s driving new business with clients, attracting the best candidates or giving a clear and consistent direction to employees, the importance of having a strong purpose is being recognised around the world.

Research has shown that purpose-led brands and companies perform better and are more attractive to candidates than those who don’t have a clear purpose. In the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer 2019, 67% of employees who were surveyed said they expect their employer to have a greater purpose while 25% said having a purpose was a deal-breaker and they’d never work for an organisation that didn’t have one. And last year Unilever announced that its purpose-led ‘Sustainable Living’ brands were growing 69% faster than the rest of its business.

But does it work for every company?

At SThree, we have a clear purpose, which is “to bring skilled people together to build the future” and that is central to everything we do throughout the world. It’s about creating value by changing the lives of talented candidates around the world, who will in turn go on to change and enhance the lives of our grandchildren by providing our clients with the skills, expertise and problem solving they need to thrive.

But just having a purpose alone isn’t enough to drive success.

In France our success has been linked to our ability to translate our purpose into our organisational design and culture. Our operating model is centred around our customers and whenever we meet clients, we take the time to understand what the most appropriate staffing solution is for them.

When speaking to candidates we find out about their lives so we can advise them better on employment types. For some of them, the security of a permanent position will be more important than the flexibility they would get as a freelancer. And vice versa.

Next to that, we empower our people to serve our customers better by giving them the tools to make decisions themselves. We try to continuously challenge our own practices to improve our ways of working and our productivity levels.

Purpose in recruitment

As recruiters, we are fortunate to work in an industry that has a strong impact on lives and the future economy. By connecting to our purpose, recruitment companies have an opportunity to increase their performance and contribute positively to our clients’ development while offering exciting career opportunities to our candidates.

Recruiters need to listen to the market evolution and have an organisational design that allows people to make decisions that are in the best interest of their customers and the organisation more quickly. It’s about keeping up with the pace and expectations of clients and candidates.

We are also facing some of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced, with climate change, sustainable development, global hunger and the gap in the economy to name a few. We know solutions won’t be coming from one isolated individual but from collective intelligence and cooperation.

As business leaders, we must support our colleagues to develop teamwork and collaboration. We must choose cooperation over competition. By doing so we will contribute to develop an empowered workforce who can aspire to help shape a world where well-being and sustainability – for themselves, for others, and for the planet – is achievable.

Where do we start?

The need for a clear purpose has never been so important for individuals and companies. It has been well established that purpose-driven organisations perform better than their peers. In the 2000s, having a set of values on the wall and on your website might have been enough to attract and retain the best talent but that’s certainly not the case now.

Organisations need to live and breathe their purpose and their leaders must align their behaviours and performance objectives to this purpose if they want to thrive. Business leaders must listen to colleagues and customers to understand their needs and what obstacles they face every day. That will help colleagues improve their performance and help customers have a better buying experience.

Ask yourself, your colleagues and your customers, ‘is my organisation set up to serve my purpose? How would my customers perceive our decision-making process? How can we have a positive impact on our clients?’

When you’ve done this, share your findings with your teams and customers and use that information to drive your organisation to be purpose-driven and one with high ambitions.

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