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How housing associations can define their core purpose

In my previous article ‘Branding and the social housing sector’ I discussed the need, as part of the branding process, to understand your organisation’s core purpose.

From our work in the social housing sector over the years and having seen the recent challenges faced by social housing organisations, we observe that the core purpose of some housing organisations are mere statements and not many are really emotive, the core tenet of branding itself.

Core purpose has been identified by Built to Last authors Jim Collins and Jerry Poras as one of the key ingredients for a high performing organisation. Collins and Poras conducted a 6 year study of exceptional and long lasting companies like Hewlett Packard, 3M, Procter & Gamble, Disney and Marriott, who have an average of over 100 years of sustained business performance.

They uncovered some key components that ensured these high-flying businesses endured and thrived over time. One of these key components is their core purpose that creates a strong sense of identity and continuity throughout a business.

What’s your housing association’s core purpose?

Your core purpose is your reason for being and engages and motivates employees. It’s who you are and why you exist and should be idealistic in nature. It’s not about what you do but what you believe. Unfortunately we have seen housing associations fail to define their core purpose and end up with uninspiring mission statements that motivate no one.

The point of your core purpose is to motivate and lead your people and employees at every level so they know that everything they do has a line of sight to the organisation’s core purpose and is therefore meaningful to them.

Defining your true purpose is all about clarity, genuineness and alignment. It doenst have to be overcomplicated or even unique, but it has to be meaningful to your organisation.

Why do you exist?

We’d like to see more on the rich earthy stories about why housing associations exist that really connect with their many and varied audiences. There seems to be a lot of statements of core purpose but not many that are really emotive. How did you come about? Where are you going? Who do you help and what difference do you make to customers’ lives? In the hierarchy of messaging this needs to be right up there, not buried deep within your site. Your core purpose matters more than anything – give us emotion not just facts; good branding is all about you communicating how you do it not just what you do.

Core purpose means engaged employees

Your team knows that what their daily responsibilities are and when they know their daily work is part of the bigger mission, they are more driven to show up every day on time and do their job well.

A well-communicated core purpose results in a workforce that is more engaged. Engaged employees work with passion and they feel a deep connection to their company. They co-operate to build a company and they create new customers because they have become brand advocates.

A clear understanding and line of sight of how a person’s job contributes to their company’s reason for being is a powerful form of emotional compensation. It, quite simply, is more thrilling to share a common purpose than complete a job.

How do you identify your core purpose?

Jim Collins identifies five important characteristics of a company’s core purpose:

• It’s inspiring to those inside the company.

• It’s something that’s as valid 100 years from now as it is today.

• It should help you think widely about what you could do but aren’t doing.

• It should help you decide what not to do.

• It’s truly authentic to your organisation.

But, your core purpose is not your unique proposition. In fact, you can have the same or a similar core purpose as another company, even one that is in an entirely different industry.

So having defined the importance of your core purpose, here’s some questions that can help you determine it.

1. Why does your organisation’s existence matter?

2. What is your most important reason for being here and why?

3. What would be lost if your organisation ceased to exist?

4. Why are you important to the people you serve?

5. Why would anyone dedicate their oh-so precious time, energy and passion to your company? (And it’s not just about money).

If you’d like help defining your core purpose in the branding process, please give Philippa Smart a call on 01902 797970 or email her.