The COVID-19 pandemic drove many companies to reevaluate their approach to business. As a result, some focused their efforts on leading with purpose. Purpose is an organization’s fundamental goal that goes beyond profit maximization. It is an all-encompassing principle that guides everything the organization does and determines its strategies. Effective strategic communication is an essential element of purpose as it can empower employees to align their personal goals with organizational values, and thus identify with their organization.
While the benefits of purpose are frequently proclaimed in practical literature, the impact of communicating purpose on employee outcomes remains unexplored in strategic communication research. To address this critical research gap, researchers of this study examined why and how communicating purpose could be an effective tactic in strategic communication. Specifically, this study examined purpose directed organizations’ actions in response to COVID-19 and explored the impact of purpose on employees’ organizational identification and trust.
Researchers administered an online survey of 1,044 full-time working adults in the U.S. Respondents were, on average, 47 years old, and 52% were female. Most respondents (90%) had worked in their organization for more than two years. Overall, 44% of them identified their positions at the organization as non-management, followed by middle-level management (26%), lower-level management (15%), and top management (14%). Regarding the organization’s size, 24% of respondents worked in small-size organizations with less than 100 people, 28% in medium-size organizations with 100-499 people, and 47% in large-size organizations with more than 500 people.
- Purpose-driven organizations were more like to take both employee-oriented and community/customer-oriented actions.
- When employees perceived their organization as purpose-driven, they tended to trust it more and demonstrated higher levels of organizational identification.
- When employees identified themselves as part of their organization, they expressed higher levels of trust in their organization.
- While purpose-driven organizations strongly impacted employee trust toward the organization, they also indirectly strengthened trust by enhancing employees’ feelings of belongingness and organizational identification during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Implications for practice
Organizational leaders and communication professionals should 1) strive to serve the needs of all stakeholders rather than shareholders alone, 2) clearly articulate their purpose and explain how it aligns with their actions to employees, and 3) listen to, take care of, and support employees daily and in times of change.
Qin, Y. S., DiStaso, M. W., Fitzsimmons, A., Heffron, E., & Men, L. R. (2022). How purpose-driven organizations influenced corporate actions and employee trust during the global COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 16(3), 426-443.