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Purpose before profits? Employees say ‘yes, please’

In a recent McKinsey survey of more than 1,200 managers and frontline employees at US companies, only 42 percent felt their organizations’ purpose statements made a real difference. Seventy-two percent felt that purpose should come before profits.

In a survey of US companies, employees feel that purpose is important, but only 42% say their organizations' purpose statements drive impact. Four circles, each with a blue segment and a gray segment (chart).

Chart: Employees feel that purpose is important—but many say their companies don't have one, let alone one that makes a difference

Chart summary

  • 82% of respondents reported that it is important to have a purpose, while 18% were neutral, disagreed, or strongly disagreed.
  • 72% of respondents reported that purpose should receive more weight than profit, while 28% were neutral, disagreed, or strongly disagreed.
  • 62% of respondents reported that their organizations have a purpose statement, while 38% were neutral, disagreed, or strongly disagreed.
  • Only 42% respondents reported that their organizations' purpose statements drive impact,1 while 58% were neutral, disagreed, or strongly disagreed.

Notes

Note: segments displayed in gray reflect respondents who were neutral, disagreed, or strongly disagreed.

1Impact score, which is based on subset of respondents reporting presence of organizational purpose, derived on basis of responses to questions about achievements of purpose and positive change associated with purpose.

Source: McKinsey Organizational Purpose Survey of 1,214 managers and frontline employees at US companies, October 2019

To read the article, see “Purpose: Shifting from why to how,” April 22, 2020.