“An organisation’s success has enormously more to do with clarity of a shared purpose, common principles and strength of belief in them than to assets, expertise, operating ability, or management competence, important as they may be.”

Dee Hock

Shared purpose practices are a set of linked practices that enhance employee commitment, create sustained performance improvements for the achievement of organisational objectives and deliver improved business results.

  • employee empowerment and involvement;
  • organisation structure and work practices, and
  • recognition and reward practices

The power of shared purpose flow for Unlocking the People Advantage

According to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, flow is a state of concentration that balances the challenge of a task with the skill of the individual to achieve “a peak state where we both feel our best and perform our best. It is a transformation available to anyone, anywhere, provided that certain conditions are met.”

According to Steven Kotler explains in The Rise of Superman, from a neurochemical perspective, things such as sharing ideas at can trigger a flow state similar to those of adventure athletes.

Researchers in the Flow Genome Project, – an international organisation and a Flow Hacker Nation community of 500+ individuals dedicated to the science of ultimate human performance -have identified 17 “triggers” across four categories (psychological, environmental, social, and creative) that facilitate a flow state, and have implications for our new-era-workplace (for example, balancing the need for intensely focused attention with the need for rich interactions among diverse participants). Roger Dooley in “The seven characteristics of flow with Steven Kotler” points to mindshare tactics that Steve Jobs used in increasing flow, collaborative engagement, innovation, and creativity.

Shared purpose is becoming more important in terms of cohesion, as our technology-enabled future society is getting sucked into the networked individualism defined by sociologist Barry Wellman as ‘loose, technology-driven networks where direct competition for resources, jobs, and so on—decreases’, the interrelationship between talent development and individual wellbeing in both the employee experience and overall workforce planning takes on a new meaning, when looking through a share purpose focused lens.

Shared purpose practices

  1. Empowerment and involvement

Empowerment and involvement practices encourage a much greater level of trust and has been shown to be linked to higher levels of staff motivation, communication and teamwork.

Empowerment and involvement include:


  1. Organisation structure and work practices

Organisation structure and work practices are linked to improvements in skills, the quality of work and customer service.

Organisation structure and work practices include:

  1. Recognition and Reward practices

Recognition and reward practices foster a greater sense of belonging and commitment to the organisation. Financial rewards such as profit-sharing, share options and performance- related pay are powerful tools to establish a sense of ownership. However, non-financial rewards are critical in creating a sense of belonging and a greater sense of shared purpose.

Recognition and Reward practices include:

It is important to note that some practices can impact on multiple performance dimensions.

According to Purcell, some practices may form synergetic ’bundles‘ that then produce a greater impact and a higher and sustainable level of organisational performance.

CIPD case studies reveal that different configurations of practices, are used in different sectors to enhance organisational competitiveness. For example, companies in the financial services sector made intensive use of financial incentives, whereas in manufacturing and business services more use was made of high involvement practices.

Some practices can impact on more than one area, for example, having flexible working arrangements may enhance both employee involvement as well as employee commitment to the organisation. Job rotation is often used as a means to increase the employees’ knowledge and the desire for variety. But it is also by default a practice that will increase work involvement, and at the same time increase their level of skills.

Furthermore, the implementation of new ideas often means introducing new working arrangements and new skills to operate them. This in turn requires an attitude toward continuous learning on the part of all employees to increase their level of skills.