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Purpose and a compelling story: the basic elements for alignment

by Bea Aarnoutse

Creating an aligned organisation begins with having a story that is widely shared and understood. A story that makes clear what the organisation stands for and where it’s going. The frame this story creates is the first step in ensuring employees feel connected to the organisation – or want to connect with it.

For both current as well as potential employees, a story can bring an abstract strategy to life: why the organisation exists; its values; the challenges it faces; how it plans to take them on; and what it expects from the people who work for it. For prospective employees, a compelling story makes clear why he or she should choose to work there, and what that’s like. For the people who already work there, the story sketches out the context in which the organisation operates and helps guide you in your daily work. For departing employees, the story is an affirmation of what was good about working there, so encouraging them to become unofficial ambassadors for the organisation.

For all these reasons, it is crucial that the story addresses employees at all three stages in their journey: from prior to joining, through their time in the organisation, and long after they have left. A convincing, well-thought-through story clearly sets out the organisation’s reason to exist – its purpose. People commit to organisations based on conviction and the sense of higher purpose. At least they do if the organisation’s convictions and purpose are in line with their own attitudes and take on life.

Today, awareness and interest in an organisation’s purpose are playing an increasingly bigger role when it comes to choosing whether to work for company X. Or to stay there. A clear purpose and compelling story are the basis for attracting and keeping employees who will contribute to your strategy in the way you want, at the moment you want. And for having them sing your praises long after they have moved on.

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