The real cost of not valuing your company’s “why”

March 28, 2017
Ward Alles President and Brand Consultant

HR execs can protect the bottom line by touting purpose with employees

Nearly $9000 per day.

  • That’s how much managing “bad hires” cost an organization, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article.*

Over $8000 per day.

  • That’s how much uninspiring leaders cost an organization, according to the same article.

If these figures are anywhere near the truth, then certainly the idea of making your brand’s mission THE filtering criteria for ALL employee and leadership behavior is worth exploring.


Big Expense #1

Let’s start with the idea of “bad hires.” HR pros and managers may hire poorly for all sorts of reasons: time and money constraints, a shortage of good candidates, failure to do due diligence, being unclear about job descriptions, poor interviewing, onboarding or training practices, etc.

But if you hire anyone – and I mean anyone – who doesn’t believe in the mission of your brand in the first place, well then you have no one to blame for those lost profits than yourself.

We’ve all heard the idea of “hiring for fit,” right? Well, what does that phrase mean exactly, any way? Fit what? Fit whom? The answer had better be:

  • Fit the company’s mission.
  • Fit the culture.
  • Fit your way of doing things.
  • Fit the team.
  • Fit your desired chemistry.
  • Fit your customers’ needs.

Fall short in any regard and you will likely have a mismatch. Or more accurately, a misfit. And this misalignment will indeed cost you time, productivity, efficiency, progress, sleep and money.

So this begs the question: How clear is your company’s mission and purpose? How well defined is your brand promise? Do you know what employee behaviors are required in your organization to drive success?

If these foundational questions aren’t guiding your hiring practices, if you aren’t asking interview questions centered around your employer brand, you stand a good chance (50-50?) of having a wasteful management challenge (bad hire) on your hands. Perhaps many of them.


Big Expense #2

In a similar way, branding can provide helpful guidance (even an insurance policy) to rectify the problem of “uninspiring leadership.”

Listen, not everyone in a leadership position deserves to be there. I get it. Many who have risen through the ranks have done so because they were competent at “doing” or “managing.” Not necessarily at creating a vision or empowering their co-workers.

However, when employees don’t believe in their direct leadership, when they aren’t inspired by their words and actions everyday, is it possible that your company’s larger purpose – your over-arching mission – can still inspire greatness?

I believe the power of a motivating corporate brand can at least partially compensate for the lack of an awe-inspiring CEO or direct supervisor – at least if they don’t create further stumbling blocks beyond being a bit milk toast.

When employees know and believe that their company is providing real value, doing real good for customers or causes, a good deal of inspiration should be absolutely inherent.

Again, the question is: how well is that awesome brand of yours articulated? How and where does it show up every day in front of your work force and customers – even if some execs in your C-suite aren’t always quite so adept at leading the charge?

  • Is it on your e-mail signature?
  • Your web site?
  • Your lunch room?
  • Your employee communication (newsletters, intranet)?
  • Is it part of your lexicon? Part of your history? Part of your environment?

And if not, what easy steps can you start taking right now by surrounding yourself with success stories of employees carrying out the mission every day?

No easy fixes.

Perhaps I’m over-simplifying by believing that a clearly stated purpose can be enough to filter out people issues like bad hires or uninspiring leadership. There’s always more to it than that, to be sure. However, don’t under-appreciate or devalue your corporate brand’s power either.

We’ve seen amazing results when employees of all ranks and files share a commonly held belief and purpose. It’s thrilling to help clients define their brands and boldly stake positions versus their competition in the marketplace. It’s even more thrilling to see them live their brand promise for their customers (and fellow employees) every day.

Real money is both made by HR – and saved by HR – when employees buy into the brand.

*Source: Stop Spending, Start Managing: Strategies to Transform Wasteful Habits, by Tanya Menon and Leigh Thompson, December 2016, p. 28.


Ward Alles is a Brand Consultant and President of Core Creative.



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