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How Higher Purpose Can Strengthen Company Culture

November 4, 2015 / Uncategorized

BBB541E1-265B-4BCE-86A2-4F02050272EDBy Erica Spelman, former Zappos Insights Word Monkey

A version of this post originally appeared on ZapposInsights.com.

While it can be tempting for a company to focus solely on profits, research suggests that companies can achieve more than just increasing their bottom line when they also focus on a higher purpose.

Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh observes that “great companies actually have a vision that has a higher purpose beyond just money or profits . . . as it turns out, the research has shown it’s actually a good long-term business strategy.” Companies that embrace such a strategy can create stronger connections with their employees, their customers, and their surrounding community.

In his book Good to Great, author Jim Collins notes, “Enduring great companies don’t exist merely to deliver returns to shareholders. Indeed, in a truly great company, profits and cash flow become like blood and water to a healthy body: They are absolutely essential for life, but they are not the very point of life.”

So what’s the formula for lasting endurance of an organization? Collins continues: “To make the shift from a company with sustained great results to an enduring great company of iconic stature . . . discover your core values and purpose beyond just making money (core ideology) and combine this with the dynamic of preserve the core/stimulate progress.”

Companies that strive for this combination can see results in three key areas:

  1. 1. Employee engagement

How employees feel about the company they work for is a factor that is often undervalued. Yet there is a distinct difference between those that are just working for a paycheck and those that feel emotionally connected to the company they work for, and studies show a correlation between more engaged employees and higher profits for that organization.

When Zappos HQ relocated to Downtown Las Vegas in October 2013, it provided new opportunities for employees to connect with the surrounding community through partnerships with local charities. “The ability to do greater good was there when we moved downtown because we were in the heart of the greatest need,” says Steven Bautista, Zappos Karma Kommando.

Rather than just cutting a check, Zappos focuses on encouraging employees to give their time. “It helps people change the community that they’re in,” Bautista adds. “I think that’s why people are going more local because they can get engaged and be more involved.” Employees that can participate in a company’s higher purpose feel a sense of pride for where they work – a priceless commodity.

2. Connecting with the community

While partnering with good causes is always worthwhile, the opportunity for companies to get involved in local charities provides a chance to really feel part of their surrounding community.

One example of an event Zappos hosts is Turkey Town. In 2013, Zappos held the 1st annual Turkey Town event in the Zappos HQ plaza area. This event provides full Thanksgiving meals to local Las Vegas families in need. Bautista says, “When we do community events, we want it to be an experience with a takeaway with it.” Events like this help employees and companies see firsthand the impact they can have and the difference they can make. “Creating connections that last beyond the company itself helps employees engage with their community as well as feel a connection to the higher purpose of the company,” notes Bautista.

3. Customer awareness

It’s a growing trend that customers not only want to feel emotionally connected to the companies they do business with, but they also want to see how those companies are giving back. Companies also have a unique opportunity to bring awareness to worthwhile causes that may not get that spotlight otherwise. “We try to connect our customers to our higher purpose,” says Bautista.

For companies that want to get more involved, Bautista suggests: “Find out what it is your employees want to do and empower them to create ways to engage with the charities. If it doesn’t come from the employees themselves, it tends to not have as much longevity.” As far as the effects of such efforts, he adds, “’I think it does make employees happier and better connects them to who the company is and gives them a sense of pride for the company they work for.” Now what company doesn’t want that?

Zappos is currently partnering with Feeding America® to donate up to 5,000,000 meals. Read more about Zappos’ higher purpose.


Zappos Insights exists to share the Zappos culture with the world in order to inspire other companies to create new ways to work, with a focus on building a strong company culture with engaged, happy, and empowered employees. It does this by offering a variety of Trainings, Q&A Sessions, Keynote Speakers, Tours of the Zappos campus, and an Online Membership Site.

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