Are culture, purpose and engagement one and the same, or does one cause the other, and how do you ensure that all your company’s boxes are ticked? Read on to find out.

If there is one philosophical trifecta that has the potential to get HR and Change Heads all twisted into knots, it’s the culture-purpose-engagement quandary. In fact, these terms are often bandied about as synonyms of one another, further adding to the general confusion about the whole thing.

So, we thought we’d take a moment to untangle the plot a bit and clarify it at the hand of one of the most famous science-fiction love triangles of all time: Han Solo, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.

This is how we see it…in a nutshell..

Culture is your pilot

Culture is how your organisation operates. It’s the pilot of your ship, i.e. the broodingly handsome Han Solo. It’s the systemic leadership philosophy that defines internal functioning, communication with external suppliers/partners, as well as its customers. It’s the business’ operating ethos. It tells your employees how they are expected to behave at the hand of clearly defined behaviours and interaction responsibilities and are best communicated when leading by example.

Purpose is your hero

Purpose is what your business stands for. It’s your hero, i.e. the strapping and courageous Luke Skywalker. An organisation full of purpose-driven people is something truly wonderful to behold. While the profit incentive naturally forms a part of every company’s purpose, it cannot be the only driving force – your company’s purpose has to be something more than profit and power. It has to provide your employees with the opportunity to manifest their ideals and focus their intent.

Engagement is when everything clicks

Engagement is how employees feel about their culture and purpose. The mix-up often occurs when we assume that purpose and engagement should lead the way, when in fact, these two are too closely related (i.e. when it turns out that Luke and Princess Leia are actually twins separated at birth, ta-ta-TA!).). Essentially, it’s the same concept, viewed from different angles.

The BIG plot twist occurs when we realise that engagement requires that culture should take charge and provide the backbone of the operation. I.e. Han Solo and Princess Leia end up together. We need culture to underpin purpose, to arrive at engagement.

So, to summarise: Culture points the way, purpose drives and inspires, and employee engagement transpires when you combine the correct aspects of the two. If you get it right, you will end up with happily engaged employees, which will in turn lead to positive customer experiences.

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