1 in 3 large firm employees would choose purpose over a higher salary

New research[1] by Given, to mark the second edition of The Insider’s Guide To Purpose Volume 2, reveals a mismatch between employees’ purpose commitment and large firms’ purpose implementation

Large firm employees are invested in purpose:

  • 1 in 3 large firm employees would choose purpose over a higher salary when considering a company to work for
  • 48% of large firm employees want more action when it comes to their company’s purpose

But, large firm employees are critical of their company’s purpose approach, believing their purpose needs to be more embedded in order to truly drive change

  • 70% of employees at large firms feel their company’s purpose is conflicted, or only somewhat aligned, with day-to-day operations
  • 64% of employees of large firms feel the business has changed only a little or not at all as a result of setting out its purpose

To mark the launch of The Insiders’ Guide to Purpose, Volume 2: How to transform your business,’ Given, the agency for purpose-driven businesses, has commissioned new research with over 2,000 UK employees, to get an inside view on the state of purpose within companies. The research has exposed employees’ views of corporate purpose and their assessment of the approach taken by the companies they work for. In the findings relating to large firms, the research showed a ‘business purpose gap,’ with employees demonstrating a strong commitment to purpose at the same time as feeling their company’s purpose approach was lacking. The research suggests that large firms are not just out of touch with the attitudes of their employees, it also suggests that, without sufficient action, they are missing out on the benefits of purpose – on talent, innovation, customer loyalty and therefore long-term performance.

Large firm employees are invested in purpose

The research revealed that a significant proportion of large firm employees, 32% (or 1 in 3,) said that purpose would be more important to them than a higher salary when choosing a company to work for. The findings also showed that almost half of large firm employees (48%) want to see more action from their companies to fulfil their purpose.

Large firm employees’ attitudes to purpose reflects what we already know about their role in both demanding a deeper commitment to business purpose from their employers, and the critical part they play in its embedding.

Increasingly, employees are demanding vocally that the organisations they work for step-up and this is especially the case for companies which attract and need a younger talent base. An important benefit of being a purpose-driven business is around employee retention. There is compelling data to show how purpose-driven companies attract, motivate and retain their workforce. People are inspired by the chance to make a difference and so increasingly, job seekers are engaging with companies that have strong stances to make a difference in the world and who take a deliberate approach in communicating this.

Involving employees in a company’s purpose is also a critical part of it becoming truly purpose-driven. In ‘The Insiders’ Guide to Purpose, Volume 2: How to transform your business’ we show business leaders how to engage colleagues in their purpose delivery, and the role managers, critical business influencers (‘mavens’) and the employee mass play. In the guide, Becky Wollam, Purpose Activation Lead at the John Lewis Partnership said; “The John Lewis Partnership is an employee-owned business. Engaging Partners has been central to the embedding of our refreshed Purpose. We have invested time and resources to get this right, focusing on key groups of Partners who have helped bring our Purpose to life.”

Large firm employees are critical of their company’s purpose approach, believing their purpose needs to be more embedded in order to truly drive change

The ‘business purpose gap’ uncovered by the research was driven by the mismatch in large firm employees’ commitment to purpose against their criticism of their company’s approach. The research suggested that what large firms are saying and committing to when it comes to purpose is not being lived on a day-to-day basis, with over half (70%) of employees feeling their company’s purpose was either conflicted or only somewhat aligned with daily operations. A lack of purpose delivery reflects that, although purpose is on the agenda for most CEOs, employees aren’t seeing the evidence of transformation or focus on a new agenda. The focus needs to turn from good intentions to serious action and answering some big questions; how do we embed our purpose? how do we create meaningful change in our business? how do we avoid the risks of purpose-wash?

The findings also showed a lack of change when it came to large firm’s purpose. Over half of large firm employees (64%) felt their company had changed the way it operates only a little or not at all as a result of purpose. Genuine purpose which is embedded in a business should be driving real change. It should be showing up in a range of metrics: profit, sales and share price; customer engagement, loyalty and market share; recruitment, retention and employee engagement; and environmental and social impact – to name only the most obvious. The fact that employees are experiencing a lack of change suggests that the majority of large businesses just aren’t doing enough and are not taking enough action.

Becky Willan, CEO and co-founder of Given said; “The case for purpose-driven business models is now so evident that it should no longer need to be made. Through their operations, organisations that contribute positively to a sustainable and inclusive future are simultaneously driving their own success.

“But no one said becoming a truly purpose-driven business was easy. It takes commitment and leadership; action, not just words. Our research reveals the positive news that employees are increasingly engaged but, at the same time, a worrying lack of action from larger firms. At best, this means businesses are missing out on the full promise of purpose but at worst, it exposes businesses to the risk of purpose-wash when purpose only shows up in marketing or PR.

“I’m excited to see our research reveal a strong appetite for more action on purpose. The second edition of our Insiders’ Guide to Purpose is designed to help businesses not only take action but embed change throughout an organisation so that they can realise the social impact and commercial benefits that come from being truly purpose-driven.”

‘The Insiders’ Guide to Purpose, Volume 2: How to transform your business’ is the second edition of Given’s Insiders’ Guide series. The newest edition of the guide is designed to help business leaders make the shift from being a company with a purpose statement to a truly purpose-driven business. To download a free copy of ‘The Insiders’ Guide to Purpose II, Volume 2: How to transform your business’ business leaders should visit:

For further information about Given, the original agency for purpose-driven businesses, please visit:

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