I was recently at the 10th anniversary of Silicon Valley Comes to the UK, a not-for-profit organisation that aims to help first-time CEOs of fast-growth companies (like me) achieve their potential.
During our final round table workshop the facilitator asked us to discuss how we retain good people.
We unanimously agreed that culture and values are vital to retaining staff, something I’ve written about before, but I think that is only half of the battle.
Whilst a member of the team will say it’s important they buy into a company’s values and culture, I believe that what really keeps people engaged is a sense of purpose.
What is purpose?
Simon Sinek discusses the importance of purpose in his TED talk, proposing that purpose is an important part of why people get out of bed in the morning.
Purpose helps individuals connect their day-to-day work to a bigger cause. It gives their actions meaning.
Whilst a product, or a service is what a business does, and culture is how a business does it, purpose is why it’s doing it. Its higher calling. The way it is trying to change the world. Purpose is the crucial why which Sinek refers to.
Why purpose is important
The bottom line is that humans need meaning. Meaning drives fulfilment which drives happiness. And people like to be happy.
The Clean Space is a cleaning company – in one of the least ‘sexy’ industries there is. But somehow we’ve gathered a great group of people who stick.
A clear sense of purpose has helped me recruit amazing people who wouldn’t normally want to work in the cleaning industry. It’s helped drive those people to do great work and it’s meant that fewer of them have wanted to leave. Our staff turnover is currently a third of the industry average.
It has made our team commit to the cause and, by extension, the business.
But on top of that, it has also created a sense of meaning for some of our clients. We have definitely had clients who have chosen us because of our purpose. And many of our clients have remained loyal for the same reason.
The key point is that all the above leads to better business performance. Purpose has helped the business succeed.
Purpose in our business: Our mission
The Clean Space has always had a clear purpose.
People often ask me why I started a business in such a grotty industry. The answer I always give is that I saw an opportunity to do things differently. To build a business that looked after the cleaners instead of exploiting them.
As a start-up, with only a handful of staff, this purpose was easy to communicate. However, as the team has grown bigger we have needed to codify it into a mission statement.
I wanted to capture what our purpose is, both as a collective and as individuals working to grow a better business.
To do this, I got the team together and asked them a single question: if the entire company was wiped out tomorrow what would we want the legacy of The Clean Space to be?
The resulting debate led us to our purpose.
For me, in a similar way to defining our values, it was key that the mission came from the people in the business (rather than in a top-down directive). It has resulted in a mission that the whole team understand and buy into.
I am incredibly proud of the result:
We are on a mission to improve the lives of cleaners by promoting respect, recognition and reward for outstanding service delivery.
We are building something special in an industry where ‘special’ is not usually found. Our approach will show others that there is a better way to succeed in the cleaning industry. Others will see our lead and follow it.
If my team are waking up every day and working hard to achieve that mission, then the business is in a very good place.
What’s your mission?
I really believe that being able to connect daily activity to bigger goals is crucial to both happiness and success. It’s worked for The Clean Space so far and will continue to guide the business into the future.
I also believe it applies equally to individuals as well as businesses. Which leads me to ask you: if you were wiped out tomorrow, what would you want your legacy to be?