Purpose, Values, and Guiding Principles

Categories: Management

By Harry Dochelli | March 25, 2022 << Back to Articles

Acquiring and retaining workers is one of the many challenges all industries are facing now. The pandemic can bear some blame for this. But there are many reasons driving this.

Among them is a new phenomenon that has been called The Great Resignation, where many workers are rethinking their jobs, taking a break, or pursuing new interests. As a result, our industry, like many others, is now facing a labor shortage, and the battle for workers has increased considerably. In this battle, the cost to acquire new workers has gone up with the addition of signing bonuses, higher wages, expanded benefits, and increased flexibility.

These are the tangible offerings that allow workers to make objective comparisons and draw conclusions, but the intangible benefits also play a significant role, not only for the workers that employers are trying to hire, but also for the ones they are trying to retain. In fact, the intangible benefits an employer provides, or lack of, can be a key differentiator in today’s employment environment.

One way the intangibles are often described is by one word: Culture. But that term can be broad and elusive. To break that down further, the components that drive culture are a company’s purpose, values, and guiding principles. They can go by different names, but they, or variations of them, form the basis of a strong culture. They drive culture and support employee retention, not just because they exist within a company, but because employees value them, and the company makes a concerted effort to ensure their workers are aware of them and live them. In short, they take effort.

They can feel very conceptual and not substantive, but there have been many studies that have looked at companies with a well-defined purpose and values. These studies consistently show that companies with strong purpose and values consistently perform at the top of Best Places to Work surveys and have business results that outperform the competition. When developing these, the purpose is the best place to start. For a company, purpose answers the question of why they do what they do, beyond just making money. When done well, a purpose should be inspiring and aspirational, authentic to the company, and concise. It should serve as the North Star for the company.

Values work hand in hand with purpose. They help answer how a company will follow through on its purpose and help guide and drive all behaviors. They also help provide focus and a greater sense of connection and engagement, reinforcing broader company goals and guiding everyday decisions at work.

Closing out this power trio are the guiding principles. These are the moral and ethical beliefs of a company and are intended to complement values. These are meant to guide overall organizational behavior and decision-making and should be firm and unchanging, even when the business strategy may change over time or if values may require a refresh. Through any change, guiding principles should remain steady.

Purpose, values, and guiding principles may not be the first things that come to mind when considering your employee acquisition and retention strategies. But if you’ve taken the time to build a strong purpose-driven culture, make sure these are at the forefront of your communication with potential new hires.

About the Author.

Harry Dochelli is the former president of ISSA, and is the CEO and president of Essendant, a distribution and fulfillment company with a leading role in the cleaning industry.