cover photo Reflect Blog
Ingo Kallenbach

The question of the purpose of a company

Does this sound familiar? The way to work is not too long, the salary is usual for that industry, the colleagues and managers are pleasant and the workload is okay. Actually, everything fits, but nevertheless almost every fourth person in Germany drags himself unmotivated into the office (Gontek, 2020).




Why is it essential to see a purpose in what you are doing at work?

There are many factors that influence our motivation. Motivation from the outside via material incentives such as salary, company car or a smartphone proves to be only slightly effective in practice in increasing motivation in the long term. If you don't see the sense in your work, even the new job title is forgotten after two months.

It is often more important for employees to see the purpose of their work. The basis is the human striving for self-realization. This desire for self-fulfillment and sense fulfillment is particularly effective when other, basic needs, such as food and drink, personal security or closeness to others are fulfilled. Then people often ask themselves questions like "What is my higher meaning? Why do I do what I do? What do I want to contribute to?".

If the employees find an answer to these questions in their own organization, their performance increases accordingly. The challenge for decision-makers is therefore to help employees to develop their potential in times of VUCA. The framework conditions must be created accordingly so that the potential can be developed. People cannot be motivated from the outside, but it is possible to create conditions that contribute to motivation.


What role does the company play in this? How does it answer the question of meaning?

People create value and thus decide on the success or failure of the company. Unmotivated employees with little or no intrinsic motivation are not only sick more often, they also quit their jobs much faster, achieve lower customer satisfaction and contribute much less to the organization's value creation.

Furthermore, companies are facing a generational change. Generations Y and Z no longer work exclusively for money. Remuneration must match the position, no question. Above all, they want to work in companies with sustainable structures and be able to identify with the values of the company.

Industry 3.0 was - driven by the shareholder value of the 1990s - very profit-oriented. For many reasons, this focused profit orientation no longer matches the spirit of the times. We are therefore experiencing a paradigm shift towards sense orientation.

In order to recruit suitably qualified people, companies should look at their purpose - the question of meaning. Sense poses substantial questions to companies: What would society lack if your organization did not do what it does? What is the very purpose of the company? What is the company's contribution to society and the environment?

Finding meaningful answers here that are authentic, credible and coherent is one of the most important milestones in a transformation process for organizations. This can be a lot of work, but in a process that involves as many employees as possible, it can lead to a deeper understanding of the organization. In addition, the deeper meaning of an organization can give orientation to the employees and thus have a positive effect on intrinsic motivation.


Why are purpose-led companies more successful?


Employees identify themselves with the company

The effect of purpose on the productivity and success of employees is proven. Purpose-oriented employees show higher commitment and describe their job as more fulfilling. They outperform their colleagues in every respect, from the length of time they stay with the company, to customer satisfaction and their leadership skills (LinkedIn study).

Loyal customers who pay attention to sustainable consumption

The purpose, however, by far not only concerns the employees in the company. Many consumers are increasingly critical of their consumption. We have been experiencing this change in the food industry, but also in the fashion and automotive industries for some time now.

Especially traditional companies are watching this change more or less helplessly. Thanks to digitalization, comparison is easy, the competition is global. Sense, transparency and sustainability are therefore the drivers for securing a long-term competitive advantage.

Identification of the community

"Think globally, act locally" - companies are an important part of society. They support the economy, promote infrastructure, offer people a job and thus prosperity, livelihood and security. Strengthening the sense of community and creating a positive image begins in the neighborhood.

If a company sees its purpose not only in surviving but also in being a part of society and making a significant contribution to it, this purpose can be felt right up to the front door or over the factory fence. Many companies open up to their immediate neighbors and thus become part of a comprehensive community. We see this in company daycare centers, sports facilities or even canteens that open up to the general public. This strengthens the bond with one another and the purpose can be actively experienced.


The question of purpose in companies is not only asked by employees, but also by consumers and society as a whole. Companies that focus solely on profit will increasingly fail. Purpose starts inside, but carries itself outwards into society.

We would therefore like to encourage you to think about the following questions: What value contribution does your organization make to the environment and society? How much are the employees of your company aware of this? Assuming that you have a strong purpose that all employees would really live up to, what would this change?

In recent years, we have been able to gather a lot of experience in how to implement appropriate holistic transformation processes in companies. The search for and formulation of the company's own purpose is just as essential as a human-centered, participatory development process. We would be happy to support you in successfully designing such a process. Contact us and let us talk about a suitable approach for you. Act now and establish purpose in your company!



Gontek, F. (10.03.2020) "Germany is frustrated world champion" published by Spiegelonline
LinkedIn study "2016 Global report: Purpose at work" available at this link