Business management

Prove purpose to win talent

Most business decision-makers agree purpose is at the heart of building a sustainable company but only half have published purpose statements. Find out how to build talented teams.

When you are in a daily battle to manage rising costs, attract and retain employees and win new business, it can be easy to put off ‘softer’ objectives such as defining your company’s purpose.

But business leaders who do not articulate their organisation’s values may find that it hampers their efforts to build a sustainable and resilient company. 

This was made clear in our FutureFit survey of 500 UK business decision-makers from a wide mix of sectors. More than half of the respondents (58%) we polled agree that a sustainable business is one that is both purpose-led and has future-proofed itself by diversifying its supply chains and customer base. 

The importance of purpose for your people

Beyond the ambition to be sustainable, the most compelling reason to define your purpose may be to help attract and retain employees. Nearly half of decision-makers (44%) agree that giving employees purpose at work helps prevent them leaving for a job offer with a slightly higher salary. 

Given that 38% of businesses reveal they are finding it more challenging than before to attract talent, the benefit of holding on to employees – and cutting the cost of recruitment and on-boarding – is clear (see chart).


To what extend do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
(% of respondents who agree) 

Other measures that businesses hope will attract and retain staff in the short term include employee benefits (40%) and higher wages (36%). In the longer term, they plan to trial a four-day week (28%), redesign their office space (27%) and subsidise a canteen (19%). 

Compared with these, defining and articulating your purpose could be a more cost-effective strategy for attracting and retaining staff. 

Your company’s purpose does not need to be a lofty and unrealistic ambition to save the world. In fact, the survey suggests it should be grounded in the work that you do. 

Just over half of the respondents (52%) say their business purpose directly relates to the products or services they offer. And most of those who do (63%) say it has resulted in new opportunities or partnerships.  

61% of respondents whose businesses have published a purpose statement say it was co-created with staff.

It is easier to declare your purpose than to make it a reality, of course, and it is vital that companies live up to their commitments. Just over 51% of respondents agree that ‘purpose needs to be proven through everyday actions within our business’. 

Failing to follow your company’s stated purpose could lead to accusations of ‘purpose washing’. And if your employees are invited to help define this purpose but later see that it is not being followed, it could do more harm than good. 

Three ways to live by your purpose

  • Get your people involved: make your staff champions of your company’s purpose by involving them in the process of creating it so that they feel invested in the business’ success.
  • More than just a statement: ensure your organisation’s purpose is being proven through everyday actions within the business.
  • Prove it – put measurement frameworks in place to help ensure that the purpose is being followed and that your organisation is committed to it. 

Get future fit

Tomorrow’s truly sustainable businesses will be built on the actions we take today.

Discover more ideas here 

This material is published by NatWest Group plc (“NatWest Group”), for information purposes only and should not be regarded as providing any specific advice. Recipients should make their own independent evaluation of this information and no action should be taken, solely relying on it. This material should not be reproduced or disclosed without our consent. It is not intended for distribution in any jurisdiction in which this would be prohibited. Whilst this information is believed to be reliable, it has not been independently verified by NatWest Group and NatWest Group makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) of any kind, as regards the accuracy or completeness of this information, nor does it accept any responsibility or liability for any loss or damage arising in any way from any use made of or reliance placed on, this information. Unless otherwise stated, any views, forecasts, or estimates are solely those of NatWest Group, as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Copyright © NatWest Group. All rights reserved.

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