EY Lane4 survey of 2000 staff across UK firms highlights disconnect as 86% of employees say their organisation has a purpose statement but 42% don’t know what it is
37% of all survey respondents said they would take a 20% cut in salary to work for an organisation that more positively impacts society and the environment
74% of Gen Z staff say they’d likely quit current role if they found a job with greater purpose
While 86% of employees say their organisation has a ‘purpose statement’, 42% are unaware of what that purpose statement includes according to new research from EY Lane4, which specialises in leadership, team and skill development, talent consulting, transformation and culture change.
The findings are taken from a recent survey of more than 2,000 UK employees, including 500 at C-suite level, working for businesses across UK and Ireland with an annual turnover of at least £10 million.
The report points to a significant disconnect between some employers’ articulated purpose and employees’ lived experience, raising questions around the authenticity of some corporate purpose statements and how well these initiatives are embedded.
Authentic purpose is high on employees’ agenda – ignore it at your peril
The research also reminds business leaders of the importance placed on authentic purpose by current and prospective employees. More than half (55%) of those surveyed agreed that leaders will need to become more purpose-led in future and equally consider people, planet and profit when making business decisions.
The research revealed clear signs that purpose is a factor driving career decisions for a significant proportion of the workforce, particularly among younger employees. More than a third (37%) of all employees said they would take a 20% cut in salary to work for an organisation that more positively impacts society and the environment than their current workplace – this rose to nearly half (44%) when asking Gen Z employees.
74% of Gen Z, 72% of Millennials and 62% of Gen X staff say they would be ‘very likely’ or ‘likely’ to leave their current employer for an organisation whose purpose or reason to exist has more meaning to them.
Nearly half (44%) agreed that working for an organisation that significantly contributes to society is more important now than before the pandemic.
For many, employer purpose still hasn’t bridged the authenticity gap
The research also revealed that senior leaders were more likely to be influenced by purpose than junior colleagues. Half (50%) of business owners said their organisation’s purpose has a ‘great impact’ on their day-to-day role, compared to 26% of those in middle management roles and 24% of employees in entry level positions. 86% of C-suite level and directors said they felt energised by what their company does, compared to just 60% of staff in entry level positions.
Respondents demonstrated significant scepticism of how far business direction is influenced by purpose. Nearly three quarters (71%) of employees believe their leaders still ‘always’ or ‘often’ make critical decisions solely based on financial considerations such as profit, costs and growth.
Adrian Moorhouse, EY Lane4 Managing Partner, commented:
“A disconnect between an organisation’s purpose and its employees’ lived experience of that purpose is quite stark for some of the businesses we surveyed. In a competitive talent market, this also poses a risk, as employees may decide to vote with their feet.
“Employers know that the workforce of today and tomorrow value purpose highly, but the research suggests that some of these initiatives just aren’t resonating with their people due to a breakdown in either communication or authenticity. Purpose is a service statement, not a marketing badge, so it should both be articulated and reflected by a tangible shift in how business operates.
“For purpose to be truly effective, it needs to be seen as a guiding star, underpinning key business decisions, and widely understood at every level of the firm – not just at a leadership level.”