Purpose Indicators: A New KPI for Better Engagement

In the work culture space it’s all talk about Purpose. Edelman's Good Purpose Study shows how legitimate Purpose really is. In a world of infinite choice and an uncertain future for employees, purpose keeps us interested, focus and engaged.

We understand that when we are only working for a paycheck, the energy we bring to work is going to dwindle. But with softer goals like engagement we always come back to "HOW?"

The struggle to maintain an engaged workforce is real. You might be a company totally on board with the idea, but still lost on the execution. 

HOW do you get great Performance, AND spend time on fluffy things like Purpose?

I am a metrics minded person with a creative background. I spend my time thinking about how we can improve people’s lives when their performance is being measured through data. 

So I thought, if we can measure Purpose, then maybe we will finally get somewhere with this. Now, in addition to Key Performance Indicators, I use another kind of KPI.

Key Purpose Indicators.

Let's start with a personal example: My fitness routine.

I care about being in shape. But I care about a lot of things, so I am inconsistent.

Instead of making excuses I ran my first 10k.

I’m not motivated by speed goals or graduating to a marathon. If I am not motivated to improve my performance, how can I do it again? What’s going to engage me?

I needed a Purpose Indicator. Now the goal is to run 10k in 10 countries.

This tailored goal gives me permission to be a little inconsistent without feeling like a failure. I will have to keep a certain fitness level to achieve it, but the motivation - the Key Purpose Indicator - is the travel. 

Travel is a non-negotiable for me. And fitness is a non negotiable. So I am combining them. This is “Value Stacking.” If you can stack your Performance with your Purpose, then you get something greater than the sum of its parts.

The opposite of Value Stacking is value fragmenting. We have a tendency to only count performance that achieves results. One day I noticed something while running hills. I was counting them like laps. ONE up and ONE down equaled ONE.

The underlying psychology was that only the "results part" counts. Only uphill running really counts. But my knees tell me, "Hey! That's not fair!" (And fairness is really important.) So then I started counting the “ups” and the “downs”.

The downhill isn't lost time. It's a part of the whole. I'm still investing in my health, I'm still clearing my mind, and I'm still sweating. So why would I not let that count? Plus I see the numbers grow faster when I count both ways, and that helps me. 

The point is, EVERYTHING COUNTS. If it doesn’t, then maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your process. Maybe your KPIs aren’t as relevant as they used to be. 

Official performance evaluations are still of debatable value, but taking stock on your purpose and your team or company's purpose will never go out of style.

Take this to your team:

  • There's KPIs & there's KPIs. Can you find a way to mix achievable short term goals with meaningful long term goals?
  • Everything counts! For your work or for your team, don’t only acknowledge the work that is directly revenue producing. There is a good chance they are keeping the lights on in some other way. Can you find them?
  • Value Stacking. Find the win-win-wins. Most likely if you are doing something well it can be leveraged to produce more good. How many can you take care of in one stroke?


Ambra Sultzbaugh