Purpose ‘worthless’ without staff engagement, says Old Mutual CEO

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Having a clear purpose is “worthless” unless every person in the organisation is engaged with it, according to wealth management firm Old Mutual CEO Paul Feeney.

Feeney was speaking at the A Blueprint for Better Business conference – Putting Purpose into Practice - in London yesterday.

Feeney told delegates how he’d originally come up with a purpose for his organisation, but that it had failed to engage and inspire his workforce.

“The response was ‘so what’,” he said. “If people don’t engage with your purpose, if it doesn’t resonate with or mobilise people, then it’s worthless.”

In response, Feeney consulted with employees to come up with a purpose that “every single person” could engage with.

“The purpose itself isn’t enough,” he said. “It’s how you engage your employees and market to mobilise that purpose.”

Also speaking at the event was Julia Rebolhz, Centrica’s group sustainability director and managing director of Ignite Social Enterprises, an energy investment fund backed by Centrica.

She told how two years ago Centrica started on a journey to restore consumer trust via clarity of purpose.

“The journey started with our employees,” she said. “We asked them what motivated them to come to work everyday. They said: ‘We want to help people’ and ‘We want to secure energy for the future’. That’s what became our purpose.”

“Business is a collection of individuals who come together for a common purpose, so we need to be clear in what that purpose is.”

Vodafone group director of sustainability and director of the Vodafone foundation Andrew Dunnett said companies that are successful in the future will need to answer two simple questions: “Where is the world going and what is our purpose in it?”

A Blueprint for Better Business is a movement that aims to rally business leaders to rediscover the importance of corporate purpose and personal values. 

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