Performance On Purpose: A Road Map To Purpose And Value-Driven Performance Alignment


If you asked every employee in your organization what shared set of values the company holds or where the company is headed, would they know? Mission and value statements often live on company websites for external parties to see but how often are they truly understood by the members of your organization? And more importantly, are they lived?

Where Are We Headed?  

If people don’t know what constitutes success, how will they know when they reach it? Defining a clear understanding of what success means in your organization is needed to show people where they (and the organization) are going.  Maybe it’s growth. Maybe its reach or impact on communities or markets. Leadership needs to define where the organization is headed and then communicate that organization-wide or the risk is spinning in circles when it comes time to measure performance.

Why Are We Going There?

The pandemic has brought on several changes but one of the most profound has been a deeper connection to purpose. People have taken time to look within and realize what is important to them. It’s time for companies to do the same so that the individuals involved, can determine if it aligns with their values, goals, and motivations. Lay out the direction and let people determine if they want to come along. If people are not compelled, they’ll find something else that aligns more closely.

How Will We Get There?

Once you’ve defined clear goals, we need to understand how we will get there. A company may hit a goal but if they leave a trail of destruction in its wake, is that the company you want to be? Success is a combination of reaching the goal and doing it in a way that you can feel good about. Defining how success is achieved requires you to get very clear on your values and defining how members of your organization can exemplify them is key.

This set of shared values can be relative to impact. For example, ethical integrity at a CEO level will be different than at an intern’s level but the value is fundamental at both levels.

The Packing List- AKA, What Competencies Are Needed To Get Us There?

While we need to define a shared set of beliefs, we know reaching our goals also takes knowledge, skills, and behaviors. These competencies may be specific to an individual’s role, a department, or even applicable across the organization.

Consider illustrating scalable organizational and/or categoric competencies to show team members what is needed to succeed at their current level, but also at the levels above them so they have something to strive toward. Not only does this give employees a sense of self-assessment and understanding of what is needed of them to progress, but it also helps leaders assess how an individual is performing and what gaps need to be bridged before they can advance to the next level.

What Role Do We Play?

When I facilitate engagement surveys, I often ask participants if they agree with the statement, “I play a role in the success of the organization.” The responses are variable. Senior team members often see their impact more directly than junior team members. The fact is, all roles were designed to add value regardless of level, and every member of an organization was hired with the intent to add value. But do they know that?

The performance of individuals powers organizational performance.

The narrative someone has around the value of their position can directly impact their engagement and subsequently performance. Receptionists, for example, play a very powerful role that is often undervalued, seen as junior or highly administrative. Really, they are the first point of contact for many key stakeholder interactions. They impact the experience of everyone that visits your office or calls in.

 Taking time to help employees see the purpose and value that comes out of their role can boost accountability and encourage them to drive results that are within their power. Consider including this practice as part of setting goals and reviewing performance. Ask employees how their role can contribute to defined organizational goals and encourage them to revisit and reflect often.  

Who’s Driving?

Imagine a rowing team. While someone clearly gives the direction, everyone is powering the movement. Embedding values like empowerment into your culture and weaving that through your performance approach tells employees they are being called upon to drive their own success, that they play a fundamental role in the overall success of the company, and that you will be there to support them along the way.

Asking how we can support one another is inclusive. It encourages a safe space for employees to talk through their needs, obstacle and barriers. Leaders should be considered facilitators of goals and ensure their process allows for two way communication.

You’ve likely heard of goal cascading, an approach where leaders set the goals at the top, at each department level and then at the individual level. Consider adapting that approach. While the management at the top can broadly set key priorities, let departments and individuals define how they can play a role in bringing that goal to fruition. This approach embodies empowerment- when we set our own goals, we are more likely to stay accountable because we believe in them. Furthermore, this modification allows for a two-way collaborative approach to goal setting. Information is being cascaded down and then back up. During the course of the year as markets change and things come up (hello pandemic), team members will feel safer to “communicate up” on what they are seeing on the ground and suggest modifications or tweaks to the original goal in order to pivot to business needs.

How Do We Hold Each Other Accountable?

Many organizations have an annual review process and many do not. There are so many thoughts on what best practice in performance is. The key is to find a meaningful approach that resonates and brings value to your organization. People (managers and employees alike) are not going to go to spend time and energy on a process they don’t see the value in.  

The system or approach should encourage accountability and provide a measure that determines if and how goals are fulfilled. This may provide a basis to justify compensation increases, promotions, succession, or on the flip side, disciplinary measures, terminations, or cost reductions.

An annual performance cycle can be a great way to hold individuals accountable to play their role in reaching collective company goals and furthering their individual goals in tandem.

While supporting employees and fostering goals is done through regular communication, having a structured approach with defined checkpoints ensures both supervisors and employees stay accountable. At year-end (or whatever cadence you set), the goal is evaluated to determine if it was met and under the success indicators that were set.  

How Long Are We Going For? What If We Run Into Problems Or Need To Detour?

If the last 2 year have taught us anything, it’s that a lot can change in a short amount of time. We’ve learnt to be agile and adaptable. The same goes for performance. Setting a goal at the beginning of the year and only evaluating at the end is bound to lead to failure. Check in often (weekly, biweekly etc) to see if a goal is still relevant to the individual and the organization and don’t be afraid to adjust or adapt goals to meet current demands. Having an openness to change encourages employees to solution barriers and leverage opportunities as they arise. The more frequently you meet with your team members to discuss progress towards a goal, the more agile you can be.

Remember, this road is ever long. As long as the organization is in existence, performance is ongoing and flowing.


Serena Morphy, CPHR, SHRM is a culture and engagement strategist and the Founder and Principal of Awaken HR, a Vancouver Based HR consultancy focused on creating value-based cultures, positive environments, and happy teams. She believes in creating diverse environments where everyone feels represented included and valued.  She works with clients to ensure people and teams have the communication, training, tools and resources to be successful in the work they do. Serena Morphy will  be speaking at the HR Conference & Expo, in Vancouver on April 26-27 and virtually on May 4-5.  

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