How goal-oriented is your organizational culture?

Story Highlights

  • Organizations need goal-oriented cultures that deliver on ESG promises
  • Measurement is key to creating high purpose organizational cultures
  • Determine where you can become more goal-oriented

When your organization succeeds, does the world also prosper?

It’s a big question – and your answer will determine the future of your organization.

In the past, an organization could become exceptional through philanthropy and corporate social responsibility. Today, responsible change and admirable promises are insufficient: people choose to share their resources with organizations of which they are certain share their objective.

Stakeholders want to see and feel that the organizations they buy from and invest in are helping the world prosper through the products and services they provide. In other words, it is not enough to say and do the right things: organizations must to be good, with an economic model that makes the world a better place.

This seismic shift in societal expectations demands an equally seismic response from leaders. To win today and exist tomorrow, leaders must rethink their organization’s purpose and make their purpose the core of their growth strategy.

Leaders are increasingly aware of the need to take a “clearly positive” approach to business. In a visionary manifesto published by harvard business review, Paul Polman and Andrew Winston describe a positive business as one that “improves the well-being of everyone it impacts and at every scale – every product, every operation, every region and country, and for every stakeholder, including employees, suppliers, communities, customers, and even future generations and the planet itself.”

Many leaders assume their purpose already captures the hearts of global stakeholders – but Gallup data suggests otherwise:

  • Only 27% of employees strongly agree that their organization always delivers on the promises it makes to customers.
  • Less than half of B2B customers (46%) firmly believe that the companies they do business with always deliver on their promises.
  • Only four out of 10 employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their organization makes them feel that their work is important.

And if employees feel brand promises aren’t being delivered, they’re likely to stage walkouts and publicly criticize their employers — as Wayfair, Pinterest, Google and others have infamously known.

It is not enough to say and do the right things: organizations must to be good, with an economic model that makes the world a better place.

To remedy this problem, leaders must create a goal-oriented culture, where goals determine “how we do things here.” Culture matters because perception is reality: you are only as “good” as stakeholders think you are – depending on how your culture behaves. No matter what you say to the world, the behavior of your employees will speak louder.

To create trust in your organization, you need a goal-oriented culture.

How goal-oriented is your culture? If the following statements describe you, you are on the right track. If not, now is the time to think about what you need to improve.

  • Our company purpose makes every employee feel that their work matters.
  • Our people believe that leadership is fully aligned with brand and culture priorities.
  • Our customers and employees would use the same words to describe who we are.
  • Our employees understand what sets us apart from our competitors.
  • Customers know us for what we want to be known for.
  • Our employees are held accountable for living our purpose and values.
  • Our purpose and culture attract the best talent in the industry.
  • Our objective and our values ​​are priority elements in the decision-making of each leader.
  • Leadership communication is consistently focused on purpose and values.
  • Our managers are the best in the business.
  • Managers are held accountable for coaching the performance of their team.
  • Purpose, brand, and culture metrics are integrated into performance dashboards.

What does a goal-oriented culture look like?

In a goal-oriented culture, employees have a sincere sense of ownership of their goal: the goal energizes teams, informs their decisions, and guides their daily behavior. employees know Who they serve, What they serve and How? ‘Or’ What to embody the promises of the brand.

A goal-oriented culture pays off through its objective: the better the organization succeeds (that is, the greater its market penetration), the better off the world is.

When a work culture aligns with a common purpose, that purpose is internally reflected in the experiences of stakeholders. That is, a goal-driven culture leads by example – proving to customers, employees, suppliers and communities that you are who you say you are. It gains brand credibility and stakeholder loyalty.

How to create a goal-oriented culture

Becoming purpose-driven requires a clear, differentiated purpose and a workforce that knows how to live that purpose every day. The journey begins with the CEO, who must understand the value of culture and how to set the tone.

The first responsibility of the CEO is to set an inspiring goal. Next, CEOs need to evolve their work culture so that every employee believes in and practices this goal. Even an exemplary goal is powerless if your culture doesn’t bring it to life – with employees who are passionate about achieving their common goal.

Achieving this requires a measured and comprehensive assessment of an organization’s purpose and culture. Analytics reveal whether your purpose is central to “how work gets done” or just a peripheral concept of well-being that doesn’t influence employee actions. The right data illuminates the best path to culture change.

Metrics also highlight disconnects in how employees and customers perceive your purpose, so leaders can address deadly brand incongruity.

A goal-oriented culture makes money from its purpose: the better the organization does (i.e. the greater its market penetration), the better off the world is.

Don’t let culture kill your brand:
Create a CMO and CHRO collaboration

A surefire way to undo a goal is to have a culture that doesn’t deliver on brand promises. When culture and brand are misaligned, stakeholders real the experiences will fall short of the goal you present to the world.

The solution is a goal-oriented CMO-CHRO partnership. When CEOs bring the work of the CMO and CHRO closer together, it can create congruence between brand and culture, unifying what you promise do with what you Actually do – how your culture behaves.

For example, the CMO and CHRO can help HR functions inspire employees to champion their purpose. This can mean altering performance metrics to encourage goal-oriented employee behaviors — or providing manager development so managers can connect individuals’ unique contributions to the big picture. Either way, your culture will exude purpose at every turn, gain credibility with stakeholders, and build your brand.

Here is another example of the power of the CMO-CHRO collaboration: your employee experience. The CMO and CHRO can ensure that day-to-day employee experiences live up to the promises you make to candidates, helping to attract and retain top talent.

When the CMO and the CHRO consult each other, they can set an objective who are you as an organization — the North Star that is evident in everything you say, do and represent.

Hologic, a global medical technology leader and member of the World Economic Forum, exemplifies the value of a goal-oriented culture. Hologic pursues its purpose and promise – to enable healthier lives and improve women’s health – by producing market-leading medical technologies. When Hologic succeeds, women’s health necessarily improves worldwide.

Hologic leaders fuel a goal-oriented culture through measurement and accountability. To that end, Hologic’s Director of Human Resources and Director of Global Marketing have partnered with Gallup to create the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, the world’s most comprehensive comparative survey of women’s health.

With this unprecedented index, Hologic is empowering global leaders and changemakers to improve the health of women around the world. And because the Index showcases Hologic’s dedication to its purpose, it inspires employees to rally behind that purpose, creating an unstoppable culture that embodies the brand promises every day.

In the future, even the best-intentioned and benevolent companies will lose if they don’t hold themselves accountable to a genuine purpose. Being responsible and investing in good causes is essential, but it is not enough. CEOs need to credibly demonstrate that the world is a better place because their organization is part of it.

This is a high bar to set, but also an incredible opportunity as few organizations will rise to this challenge. CEOs who do this – those who build a purpose-driven culture – will create brands that will change the world.


Jake Herway is a culture and change expert at Gallup.

Bailey Nelson contributed to this article.